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East Peoria Police search for more space in a new building

New East Peoria Police Chief David Catton says officer recruitment is at the top of his priority list, and that retail theft is the biggest crime issue facing the city right now.
Joe Deacon
East Peoria Police Chief David Catton speaks at a news conference announcing his new role earlier this year.

The East Peoria Police Department expects to be in a new building by around 2026.

The city council last week approved a design contract with Midwest Engineering Associates.

Chief David Catton said the department has wanted a new building since he started with the force in 2005. But now, the city is in a “pretty good spot” financially and a new department is possible.

Catton said there are several reasons for an upgrade to a new location on West Camp Street, but the largest and simplest is a need for more space.

“All the retirees that I’ve talked to over the years said we were too small when we moved into this building,” Catton said. “So it was 1987 when this building was dedicated. So that’s been a long time that they’ve not had the space that we’ve needed.”
Catton expects the final facility to be around 32,000 square feet with an estimated total cost of between $20 and $25 million. The estimates come from multiple needs studies, conducted in 2005 and 2021.

The additional space will be filled with a room for community events, labs with safety features like fume hoods and ventilation and a state-of-the-art, climate-controlled evidence room. Catton said the department currently does much of its evidence storage and lab analysis off site.

With evidence space limited and state police labs frequently overbooked, bringing it all in-house should help with the department’s operating efficiency.

“Investigations have changed. We’re not out in the field, like we used to — back when this building was dedicated, you spent 90% of your time as an investigator out in the field,” Catton said. “Now, with today's technology and everything at your fingertips, our investigators spend 80% of their time in the office.”

There’s also the fact that West Camp Street is simply a better location. As Catton discussed the new building, multiple train whistles blow loudly outside. When leaving the department for a call, Catton said officers are sometimes have to wait at the railroad crossing just outside their door.

The new location on West Camp Street is already city-owned, which means there’s no acquisition process necessary.

"It's the perfect location for us,” Catton said. “We're away from the train. We're right here in the heart of the city where everybody will see that we exist and give us enough space to do what we want to do.”

Optimistically, construction on the new building could start by spring of 2025, and take around 18 months, with the department moving into the new building in summer or fall of 2026.

Once they are at that stage, it will still take around a month to move in. While movers can handle some of the items from the station, Canton saids only about three people on the force are qualified to handle evidence.

“But a lot of what we're going to do is going to be all new anyway,” Catton said. “So, outside of bringing our computers with us and some of the evidentiary stuff. It'll be a long process, but we'll get there.”

Catton hopes, when the dust is settled, officers will have the space and equipment to better do their jobs and the community will have an opportunity to connect more with the department.

Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.