DIGGING DEEPER: Peoria shootings cost upwards of $10K to investigate each

About 48-hours after Maggie Sharp pleaded with the community to come forward with information about her son’s murder, a man walked into the Peoria police station and turned himself in for the crime.

Forty two-year old Eddie Wren, likely died instantly after he was shot in the neck Thursday in Peoria at the intersection of Nebraska and Wisconsin. And although police were able to use witness tips and surveillance video to narrow their search, that is not always the case.

In a potentially record-setting year of bloodshed, Peoria Police Chief Loren Marion III helps explain just how much it costs the city to investigate shootings — ones that should’ve never happened in the first place. In short, if you thought solving crime was cheap, it isn’t.

If it needs to be said, which it shouldn’t — every single time someone makes the decision to pick up a gun and pull the trigger to enact senseless violence — it’s starts the financial meter on the department’s budget and racks up a tab, by the minute.

As you may imagine, for family of violence victims, the price doesn’t matter. But in a world ruled by fiscal responsibility, it has to.

Syntia Jackson, a Peoria peace advocate says she proud to have been born and raised in the River City. Jackson grew up in the Taft and does her part to invite people to community events there and around Peoria to show others it’s a city that’s much more than it’s violence.

But in some of her darkest hours, she remembers that her uncle, Michael Jackson cannot enjoy those events alongside her. Michael was shot October 20, 2018 in the back of the head, and his killer has not been caught.

“…Just to hear that he was shot and was pretty much brain dead afterwards…”Jackson trailed off and didn’t complete the thought immediately; reminded of a painful reality. “It’s hurtful, to hear my grandmother everyday wanting some type of closure.”

Jackson’s case is one of 13 unsolved homicides from 2018, and each time another person is killed, PPD officers must shift or spread their attention to that as well.

For example, on February 19, 2019 Chief Marion used this incident to outline how resources are broken down financially.

That fell on a Tuesday and at 2:30 p.m., officers received a shot-spotter alert for one round of gunfire.

“When we get the notification from shot-spotter that shots have been fired; at minimum, two cars are sent.” Chief Marion stated.

Two cars, means two officers, who make an average of $37 dollars an hour. Sergeant’s make $47 an hour and Lieutenants make $57.

The Chief explained that based on the time of day a shooting happens, also dictates how resources are deployed. If officers find shell casings during the day...“We’re gonna have to use additional resources to block traffic.” he added.

The February 19 North Valley shooting had five officers and a lieutenant on scene for a combined total of five hours — which comes out to $200. (see photo breakdown)

Feb. 19th, 2019 shooting

But it didn’t end there. The Chief says because it was an actual shooting (which means there’s a victim) and not “shots fired” (which means no person was hit), more officers had to be called in to assist.

Fifteen members of the Special Investigations Division also worked 30 hours on the case, totaling close $1,180.

Again that’s not all.

“Our Detective Bureau is working at that time. You’re gonna have a supervisor respond. The shift commander would also respond as well,” Marion included.

And we haven’t even gotten to the Criminal Investigation Division. Their department banked 41 hours including time spent interviewing the victim, neighbors and the suspect. That total? $3,606.35.

And from the Crime Scene Unit…three more officers at 10 hours total, equaled another $370.

The Chief also made it clear that when officers start getting good momentum, slowing down isn’t an option.
If overtime is the difference between arresting a shooter, or letting them roam free…”We don’t say okay, it’s 5 o’ clock, I’m done for the day.”  he shared sarcastically. “And that just shows their dedication to the community.”

Think about it. If your loved one was shot in broad daylight, and the investigating officers were having luck getting tips and information and were finally on the cusp of an arrest, but 6 p.m. struck and they just stopped…would you be okay with that?

“When you have more shootings, more homicides, that’s more time that officers are spending,” Marion included.

For the February 19 case, by the time police executed a search warrant, testified in court and added in their normal hours up, they’d racked up 144 hours of overtime for a total of $7,961,60.

And altogether, that one shooting incident cost the department $11,358.60.

After budget cuts, Peoria police have roughly $26 million for 2019. By the end of July, Chief Marion says they’d eaten up about 55 percent of it. The other 45 percent has to last them through December 31, 2019.

By July, there were 14 homicides and 11 of them were from guns.

We’re now at 19 homicides, with 15 of them gun-related. Let thank sink in.

While Chief Marion believes he can stretch his budget for the rest of the year, he was honest that may not always be the case.

“Next year if budget cuts come, and we still have the same or similar amount of violence…I don’t know if I would be able to stay within the budget.”

It’s not a reality and the chief isn’t looking to prematurely instill any fear, but it is a concern the families of violence victims share going forward, especially for Syntia Jackson.

“Keep going. There’s no price tag.” she said.

Lauren Melendez

Lauren Melendez

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