Local organizations helping curb the rise in seasonal, juvenile crime

Published: May. 19, 2023 at 6:34 PM CDT
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PEORIA (25News Now) - The Peoria Police Department said Thursday that juvenile crime rates could rise due to students wrapping up school, but two organizations we spoke with agree that a lack of resources has led to these higher crime rates.

“There is so much free time that that’s where usually the crime comes from,” said Food Pantry Coordinator Chip Bates of The Peoria Friendship House of Christian Service. “Either there’s not a place to play basketball, football, or just do any kind of extracurricular activity that could just keep them distracted for a while.”

Peoria police said total crime rose 9% from the month of June 2021 to June 2022. However, juvenile arrests were down 19%.

Youth violence has typically peaked in July.

Youth mentorship programs can look different depending on the organization. Some can host summer camps, while others focus on activities like sports, yard work and other job skills tasks.

But the Heart of Illinois Big Brothers Big Sisters agreed that these programs’ purpose is to keep kids occupied.

“A lot of our families will come to us and say they want to enroll their child into a summer program so that they are busy and they’re not getting into trouble over the summer,” said BBBS staff member Hannah Daly.

For the Peoria Friendship House, they partner with Peoria police in its “Peoria PeaceKeepers” program. The partnership works with kids who have broken the law and help them get back on the right path.

CEO Marcellus Sommerville said investing in our youth and their families - no matter their situation or history - is what it’s all about.

“How do we as a community pull the families that don’t have as much, that are living in some poverty, that live in food deserts?” said Sommerville. “How do we pull them to the level where they feel as if they’re living greater?”

Chip Bates said hunger is another issue children are facing. He said he uses the food pantry to support those who are hungry to help lower potential crime.

“I just want to be a shoulder to lean on, be the big teddy bear,” said Bates. “I just do whatever I can to put a smile on these kids’ faces.”

Daly added that her organization is in need of more men to mentor young boys

You can find a list of services here from The Peoria Friendship House of Christian Service and Heart of Illinois Big Brothers Big Sisters.