Officers move in as select neighborhood residents

A police officer could be your new neighbor in the near future.

A new Peoria Police Department program will embed live-in officers in three city sections within Peoria in an effort to provide on-sight police supervision and support for community members. Peoria City Councilmember Barbara Van Auken said the program will be integrated within the East Bluff, West Bluff and Southside of Peoria.

“The crux of it is we believe at least three sections of town, one being the West Bluff, generate more than their fair share of crime in the area,” she said.

As part of the position, officers will be responsible for introducing themselves to the local residents and interacting with the community.

“Say you have students concerned about an issue; they can go up, knock on the door and say they want to talk about something,” Van Auken said. “If you’re standing there and see a problem, go ahead and call the police. But this officer is expected to be very proactive in the neighborhood, look at properties that seem to not be taken care of, check into people who seem to be hanging out and talk to neighbors about what to watch for.”

The program aims to acquire houses, either through purchases or donations, and the residence will serve as the officer’s base free of charge. Instead of reporting to a police station, live-in officers will stay at the home, with access to their bicycle or squad car.

Despite the additional police resident, Van Auken said the patrolling within the communities will not be altered.

“You continue to have a district patrol officer who would be the person who responds to calls, but they would also contact the resident officer, who would also go to the call,” she said. “The resident won’t go to each and every call, but they will get a full, complete report of the incident.”

Bradley University Chief of Police Brian Joschko said for Peoria as well as for Bradley, this is an excellent idea.

“I have spoken extensively with the representatives of the Peoria Police Department regarding the initiative and I am in agreement that this can have an incredibly positive impact on the entire neighborhood, including our campus,” he said. “The innovative plan speaks to the creativity in which the Peoria Police Department solves unique neighborhood challenges as well as demonstrates their commitment to enhancing the quality of life in our neighborhoods.”

The program has also been launched in other Illinois cities like Dekalb and Elgin, where Van Auken said they were well-received.

“Those programs were met with overwhelming success,” she said. “People really like having someone there, having the squad car in the front of the house. There will be a sign in front of the house, a phone number and a name so they know who they’re contacting.”

The officers involved have to volunteer to do so and must live there for three years, but they receive the same holiday and vacation time as other officers, Van Auken said. And others are allowed to reside at the home.

“No one who is not related to the resident officer by marriage, blood or law can live at the property,” she said. “And unrelated individuals may stay overnight for a maximum of two weeks.”

Van Auken said the final details of the program are being drafted, and the program should be enacted in one to two months.