PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Leaders are sounding the alarm for community engagement after Peoria marked its 20th murder in just seven months.
2021 is on track to be Peoria’s deadliest year, as 2019 – the deadliest year in three decades – had 25 homicides during the entire year.
“The recent murders in Peoria have been devastating. Needless to say violence has taken its toll on our community,” said Keith McDaniel, community outreach coordinator at Peoria Community Against Violence, whose mission is to reduce violence in the community,
East Bluff Neighborhood Association President Richard Mitchell has lived in the area for thirty years and attributes the rise in violence to gang activity.
“The shootings are going on between the gangs down south and gangs up north of here,” he said. “The crimes are done by people that want to kill a certain person, and they will kill other people around them to get to that person,” he said.
McDaniel said a small percentage of people are involved in street violence and are not necessarily gang-related.
“I think the majority of the violence that is going on are misunderstandings and no one wants to talk about the issues. They go off of the hearsay, the ‘he said/she said,’ and they react on that,” he said.
McDaniel said social media has accelerated violence, and people need to learn conflict resolution instead of reaching for their guns.
“We’re asking for peace and for young people to put the gun down and think of another way to resolve their issues. We’re also asking members of our community to come out of their comfort zone and get involved in a positive organization looking to change the narrative that is going on in Peoria,” he said.
McDaniel said PCAV’s crisis response teams have assisted 300 grieving families and friends so far this year.
Peoria Third District Councilperson Tim Riggenbach said it’s distressing that the shooters and victims keep getting younger and younger. He believes early intervention is the key.
“It just doesn’t work to get to them in middle school, we really need to get involved with kids and be part of their lives at a younger age, younger than ever before,” he said.
Riggenbach said it’s going to take an all-hands-on-deck approach to combat the issue.
“We need to get the churches involved, school groups, all these organizations that care, the park district, and offer things for these kids to do to keep them off the streets,” he said.
The Annual National Night Out Against Crime is on Tuesday, Aug. 3. City leaders, police officers and firefighters will be making the rounds at neighborhood associations hosting block parties all over the city.
Riggenbach said the goal of the evening is to bring the community together.