New unit created to help with Don't Shoot program

By Denise Jackson

January 8, 2013 Updated Jan 9, 2013 at 12:37 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- Some restructuring in the Peoria Police Department began this week designed to help with the city's Don't Shoot anti-crime initiative. Officers are now working with the Target Offender Unit to zero in on violent offenders.

The Peoria Police Department has combined its vice and narcotics unit with the street crimes into a new Target Offender Unit as part of the Don't Shoot Initiative. Chief Steve Settingsgaard says this shift in culture brings a shared responsibility among all city police officers.

"We're not focusing on a neighborhood or a community or hot spot. We're focusing on a hot people which are those violent individuals," Settingsgaard said.

He says the concept now is for all police officers to work as a team in an effort to make neighborhoods safer. By sharing and comparing notes with other officers the 27 member target offender unit will round up information about repeat felons.

"We want to gather that intelligence and be able to push that intelligence out to all the officers and know who we are looking for or know who we are dealing with, know who their associates are who they are with when these crimes are being committed, " he said.

Lt. Eddlemon says the target offender unit will operate like a clearinghouse or a depository for processing information about violent criminals.

Chief Settingsgaard says with less than a year into the Don't shoot program it's showing positive results. One third of the men who participated in a call in program have contacted the police for help in trying to turn their lives around. He says the local program is also generating feedback from the book's author, David Kennedy, and others.

"Based on the feedback from them no city has rolled out the kind of marketing campaign like we did, the posters, and the PSA's," he said.

Settingsgaard says later this month he and Lt. Eddlemon will participate in a two day course for cities using focused deterrence initiatives. He says the Don't Shoot Program will continue for the long haul, but adds more crime fighting tactics will also be included this year.