DES MOINES, Iowa -- Dozens of kids playing soccer, enjoying smiles and laughter at Evelyn K. Davis park in Des Moines. It was the way Jermaine Woods remembers his neighborhood as young child. "It means a lot to me," he said. "It feels good seeing everybody using the park."
Too often, the fun has been exchanged for gunfire. Stephon James, another man who grew up in the area said, "It's bad to hear about that stuff happening here and for people to have that stigma towards this area."
In March, Des Moines' ninth homicide happened just down the street on the 1200 block of 15th Place. Jermaine said, "When you hear somebody getting shot like that it hits home. Being brought up here, that could've been me hanging out with my nephew."
Evelyn K. Davis Park isn't alone. On Tuesday Antonio Quinn became the city's 10th homicide after a shooting in the Beaverdale neighborhood. Stephon James is good friends with Quinn's brother. "When I heard about that my heart dropped. When I saw the picture they look exactly alike, I thought it was him."
As many community members feel helpless in controlling the violence, fifteen new police officers which typically graduate in January will graduate in June, hitting the streets seven months earlier. "If you have cops out here in the neighborhood and parents and people see them out here being here in the community, I think they'll feel a lot more safe," said Jermaine.
The department`s training is the same length, it just began in January instead of July. Stephon hopes it is with an emphasis on community policing. "If people don't feel like they`re being harassed and actually feel like cops are after their best interests and actually caring about them and building a relationship with the community, that could make a whole lot of a difference."
It's a change that hopefully makes neighborhoods throughout Des Moines shine.
In March, the Des Moines Police Department said they are running about twenty-three officers short of full strength. These fifteen officers will be a much welcomed addition for the department.