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Mayor Ali again asks for community assistance in curbing gun violence after Peoria’s latest homicide

211007 Mayor Rita Ali.jpg
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With Peoria approaching its recent high mark for homicides, Mayor Rita Ali said Thursday the ongoing rash of gun violence cannot be tolerated.

“We need the community to really be a part of the solution, and I mean in a very active, immediate way,” Ali said Thursday, one day after the shooting death of 17-year-old Manual High School senior Jerry Snipes Jr. “The police, of course, can respond to homicides and can respond to shootings. But in terms of how it can really stop, it’s going to take citizen-based solutions.”

Snipes’ death is Peoria’s 24th homicide of 2021, one shy of a peak total from two years ago. He was found early Wednesday morning near the corner of North Linn and West Corrington. Peoria County Coroner Jamie Harwood said Snipes suffered multiple gunshot wounds and likely died within minutes.

“We cannot get to the point of accepting that this is just the new normal, and we're just going accept this higher threshold of gun violence in our community,” said Ali. “It is at a breaking point because it exceeds the threshold of what's normal.”

Speaking just two weeks after she stood alongside new Peoria Police Chief Eric Echevarria in a public plea for community assistance, Ali said the city is in the process of vetting proposals for community-driven solutions aimed at addressing the gun violence through mentoring and conflict-resolution coaching.

“We know that it's happening with and among a lot of young black males, to be quite honest. So we are seeking solutions that help to address issues facing young black males in our community (with) programs have proven to be successful in addressing issues among this population,” she said. “There's a lot of pent-up anger and it has to be managed.”

Ali said one of the biggest problems contributing to the violence is the number of illegal guns on the streets. The Peoria Police Department reports having recovered 124 stolen guns since the start of 2020, including 24 so far this year.

“Some of these young people's minds aren't fully developed enough to be responsible with that type of weapon,” said Ali. “They don't fully, in my opinion, understand the concept that dead is dead and they're never going live again. I really think that we have to do more within the schools and outside of the schools to help educate these young people.

“I really would like to see programs that help them to learn who they are, learn about their identification – ‘know thyself,’ as they say – because I really believe that it's a breakthrough for young people, when they learn about their self, their culture, their history, the positive aspects of where they came from and the strong heritage that they have. It really can be a game-changer for that young person.”

Ali said she sympathizes with the families and loved ones of the murder victims.

“There's a lot of praying that's going on, and I believe in prayer,” she said. “I just want them to hold on, to get counseling also, if you can, to help to manage your feelings, so that you can manage anger. Because I know that when somebody strikes out and takes someone away from you, your normal reaction is to strike back and to hurt them. But that does not heal you. It does not heal other family members. In fact, it makes things a lot worse; it just causes more harm to everyone and to the community as a whole.”