Police: Des Moines Teens Used Dating Apps to Rob Victims

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- The same technology that helped cause a string of crimes led to the arrests of three Des Moines teens.

"It’s really not that difficult when you start setting these things up online because you are going to leave something of a digital fingerprint," said Des Moines Police Sgt. Paul Parizek.

Police say three Des Moines teens used popular dating apps Grindr and MeetMe to set up victims and rob them between the dates of Feb. 7 and Feb. 13. Parizek said, "We had at least five that we know were reported to us and we had the evidence to charge them with two."

Police arrested the three on Friday at a local high school. "They run in a pretty tight group. They all go to school together and one was on our radar because he was involved in some purse snatches earlier this year," Parizek said.

Second-degree robbery charges have been filed against two 16-year-old males and a 17-year-old male.

"There really was no target for a specific group. It was just they were looking for vulnerable victims," said Parizek.

It's a group that police wouldn’t have been able to catch had it not been for victim cooperation. Parizek said, "What those folks did was to say 'This happened to me.' It’s a little embarrassing to say but probably prevented it from happening to other people."

Lately, investigators say far too often suspects for crimes ranging from robbery to murder have had one thing in common in 2020. They are youth and often just teens.

Parizek said, "The frequency that we see young adults and teenagers involved in these crimes is alarming to the police department and community. There are things we can do to investigate and arrest offenders and deter crime, but to prevent it is a team effort. We need the community's support."

In January, The Blazing Saddle in Des Moines’ East Village went to social media to warn of similar attacks targeting their customers in the LGBTQ community. Police say the recent arrests are not related but they welcome anyone to come forward. Parizek said, "That’s the piece where we want to encourage the victims to come forward because there is absolutely no shame in being a victim. We can help you through this."

This investigation is ongoing and additional charges may follow.

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