News Local/State

Champaign-Urbana Offers ‘Peace Keeper’ Training To Address Gun Violence

Tio Hardiman

Tio Hardiman, second from left, leads a training session on conflict resolution at the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District in December 2018. Champaign-Urbana Area Project

Champaign-Urbana faces an ongoing problem with gun violence. Champaign police report the region had 116 gun-related incidents in 2018, up from 85 the prior year and 112 in 2016.

The Champaign-Urbana Area Project is offering training to those who want to help address the problem.

The “Peace Keeper” training is led by Tio Hardiman, who and has worked on gun violence issues in Chicago for more than two decades.

Hardiman says the idea is to reach out to those at risk of committing violence to try to stop shootings before they happen.

“Overall, it’s a 40-hour training in the field of conflict resolution, gang mediation, working with high-risk young people,” Hardiman says. The program emphasizes “community mobilization and understanding the dynamic of what takes place on the streets, so that people can be safe when they’re working on the street.”

Hardiman says Champaign-Urbana doesn’t have a serious gang problem. Rather, most gun incidents are caused by interpersonal conflicts and when victims of prior shootings retaliate.

To stop gun violence, the community must reach out to those at greatest risk of causing it.

Hardiman says building trust with would-be shooters is critical to stopping the violence.

Reach out directly to them, he says, and give them the tools they need to work through conflict in a peaceful way.

“A school program (to address gun violence) is okay,” Hardiman says. “But the guys that are in school, a lot of those guys are not the ones that are shooting and killing. We must meet with those guys on the street who are carrying a gun in Champaign, and get them to put their guns down and become productive members of society.”

The goal of “Peace Keeper” training is to give people the skills to intervene and de-escalate disagreements and fights before anyone pulls out a gun.

The next Peace-Keeper training event will take place in February; the date has not been finalized. Find more information at the Champaign-Urbana Area Project Facebook page.

Follow Christine on Twitter: @CTHerman

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to correct the date of the next Peace Keeper training event in Champaign-Urbana.