WMBD was inside the room where the Peoria community is reaching out to some the city's target offenders.
Eleven young men were the focus Wednesday night call-in at Peoria’s library, downtown.
All eleven of the men showed up.
They're between 18 and 24 years old, and at greatest risk of being the next criminals in Peoria locked up for gun violence.
But as they sat, they listened, and you could tell, the message was getting across.
They heard from murder victims families.
“I’m a victim of gun violence, my brother got gunned down, so, I really want to help other families,” explains Rakesha Drummond. Her brother,Kelin,was killed in may of 2012, in gang gun-fire.
Drummond wanted her hurt to get across.
“They all were giving me eye contact,” she explains of the target offenders she spoke to Wednesday night. “Giving me head nods, so I know they were listening. My goal was to have at least one of them hear me., because that would’ve made a difference."
They saw pictures from the scene, the aftermath of murder.
An eight year old boy,sleeping in his bed, killed in a Peoria drive by shooting.
A case, still unsolved.
Interim Peoria Police Chief Jerry Mitchell explains, “That resonates with them. They know people that age, brothers, cousins, what have you. That's real for them.”
They heard from community leaders, former convicts, who know what it's like to be locked up.
Who are trying to intervene, before the young men end up there, too.
And for those who looked them in the eyes, it's making a difference.
Krista Coleman is the Community Service Coordinator for the Peoria Police Department, she says, “Tonight was very instrumental in the fact that, they really listened. They gave us eye contact, they gave us the body language. I was able to see they were listening to the message."
“Prior times, they would not do that,” adds Mitchell.
Since the call-in's started in 2012, until last month, 66 people were called in.
With Wednesday’s 11, that makes 77.
Twenty one of them have asked for help.
Nearly 50 who weren't even at the call in, heard the message, and reached out.
Thirty-seven target offenders have been arrested since they asked for help.
But 33 have not been arrested.
“I think the response is increasing. I think some individuals do see in the community to walk away from their previous associates,” says Coleman.
It's those making the choice to change that's helping spread the message of zero tolerance.
And this community says it won't stop until the gun violence does.
“Law enforcement will continue to pound after them. We're not gonna give up,” adds Mitchell.
Of the eleven men there tonight, one already has a meeting set up to learn more about getting help, tomorrow.
Others have indicated they will call.
Peoria police are also ramping up efforts for the next phase of "Don't Shoot", targeting the city's most violent criminals, identifying them on a weekly basis, and going after them for higher bond and sentencing.
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