Peoria County State's Attorney Kevin Lyons says North Peoria could be home to the next area of "great, great crime."
Rumors and facts collided last week in a discussion about crime in North Peoria.
What began as a question about an alleged elusive North Peoria drug pin controlling the drug trade here turned into a discussion about crime and a statement that North Peoria may harbor the next area of “great crime” in the city.
Whether the story of a North Peoria drug kingpin running most of Peoria’s drug trade is an urban myth or real, the story still has legs.
Drug king pin
Last week, as Peoria County State’s Attorney Kevin Lyons made a presentation on drug forfeiture to the Neighborhood Alliance, a question arose about finding the elusive kingpin.
Lyons is currently running for re-election to his office.
Lyons was addressing seeking forfeiture on six houses in, and around, the East Bluff on drug charges when Richard Mitchell, vice-president of the East Bluff United Neighborhood Association, said he wondered why the concentration of efforts was confined to the East Bluff.
“There are drug houses north of War Memorial. There are drug money managers north of War Memorial. How are you going to go after them?” Mitchell asked Lyons.
Lyons never did answer Mitchell’s question, but 5th District councilman Pat Nichting last week added a little more to the story.
“I want to say a little over a year ago we made a significant bust on North University,” Nichting said.
“I want to say they seized six figures in cash. It was kept pretty hush-hush.”
This is the first information about the alleged kingpin surfacing since 2005.
The story of a North Peoria drug kingpin emerged in 2002, when then at-large councilman Chuck Grayeb and then Peoria Police chief John Stenson told the Peoria Times-Observer they were on the trail of this person.
In the past several years a combined law enforcement effort involving the Peoria Police, FBI and federal prosecutors has gathered intelligence.
In 2005, Grayeb said, information led them to yet un-named North Peorians they say are providing the cash to buy large amounts of drugs and distribute them.
Stenson, in the past, also indicated the police believe some of these same North Peorians are running money-laundering operations for the local drug trade.
In the 2007 investigation, Nichting said, investigators kept quiet because they were looking at bank accounts, which is why it was kept low-key.
While Lyons never did offer any information about this case he did launch into a discussion of the area north of the post office on University north to Pioneer Parkway.
“That area is dicey. It is in a state of flux,” Lyons said.
“It is the next area of great, great crime in the city.”
Lyons said as he looks at the area he sees abandoned buildings, an abortion clinic a strip club and an apartment complex behind the Tanglewood Shopping Center that is a harbor for criminals in the area.
The apartment complex behind the shopping center, Lyons said, is a particular concern.
“That complex has lifters in it,” Lyons said.
“They go out walking and lifting car door handles. They look for unlocked doors. When they find one they take change and anything else they can find.”
Lyons added that the concrete barrier running down North University is a barrier to business development in the empty buildings along there.
“A city that neglects areas will find those area’s take care of themselves,” Lyons said.
He said that meant if that area is allowed to continue to deteriorate it will become a haven for crime.
“I’m willing to work on it with the resources I have,” Lyons said.
Nichting said he did not agree with Lyons on his assessment of the area, and said, if Lyons is so concerned with that area, he hopes the prosecutor backs it up with action.
“Clearly drug activity has no ownership of just a certain part of the city,” Nichting said.
“It’s everywhere. We should fight it everywhere.”
And, Nichting said, if Lyons was trying to imply that he was ignoring that part of North Peoria, he is wrong.
“If Kevin is aware of things going on out there, I hope he is vigorously prosecuting them,” Nichting said.
Nichting did find room for agreement with Lyons that the concrete median running along North University was a barrier to business development.
But, again, he said, that is an issue he has not ignored.
“There’s money in the budget for it. But, the business owners out there have to help pay for it. We have to get everyone in line. Some want to pay. Some don’t,” Nichting said.
“Clearly the ability to have ingress and egress is important. But, is that alone going to change that neighborhood? Absolutely not.”