PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Adults need to start to take responsibility for their children.
That’s the message from Peoria Police Chief Eric Echevarria, who along with Mayor Rita Ali, spoke to reporters hours after a barrage of gunfire left several injured and at least two people dead. Their message was simple — the gun violence has to and will stop. But it’ll only stop when parents start parenting.
“The parents need to stop engaging with these juveniles,” he said “They need to be talking to us and letting us know what is going on. We have a lot of adults who know what is going on and we need the adults to begin to step up,” the chief said.
“We are losing too many young lives and we need your help. Please speak up, share information and help take our community back by helping end senseless violence,” he said. “I am pleading with parents that you know where your children are and who they are with. Don’t support or encourage bad behavior.”
Thursday’s homicides, which appear to be the city’s 17th and 18th of the year, come after a wave of gun violence that has rocked Peoria. Five people were shot late Wednesday night in South Peoria and then about 12 hours later, two more were shot about a block away.
One arrest has been made, the chief said but declined to say which shooting that was related to. He also declined to state what charges that person, a man, was being held on. Several cars, he said, have also been seized.
He vowed to have more officers in neighborhoods ravaged by crime and, in response to criticisms that residents don’t see officers as much, said “just because you don’t see a squad car doesn’t mean we aren’t there.”
He vowed to use every resource the city can bring to bear against the gun violence including the threat of possible federal charges.
The mayor, who grew up in South Peoria, said the violence was hurting the people who chose to live there.
“Everyone has something within their power to contribute to make the community safer,” Ali added.
Echevarria said he believed the Thursday morning shootings were related to each other but not to the incident Wednesday night where several were shot. He said the incidents weren’t gang-related but rather involving groups of people who have “beefs” with each other. They were targeted incidents and did not reflect upon the safety of the community as a whole.
“There is no hierarchy here. No rules or protocols that you would see your typical gang. These are kids or young adults that have beefs with each other, either on social media or old beefs,” Echevarria said. “They are young adults who don’t know how to problem-solve without pulling out a gun.”
Denise Jackson, who represents South Peoria, urged people who saw something “to say something.” She echoed the thoughts of Ali and the chief, saying parents should seek out help if they needed it, noting there were “a plethora” of resources out there.
There are plenty of “angry” people out there, she said, who don’t know how to settle their tiffs without gunfire.
Peoria has seen six homicides this month, with four due to gun violence. A seventh occurred at a liquor store just outside the city limits. Shootings or shots fired calls have come at a nearly daily rate.
Semone Roth a police spokeswoman, handed out statistics that detailed how the year has gone for Peoria when it comes to gun violence through Aug. 31.
- Through Aug. 31, there have been 72 shootings, up from 55 at this point last year, an increase of 31%.
- There were 95 shooting victims compared to 72 at this point last year, an increase of 32%
- Homicides, overall, were up 13%. That’s an increase of 2 through Aug. 31.
- But homicides due to firearms were down 8%, a decrease of one.
The city had seen 4,087 rounds fired this year, up from 3,415 at this point last year.
The violence has affected not just the people who were injured and killed. Peoria Public Schools canceled after-school activities including sports at all three high schools plus several other schools. The move came after social media buzzed with rumors of possible violence after students were dismissed from class.
Avanti’s announced that “due to the recent events in Peoria, we have chosen to temporarily close delivery in certain areas as the safety of our employees is our top priority.”
Both said efforts by a group set by the mayor, Safety Net, are too early to call a failure. Rather, Ali said they had targeted the neighborhood that includes Marquette and Antoinette because they knew it was a “hot spot.”
But such efforts take time, she said. It’s only been two months that Safety Net volunteers have been going into the neighborhood and knocking on doors to build up relationships.
Added Echevarria: “We are going to continue to be in those neighborhoods and to build trust. We are going to continue to ask people to share information, noting that while he’s been in Peoria for only three years, he’s learned one thing.
“There aren’t any secrets there. If something is happening or going to happen, it’s on social media. People know what is going to happen.”