Many residents in a small midwest community say its lower crime rates are a direct answer to prayer from God.
About 2,500 Peoria, Ill., residents gathered Sunday to thank God for protecting the city and to pray after what they called a blatant attack from Satan. The town saw its first homicide of the year, Saturday Feb. 7.
"[It's] a very unfortunate circumstance that happened in Peoria yesterday when a young man's life was taken. I think it was a sign from Satan saying 'I'm going to get you,'" Mayor Jim Ardis told those gathered Sunday night.
"It's only going to make us dig our heels deeper," he added. "We will stand arm-in-arm, hand-in-hand until this happens no more."
Click play to watch more of Mayor Jim Ardis' comments.
Since last year, thousands of Peoria residents have gathered for "40 Days of Prayer," an event at the beginning of the year to pray over residents and their safety.
Ardis borrowed the idea from a Florida community after seeing nearly 20 murders take place in his town in 2007. Peoria residents say the prayer is working.
"Last year murder was down by two-thirds," said Pastor Mike Kerby of Push for P.E.A.C.E., a ministry that started in the city after the mayor's call to prayer. "That means three times as many people survived."
Since the prayers began last year, homicides in the city decreased from 16 in 2007 to six in 2008.
"It's refreshing," Mayor Ardis said. "I'm proud that the people of Peoria were not shy about acknowledging the power of prayer and what it did for us and what it's doing for us."
Church leaders are asking the city to continue its efforts to reduce the crime rate and to pray for the city's officials.
A group of pastors will meet Thursday to brainstorm ways to keep Peoria's crime rates down.
Sources: Peoria Journal Star, WEEK-TV Illinois