Although being infected with COVID-19 remains a concern on the part of many area residents, I’m hearing more talk about a fear of being a victim of gun violence on Decatur’s streets. There was a time in the not too distant past when gun violence was confined to a few areas of town in the late night or early morning hours. Anyone familiar with driving on the city’s streets instinctively knew to avoid those areas — especially after dark. Drug sales and other illegal activities were generally confined to those areas and, whether it was right or wrong, to regard being a motorist on some of those streets as dangerous, most drivers knew what streets to avoid. That has changed to where the area to avoid is about any city street and, in all fairness, that’s not a problem unique to Decatur.
The news media covering stories about Decatur and other central Illinois cities almost daily report shootings and violence in what has become a stressful way of life for residents every day. Recent shootings have taken place at the intersection of North Main and Eldorado streets and North Water and Mound Road. Those two intersections are among the busiest in the city — with a huge number of people traveling on them every day.
A man who was shot in his car near Water and Mound, by someone firing from a van, and who is believed to be the intended target, is fighting for his life in the hospital as this column is being written. What made that incident even more concerning is that, after being shot the man lost control of his car and hit another car containing a mother and her two children. They were not seriously hurt but there is no question the mom and her children could have been killed in the incident. A few weeks ago a man walking home, minding his own business, was hit by gunfire. A lot of the gun violence is believed to be coming from rival street gangs that are as strong in Decatur as they’ve ever been,
• LAW ENFORCEMENT needs the support of the public and they also need the tools necessary to eliminate this violence blight on our city. Anyone who believes in the defunding of our law enforcement units isn’t thinking seriously. If the community is less safe than we want it to be now, what do you think our condition would be without law enforcement? We don’t need less police officers — we need more.
• THE SAFETY of this community is not only about saving lives from gun violence (which is the most important reason), but it is also about saving our economy. The more that people are fearful of being out on our community’s streets, the less they are going to shop and buy local — and that certainly is not good for our business community. A lot of those people will be turning to online businesses to order what they need and have it delivered to their front door. Many are already doing that because of the COVID-19 Pandemic and the more that happens, the more it will have a devastating impact on our business community and tax revenues for our city’s safety services and other needs.
• IT HAPPENED! Monday, I drove the newspaper’s van to Billingsley in South Shores to top off the gas tank. I like to make sure the van is ready to go for our driver on Wednesdays. (Just a long-time routine I still have from the days when I did everything at the paper, including trucking the Trib to the post office and to newsstands.) As gas prices have been rising about everywhere, I knew there would be a day when a $50 bill would no longer finish filling the van’s large tank and, for several weeks, I told the Billingsley cashier that, one day, they were going to get the entire $50 bill. Monday was the day! The total was $50.02. Actually, it wasn’t that bad. The cashier contributed two extra pennies she had towards the bill, so it was only $50! I like that station — they let me have my “two cents worth”! A half century ago when I did the Trib trucking gas was less than 20 cents per gallon. (Of course, the Trib sold for 5 cents a copy,)
• A FEW DAYS ago I received a message from Dan Heckman, President and General Manager, of Heckman Healthcare Services & Supplies, Inc. at 1969 N. Main St. in Decatur: “After 40 years, Heckman Healthcare is no longer an independent, family-owned business. As of November 1, we are part of a much larger organization. The name won’t be changing (at least for a while), but I am now the Director of Operations of the Decatur branch. This is a big change, and I feel it’s for the best. A larger organization has resources and capabilities that small, family-owned ones do not. It has become increasingly more difficult for us to be competitive without those capabilities.”
Heckman Healthcare has been one of the local businesses that has supported this newspaper with their advertising over many years and that is a loss for us, but more than that I have appreciated the long-term relationship with Dan Heckman and the special relationship because both of us are local, independent businessmen.
Thank you, Dan, and best wishes.
• I JOIN Brian Byers on WSOY’s Byers & Co. every Thursday morning at 7:00 to discuss the issues impacting our community and, sometimes, we talk about something from this city’s great history.