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Springfield Police Chief Kenny Winslow said the department has developed and is trying to reimplement strategies to address gun violence in the city.

Winslow addressed the city council Tuesday about a number of issues, including how the department is trying to stretch manpower, with further reductions on the way.

While the department is trying to be creative to keep an effective number of officers on the streets to answer calls for service and provide daily services, Winslow professed that there are "a lot of things that are being delayed.

"Crime detectives are coming in on shooting calls. A burglary may wait a couple of weeks before it's even assigned for follow-up," Winslow said. "Those are things we're trying to do as we prioritize the gun violence in our community."

The SPD recently developed a gun violence task force focused on taking steps to keep the community safe. Among the tactics, Winslow said, was reassigning some officers to investigate shootings.

The department is continuing to look at data to try to decide how to better deploy resources. The data is used, Winslow said, "to coordinate saturation patrols and proactive details."

Saturation patrols involve deploying a larger number of officers into concentrated areas of the city and particular crime hotspots.

The department also rolled out a new online system for the public to file police reports for a number of low-level crimes.

While normally the department has 250 officers, it is currently at 220 officers with more retirements and departures slated over the next few weeks, Winslow said.

Since the beginning of 2021, there have been 24 people shot, including three homicides, Winslow said. The department has received 77 confirmed shots-fired calls for service. There have been 36 firearm-related arrests and 66 firearms recovered.

In 2020, there were 54 people shot and 11 homicides. Of those shootings last year, Winslow said 23 were gang related.

There were 377 confirmed shots fired in 2020 when Shotspotter was implemented, Winslow said.

While Shotspotter is a good tool, Winslow said "it doesn't tell us what kind of vehicle (was involved). It doesn't tell us what the suspect looked like. It does direct us to the location. It does get us there quicker, sometimes to catch people in the act. It also helps us get there in time to hopefully save people's lives and render aid.

"It's not a replacement for people calling us."

The department is continuing to coordinate investigations with the U.S. Attorney's Office and Sangamon County State's Attorney's office "to see where we can get harsher penalties and (harsher) sentences to try to remove violent offenders from our streets," Winslow said.

The chief was particularly frustrated with the recent case of Malik Harper of Decatur, who was sentenced to 30 months probation on March 24 for his role in shooting a gun outside of White Oaks Mall in Springfield in 2019.

Harper had faced one to three years behind bars. State's attorney Dan Wright asked for a lengthy sentence.

At sentencing, Wright argued that Harper's actions could have killed someone in a crowded mall or in the residential area around the mall and that a prison sentence for Harper may have deterred others from committing gun crimes in the county.

"I'm not a person who believes in locking up people and throwing away the key, but I also believe people have to be held accountable for their actions when they put the public at danger," Winslow said. "It was a little disheartening for us."

The department is in the early stages of reimplementing several programs, including the focused deterrence program, which was suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic, Winslow said.

The program involves a $162,000, three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Justice working toward reducing group/gang-related gun violence.

It is also trying to reignite a campaign on gun safety and security.

"We know that these kids are getting guns and getting guns from multiple sources, some are through straw purchases, some are residential or car burglaries," Winslow said. "We know there's a black market for guns. We know there are also 'dumpster guns,' where guns can be found in certain neighborhoods that are hidden."

Identifying sources of where guns are coming in from, said Ward 2 Ald. Shawn Gregory, would be a valuable component.

"They're getting some big guns a little too easy and that's what's really really frightening," Gregory said.

The number of firearms recovered went up to 269 in 2020, compared to 227 in 2019. The number of firearms arrests ballooned to 173 (including 17 juveniles) in 2020 from 122 (15 juveniles) in 2019.

The leading accident intersections, Winslow said, were Sangamon Avenue and Dirksen Parkway and Veterans Parkway and Wabash Avenue.

Office of Public Works director Nate Bottom said the office is working in conjunction with Illinois Department of Transportation to redesign the intersection, including adding dual left turns

"That will help the capacity of the intersection," Bottom said.

Non-traversable medians on both Sangamon and Dirksen will basically force drivers to "channelize," Bottom added.

The IDOT project was part of a $41.5 billion capital plan signed by Gov. JB Pritzker in June 2019.

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This article originally ran on pantagraph.com.

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