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Kankakee police receive grant to help curb gun violence

KANKAKEE — A $48,000 grant will be put to use in Kankakee police’s efforts to reduce gun violence in the city.

The department recently received the grant for ShotSpotter, a real-time gunshot detection and alert system in which gunfire activity is monitored 24/7 and police are notified immediately.

In a recent briefing, Kankakee Chief Frank Kosman reported that while crime numbers have declined slightly, gun violence continues to remain problematic.

“Reducing gun violence is one of the highest priorities for our police department,” he said in a press release. “This system will enhance our response as a force multiplier by improving both the timeliness and quality of the response.

“By pinpointing the precise location of gunshot incidents and by more accurately tracking geographic patterns underlying gun violence, our law enforcement resources can be deployed more effectively and more proactively.”

Shots-fired calls for service reports increased year-over-year from 275 to 332. Shots fired reports increased in each month of 2019 versus 2018 except for declines in January, March, April and June.

Further, Kosman recently noted, actual reports being filed regarding shots fired increased from 80 in 2018 to 120 in 2019 — a 50 percent jump.

He noted the difference between a shots fired call for service and a shots fired report is that upon arrival, police actually found evidence — such as a shell casing or a bullet hole — of a weapon having been fired.

With the ShotSpotter system, it notifies the department almost immediately to the firing of a gun and triangulates from where the sound came. It gives police a fighting chance in finding the finger that pulled the trigger.

Acoustic sensors placed throughout the city are triggered when a gunshot is heard. The data is reviewed by analysts at dispatch centers and patrol officers are notified to respond.

According to ShotSpotter, the notification process takes less than 60 seconds.

“As technology advances, I am proud that we have a proactive police chief that is keeping up with useful tools as we continue to work toward a safer community,” Kankakee Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong said. “ShotSpotter will be a great addition in further improving public safety.”

The ShotSpotter system is used in more than 100 cities nationwide, including in the Illinois communities of Calumet City, Chicago, Peoria, Rockford and Springfield.

Fair food fix

PEOTONE — With most of the fairs and festivals canceled for the summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, concession stand owner Lauren Conway-Janssen had to get creative. So she set up her stand over the weekend at Dralle Chevrolet Buick in Peotone.

“I never thought I’d be selling fair food in a dealership parking lot, but we’re making the best of it,” she said. “I’m happy everyone is so excited to come see me.”

And there was plenty of business.

“We didn’t expect it to be this crazy,” Conway-Janssen said. “But we’re making it happen!”

Dwight resident Keith Miller made the 45-minute drive to eat corn dogs and the popular hot apple dumpling on Saturday morning.

“My wife asked if I was crazy going all the way to Peotone,” Miller said. “I guess I am.”

He took an order to-go for his wife.

Manteno residents Don and Joey Schmelzer enjoyed a corn dog and a dumpling at the picnic tables scattered between new and used cars in the dealership lot.

“It’s great to see a stand, especially with carnivals being crossed off the list now,” Don said.

Excitedly walking over with her son, Julie Busich, of Peotone, said she waits all summer to visit Conway-Janssen’s stand specifically. “We go to the fair every year and she’s the only vendor we buy from,” Busich said. “I’ll be here every day she’s here.”

Conway-Janssen will be back at Dralle Chevrolet Buick from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. next Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

BBCHS students partially refunded for canceled Disney trip

Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School students who were supposed to go to Disney World in March are finally getting most of their money back for the canceled trip.

Superintendent Scott Wakeley said District 307 negotiated with Bob Rogers Travel Agency and the company has agreed to refund parents 95 percent of their out-of-pocket expenses.

Parents will not receive fundraised money back; however, parents who have freshman or sophomore students planning to attend the next trip in 2022 will get a credit from the school for 95 percent of their fundraised money to pay for that trip.

“There will be some work that needs to be done in the music department over the next two years in order to make that happen, but we figured that was the only right thing to do,” Wakeley said.

The BBCHS music department embarks on the trip once every few years so that students in band and choir will have the chance to go to Disney once in their high school career.

About 300 students planned to take the trip this year.

BBCHS leadership held out hope that the trip would go on as planned despite panic over coronavirus, as Florida was entertaining tourists and Disney was still hosting school trips until the park announced its temporary closure in mid March.

The trip was scheduled for the end of March during spring break. Even before it was officially canceled, some parents were pulling their students out over fear of the virus.

Wakeley said parents were frustrated and wanted to know how much they would be refunded and who would pay them back. Most did not purchase travel insurance.

“Nobody takes insurance,” he said. “They think, ‘What are the chances?’”

The issue, however, was that the company had already expended the money.

“Everybody had been paid,” Wakeley said. “So then it’s just a matter of, OK, how much money can you get back?”

He said the company originally stated that it would use fundraised money to pay everyone back 95 percent.

But parents who fundraised were upset their money would be paying those who didn’t raise funds at all. Others suggested that all of their fundraised money should come back to them.

“We understood; the tricky part was everybody wanted what they wanted,” Wakeley said. “So we were left kind of in the middle, really not having any authority to do anything.”

School Board President Justin Caldwell said his daughter was planning to attend the trip, and he could understand where parents’ frustrations were coming from. He said the company was inconsistent and untimely in some of its email communications, likely because it had many schools in the same situation to deal with.

“When you hear 95 [percent] that’s what sticks with people,” Caldwell said. “You don’t get to go back two weeks later and say you’re getting 70 percent of your money back.”

Wakeley said the school would look into options to prevent conflict in the future, such as building travel insurance into the cost of the trip or being more hands-off with fundraising efforts.

Blood drive donations to to be tested for antibodies

Daily Journal staff report

For a limited time, the American Red Cross is testing all blood, platelet and plasma donations for COVID-19 antibodies, providing donors insight into whether they have been exposed to this coronavirus. At the same time, there continues to be an urgent need for blood donations as hospitals resume surgeries and treatments that require blood products.

Antibody testing will indicate if the donor’s immune system has produced antibodies to this coronavirus, regardless of whether they developed symptoms. Donations will be tested using samples pulled at the time of donation and sent to a testing laboratory where they will also undergo routine infectious disease testing. A positive antibody test result does not confirm infection or immunity.

COVID-19 antibody test results will be available within 7-10 days in the Red Cross Blood Donor App or donor portal at RedCrossBlood.org. The test has been authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“As an organization dedicated to helping others, the Red Cross is pleased to provide more information about COVID-19 to our valued donors,” said Dr. Erin Goodhue, executive medical director of direct patient care with the Red Cross Biomedical Services. “If you are feeling healthy and well, please schedule an appointment to not only help saves lives but also learn about your potential exposure to COVID-19.”

The Red Cross is not testing donors to diagnose illness, referred to as a diagnostic test.

Safety precautions

To protect the health and safety of Red Cross staff and donors, individuals who do not feel well or who believe they may be ill with COVID-19 should postpone their donation.

Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions — including temperature checks, social distancing and face coverings for donors and staff — have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive and are required to wear a face covering or mask while at the drive, in alignment with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public guidance.

All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients, according to the Red Cross. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.