DES MOINES, Iowa – Residents in the neighborhood located south of Grand are expressing concern after a shooting last Friday at a nearby homeless camp. Hidden away, the camp is located near the Racoon River but is only 30 yards away from the neighborhood located on top of a hill.
The number one concern amongst residents is safety for their children, as some have found syringes and weapons loitering in nearby areas.
“I’m not opposed to homeless living there but what I am opposed to are the dangerous things that are happening so close to the children that live here,” said concerned resident Shana Blair.
As of last February there are 92 unsheltered people in Polk County, meaning they live in places not meant for human habitation such as on the streets or in homeless camps. Currently it is unclear exactly how many people or tents occupy the camp.
Although residents say the call weekly to report suspicious activity, the Des Moines Police Department says homeless communities are typically harmless. Unfortunately, sometimes there are isolated events that create a stigma that every camp is dangerous.
“They're just as safe as any other neighborhood, they're individuals within that community though…they give the whole thing a bad name but they do create situations that make it unsafe for some other folks when they are dropping needles or they’re disposing of trash inappropriately,” said Sergeant Paul Parizek.
Although removing the camp would please nearby communities, Parizek said it won’t solve the overall issue. If the city breaks up these camps, it can be very easy for the camp to just start-up at another location.
“A lot of the time so we're managing a problem in a moment instead of being able to correct it long-term,” said Parizek. “That's where we have to get the other entities involved and the other people who have an interest and are invested in this in our community at the table so we come up with a long-term solution.”
Before the city takes any action, Parizek adds there are many variables that need to be considered and invites concerned residents to join the conversation.