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No Money for Off-Duty Cops for Extra Patrol Downtown on New Year’s Eve

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- You won't see as many uniformed off-duty police officers in the Court Avenue bar district this New Year's Eve.

Des Moines Sgt. Paul Parizek said the money to pay for additional officers simply isn't there.

"We know that that's an area where we need to pay extra attention to, and we usually do. It's just right now with using on-duty officers, we're kind of in a position where we have to do it as the calls for service would allow," Parizek said.

Money to pay for off-duty cops downtown is budgeted and set aside by Operation Downtown, a nonprofit dedicated to keeping downtown Des Moines clean and safe.

Parizek said extra officers are always called in to work on holidays like St. Patrick's Day, Halloween and New Year's Eve. But this year the weather impacted staffing.

Parizek said off-duty officers worked a few extra weekends that typically wouldn't have been staffed if the weather were colder, as cold weather attracts smaller crowds.

"The warm weather this year, it extended their warm weather period a little bit longer than they thought in the past. So, what happens there, is that money went away," said Parizek.

Meanwhile, Operation Downtown officials said that it does not decide when and how to utilize those dollars that are set aside to pay for off-duty officers to work security downtown. It relies on the Des Moines Police Department to make those determinations.

Officials also said Operation Downtown is not aware of any requests that have been made by the Des Moines Police Department for off-duty police officers to work security downtown on New Year's Eve.

Last month, one person was killed and another injured in a shooting along Court Avenue. But despite the violence, the general manager of Tonic Bar said he expects a safe night.

"We've had no problems here, ever. My security guards think it's boring, just to be honest," Pritchard, said.

Some patrons agree.

Tonic Bar patrons Eric Tyer and Michelle Rice expect New Year's Eve in the popular bar district to be festive and enjoyable, not dangerous.

"No, not really any safety concerns,” Tyer said. “I feel pretty safe down here.”

“You always take caution and kind of watch your back, but I've never felt uncomfortable or I've never felt unsafe walking from one place to another or even to my car by myself, even pretty late at night," Michelle Rice said.

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