'Don't Shoot' leaders not surprised by arrest

By Anna Yee

January 15, 2013 Updated Nov 3, 2013 at 2:49 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- Just last week, a Peoria gang member publicly pledged to our news station that he turned away from his criminal lifestyle.

Now, he's facing up to 45 years in prison.

"He failed, and so now he'll be punished accordingly," said Jerry Brady, the Peoria County State's Attorney.

Jerome Jones, 30, was one of the men singled out by the city's Don't Shoot program.

Last month, Peoria County State's attorney Jerry Brady and local law enforcement called on so-called "gang leaders" to spread a message: if any member commits a violent crime, the whole group will be punished, and if they want help to change their lives, the city is ready to support them with any services it can.

"It's anticipated that one of these gangs, one of these groups will try to challenge us," said Brady. "That's known from other cities, and when that challenge occurs, there has to be swift, consequential action."

Last week, Jones and two other men allegedly beat up, kidnapped, and robbed a man.

Jones is now charged with with aggravated kidnapping and aggravated robbery, but he was in the midst of GED classes, job training and a parenting program.

When asked what went wrong, Krista McCavitt, the Peoria Police Department's volunteer resource coordinator, replied, "I can't-- I don't know. I don't have an answer for what transpired with Jerome. It was very shocking. It was upsetting as well, because he did show that sincerity, and he was taking great steps towards getting on a better path."

Nationwide the program has about a 20 percent response rate of those called in who actually seek help.

Out of Peoria's 28 offenders (and ex-offenders) called in, about 8 are currently utilizing services, plus two other people. (The resources are available for any ex-offender and family members, not just those chosen by authorities. To do so, call (309) 494-8233).

Officials say they still believe in the campaign and ask the public for patience.

"It's a strategy, said Brady. "It takes time. We're working through the strategy."