PEORIA -- The Peoria Police Department is changing the way it operates in order to fully focus on the city's gun violence. In a press conference today, Police Chief Steven Settingsgaard said getting offenders to put down the weapons is the top priority.
The Police Department is changing its structure to make room for a new Target Offender Unit.
The goal is to eliminate the city's growing gun violence. Settingsgaard said, "Rather than starting with drug dealers and catching some violent folks in the process, we're going to start with violent folks and maybe catch some drug dealers in that process."
But before Settingsgaard and his team can call in the offenders, he said they need hard evidence.
He said authorities aren't just going after one offender.
They'll focus on one gang and take action against them. Then the police will bring in other violent groups and show them what will happen to them if they keep shooting.
Offenders have two options - Law enforcement will work to help change their lifestyles or if they refuse, they'll be prosecuted in court.
Settingsgaard hopes the message is clear. He said, "Before I pull that trigger, I'm thinking, everybody who's anybody in criminal justice in Peoria County is coming after me and my group."
Settingsgaard said everyone in Peoria's Police force is involved in the mission, and the goal. "That we can break that cycle - that those children then have a father involved in their life and maybe 15 years from now we're not chasing those children around the neighborhood," he said.
The Don't Shoot program will officially launch with the first call in. There is no definite timeline for when the first call in will happen.
The structural change of the police department will roll out in January.