Rockford mall shooting doesn't change perceptions of downtown
An investigation into a shooting on a crowded pedestrian mall continues, but community members say their perception of downtown hasn’t changed much since Sunday’s early morning melee.
People who like the heart of the city say they’ll return to it. People who don’t say they won’t.
Police officials would not say if they’ve upped patrols in the area in light of the shooting, but they don’t consider downtown a “hot spot” for crime. Neither do some of the people who work or play there daily.
“It saddens me, it disappoints me, it’s scary,” said Pablo Korona, who works as a creative and video director downtown. “But it’s the individuals, the bad seeds, that are causing a problem. That was not a fair representation of what happens downtown.”
Korona was downtown at Octane when the shooting happened about 12:30 a.m. Sunday. Police arrested Martin D. Love, 24, who they believe fired a handgun repeatedly in a crowd of several hundred people that had congregated on the pedestrian mall. Korona said he watched the “chaos” the shooting caused and felt safe when police arrived minutes later.
“We have isolated incidents that happen throughout the city,” Deputy Police Chief Michael Booker said. “Downtown Rockford has not been a hotbed for that type of activity.”
Even so, resident Charlotte Freund said she won’t be making a trip downtown anytime soon. But she’s always avoided the area, she said. Her friend, Rodney Sorkin, said there’s a perception that Rockford’s downtown is a bastion for criminal activity. He’s lived here since late 2004.
“There’s a reputation of Rockford having a dangerous downtown,” he said. “You hear about it. People talk about it.”
James Ford, a hip-hop artist known as Judah the Lyrical Rev, said the shooting only fuels deep-seated stereotypes about violence on the city’s west side. That the shooting happened while downtown bars were holding hip-hop events doesn’t help cure stereotypes, either, he said. Ford said he doesn’t believe the violence was linked to the shows and fears it will jeopardize hip-hop artists’ chances of booking gigs at downtown venues.
“We’re some very positive individuals who are cognizant of our image and cognizant of the way we affect business,” Ford said. “We really don’t want to have to suffer for what some foolhardy individual did.”
Others agreed the incident was isolated.
“I was surprised; I’ve never heard of anything like that happening downtown,” said resident Mary Sankaran. “I would still go downtown, but I might be a little more watchful of my surroundings.”
Staff writer Sadie Gurman can be reached at 815-987-1389 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.