Peace Walk steps off for second year in East Bluff neighborhood

By Marshanna Hester

August 6, 2013 Updated Aug 7, 2013 at 12:10 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- Together, people of all ages, races and backgrounds walked through the streets of Peoria's East Bluff.

Carrying signs of unity and hope, it's clear they mean business to take back their neighborhood.

"God made us to have peace in this world and when we all come together, we'll realize things will change," said LaTonya Griffin, an East Bluff resident.

This is the second year for the neighborhood's Peace Walk in conjunction with the 30th Annual National Night Out Against Crime.

Similar events were held in 26 other areas of the city Tuesday night.

The goal is for the community to get to know their neighbors and break down negative perceptions of police.

"I don't like the police," said Daevontre Smith. "They just want to hold the real people down and I don't like that."

Peoria Police Chief Steve Settingsgaard said it's people like Daevontre Smith they want to reach.

He said building relationships will make neighborhoods stronger.

Settingsgaard said gun crime in the city has dropped at least 25 percent compared to this time last year.

It's too early to tell if the Don't Shoot Program is behind that drop, but he said it's moving in a positive direction.

"We're seeing an impact on the gang life and we've still got too many young people going into that lifestyle, but we're going to keep working the program," said Settingsgaard.

Young kids showed some break dancing professionals they have the talent to be successful if given the tools, and this neighborhood is united to make sure it happens peacefully and safely.