DES MOINES, Iowa -- As temperatures trend upward, Des Moines police are worried about what they see trending down: the age of suspects in their cases. "The frequency that we see these types of crimes with younger kids in that 12 to 17 range, it is troubling," said Sgt. Paul Parizek with the Des Moines Police Department.
On March 25, a group of Juveniles assaulted a valet near 6th Street and Grand Avenue. Two days later at the downtown DART central station, a fight broke out with a large group of teens. One attempted to reach for a police officer's firearm. This Monday a group of teens stole a vehicle at 31st Street and University Avenue that led to a high speed chase before crashing. Parizek said, "It is a little bit of a pattern that we've seen and unfortunately we've had to take kids into custody."
Nisa Rittman has owned Nisa's Pieces inside the downtown skywalk on Walnut Street in between 6th and 7th streets for nearly five years. "When they are in big groups they kind of, they do things. They are disrespectful or they don`t listen," she said. She says an increase in security has been noticeable. "There`s a security desk manned 24/7 and also the presence of the off-duty police officers that are here."
In March, just before Des Moines hosted NCAA tournament basketball games, police were zeroing in on thefts within the skywalk system. Parizek said, "Kids would just roam around running into businesses or into hotels filling their pockets with candy and chips and running out." Security cameras throughout the skywalk ended the ongoing problem quickly. "We were able to identify some of those kids and pulled them out of school and took them to juvenile intake," said Parizek.
Police say cracking down on juvenile crimes downtown has been an uphill battle, not because of the teenagers, but instead the parents they may go home to. "The reaction from parents is a kaleidoscope of emotions. Some of them are very upset, embarrassed by the behavior and thank us. Some are mad because we've taken their children into custody. Sometimes taking them home doesn't even come close to addressing the problem," Parizek said.
All Des Moines Public School students are allowed to ride DART for free with their school ID after 4 p.m. on weekdays and all day on weekends.