‘We want to be that light’, local faith leaders to assist efforts to reduce violence in Peoria

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – The local faith based community is being tapped to help address deadly violence in Peoria.

This year, 24 lives have been claimed in Peoria as a result of violence. Monday, Peoria Police Chief Eric Echevarria sat down with nearly 30 area religious leaders to discuss the problem.

“Every avenue we can use to get that message out there that we’re here for the community, that they can talk to us, that we’re here to help them, that we’re here to make sure the city is safer, I want to use,” Echevarria said.

Reverend Tyson Parks III with Bethel United Methodist Church attended Monday’s meeting. He said the faith community can be part of the solution.

“When there’s a murder or any type of heinous crime, there’s darkness. We want to be that light,” Parks said.

Parks said driving down violence will take unity and that starts with places of worship, but he said that’s not where it ends.

“We have to model that in the church and being able to model that in the church we can take that out into the broader community,” Parks said.

He explained that the faith community must partner with other community agencies to provide resources.

“If we can reach those kids younger and show them there is a better way, life is about choices, is about making the right choices, who knows who you can impact,” Parks said.

Peoria NAACP President and Pastor at Liberty Church, Marvin Hightower, said prayer and fasting are also key but said it may take more unconventional measures.

“Being along aside of the police as they’re doing their walk and talks, that’s one option. Go along with ride-along, which pastors have done,” Hightower said.

Hightower said reducing deadly violence won’t end overnight, but it will get better by taking one step at a time.

“We have to work one by one, family by family, individual by individual, to help curb what we see playing out in our streets,” Hightower said.

Parks also said faith leaders may also play a role in people becoming more willing to share information about a deadly incident.

“That’s important, that’s how we can get to the bottom of some of these cold cases because people know but do they trust someone enough to share? That’s important, we have to change the culture,” he said.

Chief Echevarria said he will plan meetings with faith leaders each month.

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