Peoria Task Force getting praised and criticized

By Joe Bennett

July 24, 2012 Updated Jul 25, 2012 at 12:30 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill -- Five weeks into the effort of putting sixteen officers on the streets, patrolling heavy crime areas in Peoria, the Police Task Force is both criticized and praised by residents in the city's East Bluff.

When Melody Legge is not working as a Peoria professional, she spends much of her time trying to curb crime in the epicenter of her home on the East Bluff.

"They are out patrolling on a slightly regular basis, but it has not been an influx, by any means," said East Bluff Resident Melody Legge.

A police report from Peoria Police Chief Steve Settingsgaard shows gun crimes in Peoria are down drastically in the first month of the Task Force or "Don't Shoot Team." The numbers of shots fired, shots fired with injuries, victims shot, and people killed by gunfire are included in the report.

"There are a number of people alive in Peoria today that would not be alive if it were not for the work of the "Don't Shoot team" or Task Force officers," said Chief Steve Settingsgaard.

In the last week, however, we have counted a slight increase in crimes involving guns on the South Side, East Bluff and even Central Peoria.

"Crime is everywhere, and I'm sure it is moving to the central part of Peoria, but the police department I feel are doing their job," said central Peoria resident Pamela Smith.

"We sit on the porch all the time, but if someone's going to do something, they're going to do it, and I'm just glad that the police are around here so that they'll catch them," remarked East Bluff Resident Roberta Atkins.

Others we spoke with feel the police are not improving East Bluff's crime problems. They declined to go on camera for fear of retaliation.

If you think there is an increase in crime in your area, Peoria Police say the best thing you can do is make your presence known. Don't be afraid to go outside. Let the criminals know who patrols the neighborhood, and most importantly if you see something, say something.

Legge has even taken it to the social media level by posting pictures of crime in her area on her Facebook page.

"The East Bluff is a beautiful place. There are beautiful homes there that just need some extra love, and we need to take a stand," said Legge.

On that, Chief Settingsgaard agrees. He adds his officers can't be everywhere at once and that they know where most gun crimes occur. Those are the areas he says they are concentrating their efforts.

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