May 5, 2023 - News

Possible Court Avenue fixes: A night manager; violence prevention

A photo of Court Avenue.

Photo courtesy of Catch Des Moines

Des Moines would launch a sexual violence prevention program for social venues and hire a night manager under new recommendations to help resolve crime on Court Avenue.

Why it matters: The problems are a threat to public safety and the local economy.

  • Billions of dollars were invested in downtown developments over the last decade and addressing the issues is paramount to its future, Downtown DSM Neighborhood president Brandon Brown tells Axios.

Catch up fast: The entertainment district's problems have been ongoing for years and include multiple stabbings, incidents of gun violence, car chases and assaults.

  • A two-block security barricade system tested in 2021 was scrapped after complaints from some who said it was unwelcoming and instead shifted problems to other areas.
  • Last year, the Greater Des Moines Partnership, Polk County and Des Moines governments hired the Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI), a California-based nightlife management firm, to conduct a Sociable City Assessment.

Driving the news: RHI's report was published yesterday and includes more than a dozen recommendations.

  • The night manager is needed to follow-through on improvement plans and help maintain "sustainable dedication to night time economy governance."
  • And better training of entertainment staffers on topics like overserving and drinks being drugged is an opportunity to reduce crime and sexual violence.

Zoom in: Some problems have been alleviated since the study launched last year, RHI noted in the report.

  • A city Zoning Board of Adjustment's ruling that halted alcohol sales at midnight for businesses in the Court Building, for example, shows "a chance to move towards a clean slate of the building, and perhaps, the entire district."
  • Police calls to that area dropped from 42 in the first quarter of 2022 to nine this year — a nearly 80% reduction.

Of note: The report doesn't project costs or recommend specific timelines for implementation.

  • Recommendations like the night manager can help restore the public's confidence in the area and spur downtown growth, Brown says.

What next: The City Council will discuss the report at a workshop Monday.


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