PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — After weeks of tension, the Peoria City Council is progressing its talks surrounding violence reduction.

Tuesday, the Council met to discuss ways to spend federal and state funding to address the issue.

PUBLIC REACTION TO CITY COUNCIL POLICY SESSION

During the public comment portion of Tuesday’s Peoria City Council policy session, community members urged the Council to move forward with efforts to reduce violence.

“Weeks after weeks, you’ve had discussions, you’ve had talks, and nothing has seemed to happen. We need action now,” said Benjamin Nicks Jr., Pastor at St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church in Peoria.

“Our community is hurting, and we are looking to our elected leaders to care for the whole community and not just part of the community,” said pastor Samuel Duren, Zion Baptist Church in Peoria.

For nearly 2 hours, the Council talked about ways to spend $8 million in federal and state funding on anti-violence initiatives, ranging from community-based violence interventions to additional equipment for police.

“The City Council has a game plan going forward,” said Patrick Urich, Peoria City Manager.

Pastor Nicks Jr. said he was heartened that the conversations surrounding are happening, but just talking about the issue isn’t enough.

“You’re pushing it further and further down the road. Each day you push it further down the road, somebody is going to die,” Nicks Jr. said.

POLICE CHIEF’S RESPONSE TO VIOLENCE & FUNDING

Compared to last year, Peoria Police Chief Eric Echevarria, said shooting incidents and murders are down.

As of Monday, there have been 696 ShotSpotter alerts, compared to 941 at this time last year. Compared to 2021, the number of rounds fired is also down from 3,596 to 2,847.

Despite shooting numbers trending down, Echevarria said there’s still a lot of work left to do.

“We’re going to continue to do the work we’ve been doing. We’re going to continue to push our initiatives, we’re going to continue to put our officers in these hotspot areas,” Echevarria said.

Echevarria said no matter what the council decides to do with the funding they have available, it won’t stop police from tackling violence with every resource possible. But he added that money that helps the community become even more engaged certainly doesn’t hurt.

“We need the community’s help, I think the money that’s there will help facilitate that,” Echevarria said.

CURE VIOLENCE ASSESSMENT

On Monday, the Peoria County Board of Health authorized funding to be used for an assessment from the Cure Violence program.

Peoria County Health Administrator Monica Hendrickson said Cure Violence is a program that the Board of Health has been looking at since 2019.

“We actually even had a policy discussion about what it means to do evidence-based strategies to address gun violence, which we feel is a public health concern,” Hendrickson said.

Wednesday, Hendrickson also cleared up some confusion on what it would mean for Cure Violence to perform an assessment.

“It does not assess whether or not we have crime or where crime happens, that we all know. I think everyone can say I know exactly where it’s happening, it’s more of assessing our own community’s capacity to do this work,” Hendrickson said.

Hendrickson added that it should not be ignored that gun violence is one of the leading causes of premature death in our community.

“So we should approach it with the same energy that we approach overdoses, for heart disease, for cancer, for everything else. It shouldn’t be treated differently,” Hendrickson said.

Hendrickson said having the assessment performed does not mean it will be implemented.

As previously reported, Mayor Rita Ali said it’s her hope that the City Council agrees to implement Cure Violence, if it will help Peoria.