Springfield neighborhoods address concerns as 2021 approaches US gun violence highs

Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 10:01 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - A spike in gun violence nationwide puts 2021 on track to be the deadliest year in the last two decades, which follows records set last year during the pandemic.

The rise in gun violence has been a trend seen not only nationally, but also locally. A few area neighborhoods even say they feel the sound of gunshots ring out all too often.

“I hear gunshots pretty often,” said Nat Vandergrift, who lives in the West Central neighborhood in Springfield. “Probably once every couple weeks.”

To a few Springfield neighborhoods, rising gun crime hits too close to home and far too often.

”There is quite a bit of gunfire and I’ve never heard it like this in Springfield, Missouri before,” said Vandergrift, who used to work in law enforcement. “Never. And I’ve lived here all my life.”

A string of gunshots stuck out to Vandergrift on Sunday night in the West Central Neighborhood. Similar burst were also heard as a car drove down a street in Fairfield Acres.

”I was inside watching a movie, my kids were playing video games and then all of a sudden I started hearing ‘pop pop pop,’ ”said Tyler Johnson. “[I heard] about 10. And it was a very distinct sound.”

That distinct sound has rung out all across the states in 2021.

”Last night it became real,” Johnson said. “Like it became a lot more real than it was before. So I would definitely say it’s an increasing trend that’s not going in a good way.”

According to the Gun Violence Archive, more than 14,750 people died from gun violence between Jan. 1 and Sept. 20. The startling statistic is up by more than 1,300 during the same period last year. That number is up by about 9%.

The number of mass shootings, defined as a shooting killing four or more people, currently sits around 500 for 2021.

”It’s everywhere,” Vandergrift. “I don’t think it’s just here. I don’t think it’s just in Missouri. I mean gun violence is everywhere. Look at Chicago. Look at L.A. You know, they got the strongest gun rules and they still have gunfire, deaths and killings. So it’s just all over. Now how do we deal with it? That’s the question. I don’t know.”

In Springfield, there have been 17 homicides in the city so far this year. In 2020 the city reached a record breaking 24 homicide incidents with 28 total victims.

”What concerns me the most is somebody around the neighborhood getting hurt,” Vandergrift said. “A kid getting hurt, or somebody like that getting hurt.”

Police Chief Paul Williams told KY3 the violence in Springfield has not been random acts. He said homicides have been between people with personal disputes.

“The general public is not at risk of being a victim of those types of situations and people really should feel at ease,” Chief Williams told KY3 in an interview last week. “It’s safe to be out and about and be anywhere in Springfield anytime.”

As for those drive by shots fired on Sunday night, the Springfield Police Department is investigating.

So far the Springfield Police Department has solved 16 of the 17 homicides that happened in 2021.

“It’s no secret that gun violence is an issue in Springfield,” a spokesperson for the Springfield Police Department said in a statement on Monday. “When incidents occur, officers typically arrive after the suspect has already left the scene. At that point what they can do is collect evidence such as shell casings and surveillance footage to try and identify a suspect.”

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