He said he saw and heard it all as a young boy: the crime tape, blood and gunshots.
While many of his friends repeated the cycle of violence, Aaron Chess, a 21-year-old aspiring politician, said he beat the odds.
Being around violence can be traumatizing for kids. Chess grew up on Marquette Street in Peoria, but Chess decided to write a different story for his life.
“Like the crime tape from the crime scene and there were times that I seen like the blood from the crime that was still there,” said Chess.
Peoria County Sheriff, Brian Asbell, has been in law enforcement for 25 years and has seen, firsthand, how this impacts kids.
“These are repeated instances of trauma that they are seeing and it’s now become a cultural norm,” stated Asbell.
“So those things I am used to hearing at night or during the day, unfortunately that’s how it is for most children living down here,” said Chess.
On top of all that, Chess lost his sister when she was shot in 2010. She was caught between two gang rivals.
“I was in a state of mind, traumatized, I would say,” said Chess.
Asbell said in 2018 65 percent of their jail bookings came from the zip codes 61603, 61604 and 61605.
“If you live in a different part of our county this isn’t an every day occurrence. You don’t hear gunshots on a weekly basis,” said Asbell.
Other kids, however, have a different story to tell. They may be around it all the time, and the effects, Asbell said, can be costly.
“It leads to their own criminal behavior,” said Asbell.
Both Asbell and Chess said violence is often a repeated cycle. Chess said many of his friends dropped out of school, started roaming the streets and got involved in gangs.
Chess took a different path: he got some mentors, got involved in activities and found a strong support system and said he trained his mind to think differently.
“That I wanted to strive for greatness,” stated Asbell.