Sep 21, 2022 - Business

Des Moines seeks help curbing Court Avenue crime

A photo of Court Avenue.
Photo courtesy of Catch Des Moines

A nightlife management firm has been hired to help resolve crime and other social problems that plague Des Moines' Court Avenue entertainment district.

Why it matters: Beyond the obvious and primary public safety factors, the vibrancy of a downtown renaissance is at stake.

State of play: Multiple stabbings, gun violence, fights and a car chase have occurred in the district in recent weeks.

  • Police contend the frequency of crime is less than in previous years but the severity in violence has gone up.

Catch up fast: Court Avenue's problems have been ongoing for years.

  • A two-block security barricade system tested in 2021 was scrapped after complaints from some businesses or patrons who said it was unwelcoming and instead shifted problems just outside fenced areas doing little to help the larger district.

Driving the news: The Greater Des Moines Partnership, Polk County and Des Moines governments recently hired the Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI) to conduct a Sociable City Assessment of Court Avenue.

  • The California-based group will create a plan to tackle dozens of issues linked with safety that include crowd control, closing times, panhandling and sound control.

What they're saying: Polk County agreed to pay part of the $81,000 cost of the assessment to help protect hundreds of millions of dollars in downtown investments, Polk County Supervisor Tom Hockensmith told Axios this week.

  • Some of the recommendations might also apply t0 other areas of the city dealing with similar issues, DSM Councilman Josh Mandelbaum told Axios.

What's next: Invite-only listening sessions are scheduled next month, Courtney Shaw, a spokesperson for the partnership told Axios Monday.

  • Initial recommendations are likely to be presented later this year for implementation next spring, Mandelbaum said.
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