Going undercover with the Peoria police

By Ashley McNamee

November 5, 2013 Updated Nov 7, 2013 at 4:09 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- Peoria's South Side has been riddled with gun violence in recent years.

Last year the Peoria Police Department made a very public push to combat it with its Don't Shoot initiative but is it working?

Police say while murders are up this year, the number of shootings and shots fired is down. We were wondering what exactly police are doing to fight the problem so we did a ride along to find out.

Peoria police officers Erin Barisch and Daniel Duncan are members of the Targeted Offenders Unit. They are working to pick up the 12 men recently indicted by a federal grand jury for their alleged involvement in the Zone 4 street gang.

"They are not good and that's been proven not just in the last month, it's been proven over many, many years," said Officer Barisch.

Minutes later Willie Breedlove, 21, is found hiding in a house and police arrest him on the same federal charges.

"You're talking about a very selective population, group, that are actually committing the violence and they're committing it against themselves," Barisch said.

Officer Barisch leads 18 officers and they combat the thousands of gang members on Peoria's streets.

"Their dads were 4-Corner-Hustlers, or Vice Lords or Disciples, so that's what they are but they'll adopt a different name, Zone 4," he said.

Officer Duncan said today's gangs have lost their organization.

"There was a hierarchy, an enforcer, you had everything. Now you don't have none of that type of stuff," Duncan said.

The gang members are younger, more reckless and at times more dangerous. As a result, Captain Mike Eddlemon says the Peoria Police Department has completely changed its approach.

"A patrol officer makes a stop, observes something and calls upstairs and says 'hey so and so is hanging with so and so, or this is what I'm hearing'," Eddlemon said. "We track all of that and it may not mean something today but it may mean something next month."

For two undercover officers, whose names we won't use, that is exactly the information they use to find Allen Fitzpatrick. He is also wanted on a federal warrant.

"We know he dates or is involved with several different women, so those are the places he goes. He doesn't have a place of his own, he has nothing in his name,"Barisch said.

We went undercover with the officers watching the houses Fitzpatrick could be hiding in. When cars left, the officers would pull them over to see if he was inside. When that didn't work, police knocked on the doors to make sure the residents knew police were looking for him.

"They called before we even reached our cars to tell him. But, we will keep coming back until you get so tired of us that you say, you know what, there he is," Barisch said.

Days later Fitzpatrick was found at one of the houses we surveillanced.

Now police are developing a database with the information they know about the gang members, who they date, where they stay, even who they have a grudge with.

"We're not targeting people just to target them, they have selected themselves," Eddlemon said.

Captain Eddlemon said they are not the only ones. He said more arrests and indictments will come until everyone stops shooting.

There have been 15 federal indictments and 14 state court indictments for shootings this year. A total of 29 people who have been involved in shootings in the last year are off the streets and in jail.