ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — In the wake of three separate shootings Tuesday night in Rockford that left two dead and four injured, Pastor Edward Copeland of New Zion Baptist Church says the methods used to tackle gun violence needs to change.
“This is not the type of city that we deserve or that we need to settle for,” Copeland said. “And the truth of the matter is, when you look at the context, it’s not just a Rockford issue. It’s an American issue.”
Copeland echoed Police Chief Carla Redd’s sentiments that the violence in Rockford is out of control.
“We need to drive down the murder rate through proven strategic interventions, that have been proven to work,” he said. “We need a sustained effort, at not only getting guns out of people’s hands and stopping the flow of illegal guns and all that, but these strategies that will divert young people to a life full of violence. Now is the time to do it.”
The City of Rockford started a Juvenile Enhanced Response Team last year.
Jennifer Cacciapaglia, the executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Domestic and Community Violence Prevention, said, “[The response team], very specifically, is intended to provide intense support to juveniles and families who become involved early in the criminal justice system, and we’ve completed one round of organizational programming, and it was very successful.”
Cacciapaglia said, as a victim’s advocate, the issue of violence is a priority for the City.
“Programs to interrupt youth violence are critical to Winnebago County. We have to link arms together as a community and develop some new, innovative strategies to prevent juvenile crime,” she said.
Copeland believes if nothing changes, the problem will only get worse.
“I’m suggesting that we got to have a serious talk about gun violence prevention and stopping the flow of guns, and we got to take the partisanship out of it, because we’re talking about saving our children’s lives,” he said.
Copeland urged residents to reach out to their elected representatives to hear their plans to reduce gun violence.
On Wednesday, lawmakers unveiled a package of legislation intended to target violent crime.
The proposed bills would boost funding for mental health and target gun traffickers, impose longer minimum sentences for offenders, and allow counties to opt out of new state rules that restrict the use of cash bail.
The package of legislation would hire more police and purchase “equipment designed to prevent gang violence, motor vehicle theft, carjacking or sale of contraband.”
It would also require that individuals who assault police officers be required to serve 85% of their sentence, and increases sentencing to a 10 year minimum for those convicted of supplying guns to criminals.