Mayor Bob O’Dekirk said he wants less violence in Joliet in 2020 and plans to create a task force to make recommendations.
O’Dekirk announced the future task force at the Joliet City Council meeting Tuesday while also throwing in a swipe at the police department, saying it is in “nonstop chaos.”
At the same meeting, the family of Javier Cayetano, a teen shot dead in the Reedwood neighborhood nearly a year ago, called on the city to do more to find his killer.
“We’re going to address the violence that’s occurring inside the city of Joliet,” O’Dekirk said.
The mayor pointed to seven people shot on Christmas Eve, saying it “taps off a horrible year, and it’s intolerable. Not one person on this council should be tolerating what’s happening in our city and our neighborhoods. There has been nonstop chaos in the police department.”
The seven people shot were in two separate gang-related gun attacks, one in which five people were shot and the other in which two were hit, Police Chief Al Roechner said.
Roechner said he welcomed a task force, but objected to the mayor’s comment that the department is in chaos.
“For him to say the department is in chaos is a comment against every police officer that’s working out there, and it’s not fair,” Roechner said.
O’Dekirk’s comments come at a time of friction with the police department is evidenced by the hiring of outside law firm Ancel Glink to examine conflicts between City Hall and police.
After the mayor’s comments, the council met in closed session for about two hours to hear a report from Ancel Glink and emerged to dismiss ethics complaints filed by a police sergeant against O’Dekirk and council member Jan Quillman over an incident in which the mayor accused an officer of being drunk while working security at a downtown street festival.
Roechner acknowledged that homicides were up in 2019, and he said the department is compiling numbers to compare violent crime with previous years.
One unsolved homicide was the shooting of Cayetano, 13, in February.
Cayetano’s family has since moved to Lockport, and his sister, Lizbet, told the council Wednesday that “it’s really hard, because we have to move from Joliet to be safer. It’s not even safe to walk to school anymore because you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Earlier this week, apparently accidental gunfire led to a 14-year-old being hospitalized after he was hit in the back by a bullet fired by an older teen in the same car.
The incident happened Monday morning in the 1600 block of West Jefferson Street, Joliet police Sgt. Christopher Botzum said. Police determined that a mother was driving her son and another 17-year-old boy, who was in the back seat, when the older teen fired a shot through the front seat and hit the younger teen.
“At this point in the investigation, it does not appear that the juvenile meant to shoot the victim,” Botzum said.
The mother let the 17-year-old out of the car before driving her son to the hospital, where police received the report of the younger boy being shot.
O’Dekirk said he would form the task force from local citizens and businesspeople and expected to name people by the next council meeting Jan. 21.
The mayor acknowledged not following through on a previous plan to form a task force to examine the city’s homelessness issue, which he blamed on growing conflicts on the City Council that developed in June. He said the new task force may also examine homelessness in Joliet.