Anti-gun violence initiative in full force

By Anna Yee

August 19, 2012 Updated Aug 20, 2012 at 2:52 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- "Don't shoot! You're killing us."

It's this message to save lives that's coming to life this week.

After hearing hundreds of shots fired and enduring a handful of homicides so far this year, Peoria community members have made their voices loud and clear.

Now, the 'Don't Shoot' initiative is bringing together local leaders to stop gun violence like never before.

"We're going to go in and deliver the message to the kids and the people carrying guns that it's no longer going to be tolerated," said Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis, "and if you participate or take part in crime, you're going to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Collaborating with Mayor Ardis are police and prosecutors at all levels.

Together, they will call on criminals directly to change their ways, or else face legal consequences.

It's a policy known as "focused deterrence."

"Deterrence means people put the guns down, and they don't commit the crimes," said Peoria Co. State's Attorney Jerry Brady. "If they don't commit the crimes, we don't have the recidivism. We also don't have the cost of incarceration."

Peoria police reports a single shooting can cost the city more than one million dollars.

And unlike previous "hot spot" patrols, the 'Don't Shoot' program aims to go long-term, beyond the streets.

"We have to help them (previous offenders) integrate back into a productive member of society," said Ardis, "whether that's help with finding a job or help get job training and so on."

More than 70 cities across the states use the 'Don't Shoot' method.

Violent crime in North Carolina fell by 53 percent. Youth homicides are down more than 60 percent in Boston.

These are the numbers Peoria leaders hope to see, and the community is counting on, for a quieter, brighter future.

David Kennedy, the author of the "Don't Shoot" book, will make public appearances throughout the Heart of Illinois next week.

For more information, head to www.DontShootPeoria.com.