Peoria family works to break the cycle of crime

By WEEK Producer

December 2, 2013 Updated Dec 3, 2013 at 10:03 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- A lot of the attention around Peoria's Don't Shoot program has focused on crime deterrence.

However, helping the men involved in lives of crime pursue a new direction in life may determine the program's success more than anything else.

For one of the families affected, it is about breaking the cycle and offering help.

Robert Nathan Jr.'s father is one of 29 men in federal custody through the Don't Shoot program. He's facing charges for crimes spanning eight years.

"It's a revolving door. You're locking these guys up, these guys have kids," said Charles Nathan, Robert Nathan's uncle. "Before you know it, it's going to repeat itself."

Charles Nathan said the four-year-old knows his dad is in jail, but the family refuses to let Robert Jr. follow his father's path.

"It affects the kids. They see this and it's almost become normal to them," said Officer Erin Barisch, Peoria Police Department.

Officers Barisch and Daniel Duncan arrested Robert Nathan in October. Officer Duncan believes hope is not lost, at least not yet.

"It's a losing battle if the community gives up. I think there are some who still want to fight," Duncan said.

The Nathans are now fighting to give their nephew and the other men another chance.

"You got to have God first in your life, when you have God first, you can turn anything around," said Angennette Nathan, Robert Nathan's aunt.

They are forming a not-for-profit to make a change.

"Let's come up with an idea, let's come up with something so we can help our own people, our community," Charles Nathan said.

They aren't sure what they will do, but they hope it will teach the young boys something too.

"As a uncle, as a father, we have to get a hold of them now, even younger than his age, before it's too late," said Charles Nathan.

It won't be easy but the Nathans believe the cycle can be broken.

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