A Publication of WTVP

Crime is an issue about which we all continue to be concerned. While crimes against persons (assault, robbery, criminal sexual assault, and murder) are up 4 percent so far this year, crimes against property (burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson) are down 9 percent. This nets us a 7 percent decrease in Peoria crimes (as of July 31). I’m not even close to being satisfied. We have such a long way to go to drastically reduce serious crimes in Peoria. I don’t think there will be much discussion on that.

How do we accomplish the reduction of crime? Putting a police officer on every corner will not eliminate crime. It would likely help, but realistically, it’ll never happen. So what are we going to do?

The council placed $150,000 in this year’s capital budget for cameras to monitor activity in some of our troubled neighborhoods. My focus group on crime has been working very hard to identify the area(s) we’ll deploy the cameras in the pilot program, and we’ve also visited Chicago to learn of the successes and failures with its camera program. I’m so confident the pilot program will be successful, I’ve asked the council to program an additional $500,000 in the 2007 budget for more cameras. Using this technology to help fight crime won’t be the “silver bullet” to end all crime. It’ll be another tool for our law enforcement professionals to have access to as they continue to find new ways to fight those who would harm us and our property.

You may ask, “But Mayor, this is a magazine focused on business in our community. Why are you submitting another article on crime?” Most astute businesspeople understand a community that’s determined to reduce/eliminate crime will be able to attract new customers and grow their businesses. The business community also has to show leadership in identifying new ways to fight crime and secure broad-based community support for our crime-fighting initiatives. Those who’ve invested their dollars doing business in our community must also step forward and facilitate the dialogue in the community to pinpoint what additional measures should be taken to assist our police department.

Here are some areas for discussion. Why is our police department having a difficult time getting witnesses to come forward with information about the 11 homicides through July and those who committed them? Is there a lack of trust between portions of the community and our police department? If so,why? We need to identify those reasons and address them, so our police professionals can do their job and put those responsible behind bars. In the meantime, can we establish a model similar to that used by Sheriff McCoy, our police department, and Reverend Criss to help solve the recent serial murders? Surely, Criss and other members of the community would be willing to step up and help funnel information to the police. What happens after those committing crimes are arrested? We’ve all heard the stories that many of the criminals are back on the streets in a matter of hours. Why does this happen? What do we need to do to identify these criminals and insure our state’s attorney realizes what a danger they are to our community, and that this also is relayed to our judges?

I for one am sick and tired that the hardworking men and women in our police department who bust their rear ends every day to keep us safe are being criticized consistently for not arresting these bad people in our city. The reality is, in most cases, they are. A large part of the problem is the revolving door of our criminal justice system. Again, our resources are scarce. The state’s attorney is trying to do a job with insufficient staff; the judges’ dockets are overloaded.

But enough hand-wringing and whining—what are we going to do about it? Do we need a special prosecutor in the state’s attorney’s office who does nothing but focus on gang and violent crime in our neighborhoods? Do we need more than one? Do we need night court to insure these punks receive swift trials? How are we going to help our judges understand the hell many of our neighborhoods endure at the hands of a relatively small number of bad people? And if and when they do get tough, where are we going to put them? The sheriff’s jail only has room for 400-plus people, and it currently has over 500 inmates. Are there other ways to punish offenders besides jail? Are there other places we can put them? Do we need a bigger jail?

Another question: are you willing to help us pay for it? That’s right, a beefed-up police department and additional prosecutors are going to cost us some money. Are you willing to sacrifice financial resources to help us get this tough work done?

There’s a lot to think about here. What are you willing to do? If you don’t like these ideas, what are yours? Can we expect to keep doing the same thing we’ve been doing for a long time and expect different results? Not likely.

Step to the plate and be heard. Let’s have the discussion. IBI