Peoria ideal for anti-violence initiative, according to findings

Published: Jan. 18, 2023 at 7:47 PM CST
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PEORIA (25 News Now) - Stopping violence from the inside. That’s what one group believes Peoria is ready for, with new methods intended to reduce the bloodshed.

Over the past few months, anti-violence group Cure Violence Global has held presentations informing the public of their strategies, called ‘Cure Violence 101′. Their concepts revolve around the idea that violence is a disease, but that the danger is within reach through their approach. To eliminate the problem, the approach is three-fold: Detect and interrupt potentially violent conflicts, identify and change behaviors of people at highest risk, and mobilize the community to change norms, according to the official CVG website.

At its heart are community members, across all facets of local culture. Through a careful selection process, the organization finds candidates that are respected and trusted in the community to carry out preventative measures. By creating a positive rapport with their neighbors, they can more easily identify and work to eliminate any threat of violence to those around them.

It’s an effort the Peoria City/County Health Department has worked to achieve for the past four years, with an initial round of funding for a city-wide assessment coming from the Peoria City Council. During that time, CVG collected its own data, while combining it with information from the Peoria Police Department, to create a comprehensive analysis of the region.

Wednesday morning, the group laid out its findings for the first time at the Peoria Public Library. According to the data, they say, Peoria’s violence is consistent with other metropolitan areas they’ve worked in, making it an ideal candidate for the program. Now, they say the next step is to begin finding the right people for the job -- and putting control in their hands.

”The community has gone through a lot of trauma, and I think it’s time for them to start finding solutions that they themselves are generating and supporting,” says Peoria City/County Health Department Administrator Monica Hendrickson.

Among the information provided in the presentation, a tentative budget was announced, with a total of around $500,000. Funding will come from grants through the Health Department, says Hendrickson, with plans for further financing once the program is established. The program is set to get up and running in the next couple of months, with full integration in a year.

“I’m really excited about that, but I recognize that there could be pitfalls, and that’s why...the first year is focused on implementing it correctly,” adds Hendrickson.

Community activist Yolanda Wallace was in attendance at the presenation. She has been at the forefront of local anti-violence initiatives for years, following the death of her son Jon in 2006. She’s seen multiple iterations of CVG attempt to integrate into Peoria, including the ‘Ceasefire’ initiative started 16 years ago. While each attempt has been made for a similar outcome, Wallace is expressing confidence in this iteration.

“This looks like more, not a lookalike, this looks like the real deal is coming to Peoria,” she says.

Wallace notes she’s never seen an approach quite like this one: asking residents to turn a new leaf by finding employment for good. She addresses the aspect of the candidate selection process that includes former criminals looking for a fresh start. According to the organization, those individuals hold sway in their communities, which makes them all the more valuable for the goals of the initiative.

Looking forward, Wallace’s tone is one of optimism.

“Pushing for it all those years ago, it just feels like, ‘Are we really going to get it this time?’ I think we finally might get it!”

Around for over 20 years, the organization conducts independent evaluations to speak to the efficacy of their efforts in major cities impacted by violent activity. According to their findings, some jurisdictions saw up to 70% reductions in firearm-related incidents thanks to what they refer to as ‘violence interrupters’. In others, nearly all retaliation events were eliminated. Their reach also spreads around the globe to continents like Europe.