The frustration and anxiety about a recent uptick in violent crime on the East Bluff was palpable during a policing update for the neighborhood on Monday.
About 50 people turned out for the meeting at First English Lutheran Church.
The city's recent gun crimes are concentrated in a hot spot roughly bounded by Knoxville, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and McClure.
Peoria Police Assistant Chief Michael Mushinsky says many of these crimes are being committed by teenagers who get their guns through burglaries.
"Unfortunately, some of the offenders up here, you know, have been very young, and they're doing violent crime at a very young age, which obviously bothers us. You've got 14-year-olds which are out carrying guns, 15-year-olds out carrying guns," Mushinsky said.
Police acknowledged that the drug and gang-related violence in the East Bluff is growing worse recently, with Sam Causey, Jr., 49, shot multiple times in the city's 15th homicide of 2019 on East Ravine early Monday morning. An additional patrol car is being re-allocated from the South Side to the neighborhood.
Peoria Police Capt. Doug Theobald grew up on the East Bluff. He noted things have changed a lot in the neighborhood in the last three decades, a sentiment echoed by many residents at the meeting.
"This has gotten to the point where we need to put a lot more resources and plant them dead center at where this problem's at, to try to fix it," he said.
Theobald says many of the same juveniles are repeatedly arrested for crimes. But Mushinsky says police options for dealing with repeat juvenile offenders are limited.
The police department has confiscated 232 guns so far this year, almost as many as it did in all of 2018. Some of those include firearms recovered from the break-ins at a Galesburg Farm King and Monmouth gun store earlier this year. The suspects are from Peoria.
Mushinsky also said the police department currently has 206 officers - a shortage of 23 from a full compliment of 229. Ten are slated to be added when the next class graduates from the state police academy in January.
Neighbors raised concerns about safety for young kids headed back to school, lack of curfew enforcement, and what some see as worsening conditions in the neighborhood from long-time residents.
Peoria Third District Councilman Tim Riggenbach says the community is going to have to think outside the box like it never has before to tackle the growing problem of teenage gun violence on the East Bluff.
Riggenbach represents the neighborhood on the Peoria City Council. He says the way disputes are settled has changed a great deal since he was young, and not for the better.
"When I was a kid, and there was a fight on the playground or down the street, you know, you'd get punched in the nose or something," he said. "And it's just, I don't understand how it's resorted to the point these minors are walking around with guns."
Riggenbach lauded some of the community outreach efforts to children by organizations like the Lawn and Order Academy and It Takes a Village; and organizers like Terry Burnside and Jesse McGowan.
But he said it will ultimately take the community at large, not just the police, to join forces and work towards change.
That may be as simple as smiling and waving at a child instead of turning your back, to show them that someone cares, he said.
Peoria City Council At-Large members Sid Ruckriegel and Beth Jensen also attended the meeting.