Law enforcement is once again preparing to appeal to Peoria's most violent criminals.
The fourth "call-in" is set for Wednesday night. The event, an integral part of the anti-gang violence program known as "Don't Shoot," is aimed at telling gang members how their actions affect their communities in hopes that they will put down their guns.
"This one's going to be a little bit different [than the previous three]," Peoria County Sheriff Mike McCoy. "It's not going to be only gang members, but some people we know that need to be called in to hear the message."
That message, he says, is simple: stop using guns, or go to prison. McCoy says the "call-in" also serves as a way to get violent offenders connected to agencies and services that can help them turn their lives around, like access to healthcare, education, and job opportunities.
"Some people have taken advantage of this. There have been some hardcore people who've come forward and said, 'You know, I really don't want this life,'" McCoy said.
But some people, he says, have not taken the "Don't Shoot" message to heart. McCoy says more than 50 people have been indicted through the program since it came to Peoria a couple years ago. Some offenders who were convicted won't get a chance for parole for more than five decades.
While he's not declaring victory, McCoy says "Don't Shoot" appears to be making a positive impact on Peoria. Violent crime is down, and murders have dropped significantly. So far, Peoria has seen just three murders in 2014, a statistic that hasn't been that low in at least a decade. Only two of the murders have been the result of gun violence.