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.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Des Moines.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Des Moines stories

Des Moinespostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Des Moines.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more