By Craig Hastings
It’s Saturday night and I’m at home being my boring self when I got a text from my oldest son. Payton is in Champaign and just heard that there was an active shooter at the Marketplace Mall. Well of course I thought he was just kidding around trying to get me interested and all fired up over nothing. I called Shannon, who was in the house with me but I didn’t want to leave my television in my bedroom. I asked her to go online and see if she could find any breaking news going on in Champaign. Well of course it didn’t take her long with her Facebook network to find the answer. The answer was, yes indeed there was a shooting in the parking lot of Marketplace Mall. Police were on scene and there wasn’t much information being released at the time of this story.
I admit that I was shocked by this news. Shocked and saddened both that this violent activity that has spread across this country has finally reached Champaign Illinois. Not that there isn’t shootings in Champaign, sure I know this but at the Marketplace Mall!? My son Payton was just there earlier this week with his friends. It’s a common hangout for him and his friends a couple of times each month. Most of the bullets flying around were outside in the parking lot where they could have struck anyone! Is no place safe anymore even in Champaign Illinois? I’m old enough to remember when Marketplace Mall opened. Never would I have imagined a shooting taking place there or in most parts of Champaign. It just didn’t happen.
So now what do I do as a parent? Do I refuse to allow my own children to visit Marketplace Mall? Well I really couldn’t Payton because he’s eighteen and going to do as he pleases without my interference. But my younger son Lukas is a different story. I still have leverage to hang over his head if he chooses to ignore my wishes as to his safety. But is that fair? There’s this thing we call the law of average. What are the chances of anything like this happening to him while he is at Marketplace? How about I just tell him his visits to the Mall are restricted to just daylight hours? Maybe.
Tonight reminds me of how fortunate I feel to be living in rural Tuscola. As Champaign/Urbana continues to expand southward, first Savoy and now approaching Tolono, it won’t be in my lifetime that I see that southward expansion nearing us here in Tuscola. Nothing from the south will ever reach us, nor will anything from the east or west. Growth is good, good for the area economy but at what price? I guess it all depends on what feeds the growth. What is a good business blueprint to pursue that will secure economic growth in our community without enticing bad actors to come and live here? Is there even such a plan? I don’t know and won’t pretend too. Is a smaller community a safer one? Not always. I do know from my experience in law enforcement that a community too small to support their own public safety entities is not exactly a safe one.
In fact, I know from my experience these smaller communities can be a safe haven for those people avoiding law enforcement. And why wouldn’t they? No police, no worries of being observed day-to-day and night-to-night. A person can move about freely with an active warrant, carry a concealed weapon without the authority to do so, use or sell illegal narcotics, and sometimes even grow illegal cannabis crops. I’ve seen all of these things take place where police are not part of a normal day or night in the community. So where is the happy (safe) median? Fortunately for us living in Douglas County, most anywhere you choose to live.
But for how long? There aren’t any new projects that I am aware of that will change for the worse what we enjoy in Douglas County. There have been rumors over recent years that Tuscola is due to boom almost overnight as the result of industrial builds close to us but not in Tuscola itself. If so I believe our community government leaders will be up to the task of planning how to keep our residents safe. This will be important to me because it could be I would be just an ordinary resident retired from my career of decades of law enforcement here. I certainly wouldn’t want to live in a community where shootings could be a not so uncommon occurrence and me no longer in a position to do anything about it.
Oh well, I’ve gotten way ahead of myself just because of a random shooting twenty-five miles north of us tonight. Like I said earlier, it’s not like Champaign and Urbana don’t have gun violence crimes reported most weeks at least once a week. But this shooting tonight was at a place most all of us have shopped one time or another. In my case more times than I can remember and I still visit Marketplace a few times a year. When I hear reports of shootings in Champaign and Urbana most of the time I have no idea what neighborhoods they occurred causing them to have less of an impact and significance to me. In the meantime I’ll just continue to spend my weekend evenings at home in front of my television or in my garage with one of my cars living my life as a boring adult. I’m very content with my life as it is, boring or not.