Springfield police are trying to crack down on ‘pop-up’ rallies

The Springfield Police Department intends to suppress a series of rallies across the city. Residents complain of disturbing the peace of the neighborhood.

The department said it conducted “proactive detail” over the weekend in an effort to break up what Deputy Chief Josh Stuenkel called “pop-up” parties, in which a group of 100 or more people gather at a certain place, usually late at night after the local bars close.

Citations were issued during a series of traffic stops, with six weapons recovered linked to the details, leading to the arrest of seven people for weapons.

Randy Lewis, a retired employee of City Water, Light and Power, lives along East Adams Street near Comer Cox Park. He said young people who attend parties frequently make the neighborhood unsafe for themselves and others, citing speeding and property damage.

“Everyone in this area is either retired or homeowners and they’re seniors,” Lewis said. “(Kids) go from Martin Luther King (Drive) to 11th Street (and) they go up to 60-70 miles per hour. We’re afraid someone will get hurt at night like two weeks when these kids are flying around and turning the curve with 4 or 5 of them sitting in the car door, it’s a death trap waiting to happen.

“They also cross people’s yards. It bothers people.”

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Stuenkel said groups park in a certain area — whether it’s a parking lot or along a street — and block off the area for the rally. Trying to fix this can be tricky, as events take place all over town and when one is dismantled, the group moves to another neighborhood to start over.

“We’ve seen them in parks, corporate parking lots, just about anywhere,” Stuenkel said. “Last weekend we saw it everywhere – we saw it on the north side, on the east side (and) on the west side. It becomes a mobile and mobile problem when we uproot them from one place .”

Stuenkel said situations that could arise from gathering in the middle of the night with little supervision and intoxicated people could lead to fights and, in some cases, gunfire. Residents of affected communities, such as Lewis, have told Springfield police and community leaders that the gatherings are a nuisance, disrupting life in those areas at night.

“When they stop and close a block in front of someone’s house at 3 a.m., they’re not silent,” Stuenkel said. “There’s loud music (and) noises, so it’s a nuisance to the neighborhood where it’s happening.”

Comer Cox Park just outside of downtown along Adams Street, Capitol Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive is one of the frequent gathering spots. Ward 2 Ald. Shawn Gregory, whose neighborhood includes the park, said gatherings have been a part of neighborhood life since he was a kid.

“Where the problem comes is (that) you can’t disturb other people,” Gregory said. “That’s really the starting point, that these things get so big that they inconvenience other people, block traffic and there’s always some type of problem arising from that. The community just wants them to stop. “

Ward 5 Alderwoman Lakeisha Purchase said gatherings are common in her area at the Qik-N-EZ gas station/convenience store along North Grand Avenue East, in addition to a former Shop n’ Save parking lot now owned by Memorial Health and the MedicsFirst Ambulance Company.

She said that although they control the parking lot, much like in Gregory’s neighborhood, they can’t control large groups forever.

“Last summer they ran into (the) store, stole all the booze, chips (and) candy,” Purchase said. “What were the employees supposed to do? They can’t say, “Hey, do it again!” There are no rules when you get together in a setting like this. There are teenagers, minors, so there is no supervision. Whereas if you’re going to a professional establishment, you and I know there’s going to be a problem with them getting in the door.”

Purchase said young people in her neighborhood told her about the lack of safe places to hang out. One location – the TK1Lounge at Motel 6 Springfield – was closed due to issues the hotel was having with firefighters and public works inspectors.

Purchase said the location was meant to be used as a safe place for teenagers to hang out after prom to deter the kinds of gatherings that could turn violent.

“They were going to have a big party there last weekend, but since it was closed, there was nowhere to go,” Purchase said. “The kids took it upon themselves to find a place to go and congregate.”

Ward 1 Alderman Chuck Redpath said similar rallies happen on occasion in his southeast side district, but there aren’t many places where parties can metastasize. . For example, he said a party near Lake Springfield was closed as quickly as it started due to the centralized nature of the lake.

“They like to have these parties where they can have easy access and easy escape routes,” Redpath said. “At the lake there are no easy escape routes. They tried to keep one on the Lindsay Bridge, but they were surrounded within minutes.”

For Ward 6 Alderman Kristin DiCenso, Ward 7 Alderman Joe McMenamin and Ward 10 Alderman Ralph Hanauer, rallies are not a pressing issue in their districts. However, all said the city should be above them. McMenamin added that they create problems no matter where they occur.

“They’re intolerable,” McMenamin said. “They create significant problems (and) they can lead to serious bodily harm and serious assault. “strangers” who come to our town from Decatur and elsewhere.

“It is also intolerable as they create danger, disrespect for property and significant potential (for) bodily harm through the use of firearms and fights breaking out.”

DiCenso said the city should keep tabs on social media to nip any kind of events they try to nip in the bud before they start.

“The key to that is following it,” DiCenso said. “It’s all coming from social media, it’s telling everyone where to meet and where they’re going to travel in the city. I think we need to do a better job of monitoring social media to see where these parties stop so that we can cut it before they start.”

Hanauer said one way to deter people would be for patrols to watch for potential DUI incidents as part of their enforcement of city ordinances.

“We have to do something,” Hanauer said. “We have to enforce all the laws we have. I know they will be there.”

For the SPD’s part, Stuenkel said officers will continue to issue citations and ensure parking laws and hours are enforced.

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Lewis, Comer Cox’s neighbor, suggested the city find a way to get ahead of those on social media promoting the holidays and separate them before they have a chance to become dangerous. Even with that, Lewis knows the police and the community need to keep revelers from congregating at different locations around town.

“They have to do something different,” Lewis said. “You’re not going to upset us if you’re going to close some of these side roads and reduce the places they can’t get to Comer Cox Park. We’re not going to mind (and it might) deter them if they know that we’re going to be there. That should help some.

Contact Zach Roth: (217) 899-4338; [email protected]; @ZacharyRoth13

Sara H. Byrd