PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — A new partnership is emerging soon to lower youth violence in Peoria.
After both Peoria city council and the Peoria Public School (PPS) board approved an intergovernmental agreement, Peoria students might see some familiar faces on the weekends.
Peoria Public School campus safety officers will now voluntarily work Friday and Saturday night shifts with Peoria police. The goal is to create stronger relationships with PPS students and to allow the police officers to focus on other criminal activity, aside from youth behavior.
“We are collectively working on this together looking at root causes, looking at how we can restoratively find measures to keep kids out of trouble and keep them out of the juvenile system,” said Peoria Police Chief Eric Echevarria.
The PPS safety officers will go through training to stand alongside the men and women in blue to lower youth violence.
“Peoria Police Department and us, we have a great relationship, so it’s just nice to see something proactive done from the police department to address youth crime and violence,” said Demario Boone, the director of school safety for PPS.
Boone said of all the security officers working at Peoria schools, they are all willing to help out.
“They were excited after the city council meeting. They’re always excited when the chief of Peoria police is talking about them because they feel like we’re recognized finally, so I left city council and my phone rang and they were all on board,” said Boone.
After the agreement was passed, the district’s safety officers won’t just be working in schools, but on the streets, as well.
They will help identify PPS students in high-impact areas to curb or stop potential criminal behaviors and will assist with the transportation of students who violate curfew. Peoria police even plan on getting a curfew van to transport students who are out past curfew.
Echevarria said, “They know a large group of the population that we’re probably dealing with when we’re talking about curfew and when we’re talking about the activities that we may see in our downtown areas.”
They will also document child and family interactions to help determine the root causes of bad behavior and provide resources to students and families through the wraparound center.
“There are relationships that are built and we want to capitalize on that, not to arrest kids or young adults necessarily, but to interrupt something before it happens,” said Echevarria.
Boone said from this point on, more children and families can get the help they need.
“I think that if something like this is done right, then it can only grow and just help the families more and the officers should grow along with it,” said Boone.
Echevarria said creating partnerships like this one allows multiple avenues to lower crime. “Like I’ve said in the beginning when I got here, we will use every available tool that we can possibly have to work against the violence that we’ve had in this city.”
Once the training is done, and the security officers learn how to use the body cameras, six to eight of them will work third shift with Peoria police on Friday and Saturday nights, as well as at special events.
Echevarria said he’s allotted a budget for 222 police officers, but currently, only has 199, so the extra money in the budget will go towards the security officers who will be paid in overtime wages.