Need for Operation Downtown is High after Shooting Saturday

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- The demand for Operation Downtown's off-duty police program has never been higher, after a swift arrest following shooting early Saturday morning.

“I was scared. I was scared for our patrons here at Court Avenue,”said Clair Williams, manager at Court Ave. Brewing, after hear gunshots that night.

Joe Johnson is also a manager of a downtown restaurant, Dos Rios, and he has noticed an increase in crime.

“It has been a little higher the last couple years,” said Johnson. "It is very scary to think that people won’t want to come downtown because they don’t feel safe."

The officers were able to  respond in a timely manner because of their involvement in Operation Downtown.

“That was some courageous police work and they intervened fast and those guy stopped shooting because those cops were right there,” said Sergeant Paul Parizek, Des Moines Police Department.

Sgt. Parizek believes those off-duty officers were the reasons the situation did not escalate.

“Absolutely. The big thing that makes the difference with the presence of those officers is the response time," said Parizek. "That call would have got the same priority, that would have required an immediate response. The difference is a half-a-block to half-a-mile.”

This could have been a completely different story if the budget cuts, proposed earlier this year, would have been put into place.

In February, the City of Des Moines announced in its funding cuts, that Operation Downtown’s budget for off-duty police officers would be drastically cut or eliminated this summer. Polk County stepped in, this past April, to keep the program running, for now. The shooting Saturday morning has united the businesses downtown and the Des Moines Police Department about the need for the program.

"We want people to be able to walk-in safe and leave feeling safe," said Williams. "It is so busy downtown we want to make sure people are protected.”

“There is a possibility that those guys would have not been caught if those cops would have not been that close,”said Sgt. Parizek.

The budget for the off-duty officers is guarantee until the spring but Williams doesn't want to think about what will happen when the funding runs dry.

“I think it would be rough. I’m not quite sure what the impact is on a day to day basis if there are not here," said Williams. "I want to assume that when  the insistence that happened last night, if they are not here, who is here to protect us?”

The city is hoping that surrounding businesses will help foot the bill to keep the program running.

Johnson is interested in participation in the program but he wants to gather more information about the program.

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