Peoria's Top Cop, Mayor Call On Citizens To Help Solve Crimes: 'The Community Is Tired Of It'
Nearly 24 hours after a teenager was shot dead in Peoria's North Valley neighborhood, Peoria Police Department Chief Eric Echevarria called on citizens to help officers solve crimes and prevent future homicides.
"It is time to act," he said. "It is time to come together as one Peoria, come forward and help stop the violence plaguing our city. If you see something, say something. If you know something, tell us. We need your help."
Echevarria's plea came nearly 24 hours after the city experienced its 23rd homicide of 2021.
Martez Robertson, 19, was killed inside a Shop and Save on Northeast Jefferson Street just after 6 p.m. Monday. Several parties of interest are in custody in connection to the killing, Echevarria said during a press conference on Tuesday.
In addition to Robertson's killing, Echevarria said the department is actively investigating multiple acts of violence committed over the past 24 hours.
For example, a shooting in the 2300 block of West Ann left a woman in critical condition. And in another incident, a suspect threw knives at officers. (Echevarria commended the officers for subduing the individual without using lethal force.)
"The community is tired of it," Echevarria said. "The community does not want gun violence. The community doesn't want gang-banging. The community doesn't want drug dealers and violent crime ... and we're letting them speak and have a voice to come talk to us, and tell us when things are happening."
Echevarria said there was currently no information leading him to believe that any of the incidents of the last 24 hours are connected to the Friday afternoon fights at Peoria High School.
If citizens share information they have with police immediately, these crimes will be easier to solve, Echevarria said.
"They know where the guns are coming from," he said. "People know where these ammunition is coming from. And who's out here wanting to incite violence. We need your help. share that information with us."
During Tuesday's press conference, Echevarria acknowledged police departments have struggled to attain the trust of communities affected by the violence, particularly communities of color.
The chief, who came to Peoria this year after a stint as Elgin's top cop, said he wants to change that narrative.
Standing in front of Mayor Dr. Rita Ali, Peoria Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Sharon Kherat, clergy and a handful of city council members, Echevarria said local leaders must work together to rebuild trust.
"I think working together, working collectively, taking everybody out of their silos and us working together together as a team ... I think we're gonna be able to move forward," he said. "...And get people to start talking to us, and say, 'These are the people committing the crimes."
Mayor Ali echoed Echevarria's comments, calling the last 24 hours a "breaking point" for Peoria.
"I'm asking the public's anonymous cooperation in helping to solve these most recent crimes," she said. "If you know something, and don't report it anonymously, then you, too, are part of the problem."
She also called on parents to teach their children to resolve conflict in non-violent ways, while demanding perpetrators of violence be brought to justice.
"If you have to be angry about anything, be angry about the death, and the senseless violence," she said. "We all have a responsibility in the safety of our communities."
Peoria police officers take community violence and gun repossession seriously, Echevarria added.
"They're out here working late nights, long hours, to make sure the streets of Peoria are safe," he said.
Residents can provide anonymous information about crime by calling 309-673-9000 or submitting an anonymous tip via CrimeStoppers.
Residents can also contact PPD directly.