Apr 26, 2024 - News

Des Moines launches new downtown police squad

A photo of Des Moines.

Part of the new summer police squad's duties includes monitoring social media for tips about illegal activities like street racing. Photo: Courtesy of Catch Des Moines

Des Moines Police Department assigned a special summer squad to provide extra daily downtown patrol which started April 15, Sgt. Paul Parizek tells Axios.

Why it matters: Incidents like drag racing, bar fights and shootings are more common in warmer months when entertainment districts are busiest.

Driving the news: The new squad has six officers and a sergeant, Parizek says.

  • It is made up of existing patrol officers who will remain on the special assignment through September.
  • The squad is in addition to the regular downtown police beats and security provided from groups like Operation Downtown.

Zoom in: The initial focus is on common violations that diminish the quality-of-life downtown, such as excessive speed or loud vehicles.

  • In its first full week, the squad made 12 arrests, wrote 332 citations and issued 68 warnings, according to police data.

Be smart: Most stops were made along Grand Avenue and Locust Street between 6th Avenue and 17th Street.

  • Noise violations for things like defective mufflers were among the most common citations, per Parizek.

Flashback: A two-block security barricade system tested along Court Avenue in 2021 was scrapped after complaints that it was unwelcoming and shifted problems to other areas.

The big picture: Downtown's crime problems aren't new, but city leaders say they've contributed to the Historic Court District's decline.

  • A catalyst for change comes as billions of dollars in investments and thousands more people have taken up downtown residency in the last decade, according to a 2022 assessment commissioned by local governments.

What they're saying: The squad will require ongoing evaluation to determine what else is needed, Councilperson Josh Mandelbaum tells Axios.

  • One idea is to have an outreach worker assigned to the area to better connect people with social services.
  • Another is to coordinate with bars to better identify and prevent sexual assaults, Mandelbaum says.
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