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Voicing Anti-Violence Initiative Concerns with Chief Echevarria By Billy Young

Peoria is under new management. That is quite an understatement. From the front door to the back door, significant changes have taken place in the last year or two. One, in particular, caught my full attention after the numbers for his Anti-Violence Initiative were made public – Chief Eric Echeverria.

After I posted my concerns via Facebook chatter, the chief reached out to me and offered to have a sit-down conversation. I am impressed with the fact that he has his finger on the pulse of the concerns of the community and took the initiative to reach out to me personally. My intent was to have a question-and-answer session. However, I found the chief to be very proactive in his approach. He anticipated the questions I would ask and had a response, PowerPoint and all, fully prepared. It was obvious that it had not been prepared for me specifically but had been thought out, scrutinized, trouble reviewed, and presented multiple times. He barely left a stone unturned as he navigated the how it is and why it is presentation that fuels the actions being taken.

Among other things, he talked about the social culture of the department, creating community events for youth, and actions to bring in an on-site minister. He briefly cited his work history/qualifications for the job. I was introduced to much of the data fueling the action being taken. I was accompanied by Linda Thomas – we both left the meeting praising Chief Echeverria and expressing great admiration for his thoroughness and work ethic.

His presentation did not include the numbers as they relate to race, and I have not received those numbers to date. Here is my lingering concern…

It is of particular interest to me because I live and work in the targeted areas. My concerns are reflective of any African American mother who has children who may be stopped by the police. The images of George Floyd being murdered in front of the world by a police officer are fading in the minds of people less likely to have family who may have such an encounter.

Less likely to have such an encounter, not because they are less likely to commit a crime, but because they are less likely to be suspected of committing a crime, and the crimes they commit are less likely to stimulate the social awareness brought on by gun violence. I shared that concern with the chief by presenting a recent case of a white woman living in Peoria on California Street. The judge described her as a “dealer of extraordinary” proportion, according to a Department of Justice report. She was arrested in Morton with 9lbs of 99% pure methamphetamines.

I brought up another case where a white man, living on Stanley St., on Peoria’s South Side, was (according to a Department of Justice report) arrested by The Pekin Police Department with at least 3 lbs. of ice methamphetamine. We should note here that according to a 1999 -2020 CDC report, twice as many people per 100,000 in the United States will die from a drug overdose versus gun violence.

Am I suggesting gun violence should go unchecked or less monitored based on this data – God forbid! What I am saying is white people should not be getting a pass on criminal behavior that leads to more deaths than gun violence. I am saying that African Americans on the South Side of Peoria should not represent the poster child for illegal activities or the demise of the community. Let’s get the numbers as they pertain to color, and let’s give equal opportunity to whites living and traveling in those areas to receive the same scrutiny.

I don’t want to end on that note. I want to end by saying we are more than fortunate to have Chief Echevarria in charge. I believe he brings high regard to the community, and he will create communities that harbor peace of mind and happiness. He has already demonstrated his ability to find and implement solid, effective, and consistent measures to fight crime. I just ask that he do so with transparency and awareness.