It’s been a violent week and a half in Rockford. Thirteen people have been shot within that time span, with 3 of them homicides.
New Rockford Police Chief Dan O’Shea cites a growing gang problem for the recent rash of violence. He says some of the shooting victims were innocent bystanders simply caught in the crossfire.
O’Shea points to recent victim, 43-year-old Jeremy Pena. He explains, “He’s walking his dog down the street, he’s doing nothing wrong, and they pulled up and they killed him.”
Sixteen-year-old Keyaira Williams and 24-year-old James Tomlinson were also killed within the last week and a half.
No arrests have been made in the three murders, but the chief says his officers are being more proactive.
“They’re trying to think outside the box and use different policing methods, instead of going around and answering calls,” says O’Shea. “[They] stay within the confines of the law, but the violent criminals, they need to be sought out.”
He says residents also have to speak up to help them solve cases. But for that to happen, police will need to build better relationships with the community.
O’Shea says, “There hasn’t been a relationship built between some community members and the police department. And that is why I’m stressing with the officers that it’s imperative that we get out in every neighborhood, and every group, and talk to people.”
The police department has been working hard lately to build community relationships by holding block parties, and having strong houses where residents can come talk with them.
The chief says he wants officers to show up at the doorsteps of troubled teens to help reduce the gang problem.
He says, “[Let’s] grab those kids, go talk to their parents, and let their parents know that their kids are stepping out, and hanging out with individuals who are probably involved in street gangs. Try to get the parents involved in correcting the kid’s actions.”