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Police plan crackdown as 'pop-up parties' and 'roving vehicle caravans' become a problem in Peoria again

Tire marks on Water Street between the RiverPlex and Hamilton after a recent "pop-up party." Police plan to crack down on the gatherings.
Tim Shelley
Tire marks on Water Street between the RiverPlex and Hamilton after a recent "pop-up party." Police plan to crack down on the gatherings.

Peoria police are promising an escalation in enforcement activity as so-called "pop-up parties" and "roving street caravans" crop up more frequently.

The problem isn't new. In July 2020, 13 people were shot when a large fight broke out during a "roving street party" on Water Street near the Murray Baker Bridge.

Peoria Police Chief Eric Echevarria convened a media briefing at that same spot Thursday, where tire tread marks from a recent party streaked down Water Street between Hamilton and the RiverPlex.

Echevarria said the problem isn't teenagers and young adults hanging out, but when it escalates into dangerous behavior.

"The issue is the drag racing. They're running the red lights to get here in the caravans, Echevarria said. "If you follow the law, and you're not drinking and driving, you're not carrying guns in the vehicles, drugs in the vehicle, there is no issue."

Assistant Police Chief Brad Dixon said the caravans can involve anywhere between 50 to 80 vehicles speeding through town and running traffic lights. The caravanners often gather in the same spots around town, Dixon said.

"There's open alcohol, drinking and driving, you know, open air drugs," he said. "Sometimes we see guns. We've had people in the caravan shot. You know, we've had serious accidents as a result of caravanning. So that's what we're trying to curtail."

He said Memorial Day weekend is a concern, as the caravans are usually a seasonal issue during the warmer summer months.

Most of the caravanners are high-school aged teenagers or young adults, Echevarria said, adding the department is dealing with them "virtually every weekend" as of late.

The chief said vehicles involved in the parties and caravans will be towed if they're violating the law and city ordinances. He said police are also patrolling some of the hot spots where the gatherings take place, and are using license plate readers to gather information about the drivers involved.

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.