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Knox County Promises Crackdown on Gun Violence With New Task Force

Galesburg Police Chief Russ Idle speaks at a press conference announcing the creation of a new violent crimes task force, April 23, 2021.

Knox County is forming a task force to address a drastic uptick in violent crimes this year.In the first four months of 2021, Galesburg Police Chief Russ Idle said his department has made 15 arrests linked to shooting incidents, 18 arrests for gun crimes, seized 11 illegally-possessed guns, and made 48 felony drug possession arrests.

"Normally, we see something in the low single digits for these type of events, and we're edging up to 30 (violent crimes) this year already," Idle said. "So it's a significant increase. It's something we really want to put focus on and do something about."

Knox County State's Attorney Jeremy Karlin said increased cooperation among law enforcement agencies is needed.

"The vast amount of violent crime that has happened in Galesburg and Knox County is unprecedented," Karlin said. "We average about .5 homicides a year. We've had four already, plus significant shootings. It would be remiss on our part if we didn't take extra steps to try to address that."

In addition to the Galesburg Police Department and the Knox County State's Attorney's Office, the new partnership includes the Knox County Sheriff's Office, Illinois State Police, and the FBI Springfield Division.

Idle said it may be more accurate to refer to the task force as a "collaborative working group." While he declined to disclose what each entity in the collaborative will be doing, he said each agency brings "distinct resources" to the table.

Karlin said the task force is working with the Galesburg NAACP and other community groups to ensure the process is free of internal or external biases.

"There will be no situations where we're out targeting anyone based on anything other than their behavior and criminal conduct," said Idle. "Everyone will be treated with dignity and respect."

Karlin made the point blunt: if you commit a gun crime in Knox County, expect to go to prison.

"Everyone deserves to live in a community safe from gun violence. And no matter where you live in Galesburg, be it the east, north, west, or south side -- or Knox County, for that matter -- your children should be able to play in their front yard or ride a bicycle down the street without being a victim of gun violence," Karlin said. "You should be able to sleep in your house without fear of bullets going through walls."

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.