Des Moines Police and the capital city’s leaders held a news conference this morning after the city recorded its 15th homicide of the year over the weekend.
“Today’s conversation is about violent crime,” Mayor Frank Cownie said, “and violent crime needs to be punished.” The city and private groups are providing additional funding to create an incentive for the public to cooperate with police.
Cownie says the ultimate goal is to reduce instances of violent crime. “We have put together a group here in Des Moines that is committed to working together to try to make that happen,” Cownie said. Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert said the unnamed program will provide police with money to offer to witnesses of violent crimes to testify.
“Everybody is on the same page, that (the surge in violence) is completely unacceptable,” Wingert said. “What the elected officials and the business community have come together to create is that incentive to cooperate with the police department to address those violent crimes and hold people accountable.”
Fourteen people, mostly city and county leaders, were involved in today’s news conference. State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad of Des Moines was in attendance and said “no one from the black community” appeared to be invited.
“The way it looks – and I’m sure it’s not in the hearts of people – but the way it looks is now that (shootings) have happened in Beaverdale and Johnston, now individuals will come out,” Abdul-Samad said. “Look at the panel up there, how many people of color did you see? How many people of color in the ministry? Because we weren’t invited. I learned about this (news conference) on the news.”
Still, Abdul-Samad said he “commends” the project and he plans to get involved with the group. He blames the recent rise in violence, in part, on cuts in funding to “programs that have worked” in the past. “One of the things I know we did at Urban Dreams in 1999 was a ‘gun trade back’ and we took almost 150 guns off the street,” Abdul-Samad said. “We didn’t continue that in the fashion that we needed to.”
Urban Dreams is a program that aims to help inner city residents of Des Moines. It was founded in 1985 by State Representative Wayne Ford. There were 13 total homicides in Des Moines during all of last year. There have already been 15 in the first five months of this year.
The man found dead early Sunday, one of four shooting victims discovered by police, was identified as 19-year-old Ruot Gach of Carroll. No one has been charged in the case. The fatal shooting is the third to happen in recent months in or just outside Des Moines’ Beaverdale neighborhood.