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posted: 10/31/2013 5:30 AM

Elgin event was sparked by Newtown, Conn., shooting

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  • Connecticut State Police lead children from the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., following last December's shooting.

      Connecticut State Police lead children from the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., following last December's shooting.
    Shannon Hicks/Newtown, Conn., Bee

  • A mother hugs her daughter following a shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14, 2012.

      A mother hugs her daughter following a shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14, 2012.
    Melanie stengel/The New Haven, Conn., Register

 
 

Last December's tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., sparked conversations across the country about violence prevention.

One of those conversations resulted in "Elgin: Safe City -- Peaceful City," a community forum open to the public Sunday afternoon at Judson University in Elgin.

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The event is organized by the Coalition of Elgin Religious Leaders, and co-sponsored by Elgin's Human Relations Commission, Elgin Community College and Judson University, said Rev. Denise Tracy, coalition president.

"After Newtown, all of us (coalition members) were sitting around talking about safety in Elgin, and we realized that we felt that we needed to know more about exactly what is being done to keep Elgin safe," she said.

Speakers will include Elgin Police Chief Jeff Swoboda, Elgin Area School District U-46 safety officer John Heiderscheidt, Ecker Center Executive Director Karen Beyer, Community Crisis Center Executive Director Gretchen Vapnar, and Renz Addiction Counseling Center prevention coordinator Ricardo Garza.

These agencies represent all the facets involved in promoting safety within the community, Tracy said.

Serious crime in Elgin was at a 40-year low in 2012, according to Elgin police data. There have been two homicides this year, the same number as last year.

Still, there are many interconnected factors that can lead to violence, Vapnar said.

"Unless we have safe homes for people, and jobs and economic security, we will not have safe streets. There is a connection there," she said.

"To draw the connection between services to these people in need, it's not only our responsibility but also creates a more peaceful city for us, and a safer city."

Parents must be involved in their children's everyday activities, Garza said.

"With a parent who is involved, it's less likely for that youth to be involved in any negative activities or be a victim of any type of harm," Garza said.

Tracy said she hopes residents will attend the forum.

"I'm aware that safety is pretty fragile," she said. "If as many people as possible got together to think and talk and work together, it could only help our community."

"Elgin: Safe City -- Peaceful City" will be held 2 to 5 p.m. in the Herrick Chapel of Judson, 1151 N. State St.

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