Police in Iowa’s capital city are launching a program that has proven effective in curbing crime at apartment complexes in other cities across the country. Des Moines has nearly 20,000 rental properties, where police spend many hours responding to neighborhood complaints about loud parties and drug deals.
Officers hope to cut the number of calls to these units by up to 60% with the adoption of the Crime Free Multi-Housing Program. Sergeant Vince Valdez says the department would have implemented the program much earlier if it had more officers.
"You know, it has to do with budgetary concerns…personnel. At one time, we did have some personnel issues where we were short of people and had to have those officers concentrate on other areas," Valdez said. Still, just one officer will be assigned to the effort full time.
Valdez says it’s not just those who live in the apartments who suffer during loud parties and illegal activities. "People who live around these multiple-unit dwellings that have to listen to all of the noise and see all of the things that go in and out of these apartment buildings, you know, they get tired of it," Valdez said. "They want to move away, they want to sell their homes and maybe they can’t because people know this is an area that gets a lot of police calls."
The officer in charge of the Des Moines program will show apartment managers how to run background checks on tenants and what to do if they spot suspicious activity. Fifty managers have signed up for the first training class scheduled for July 8. Police in West Des Moines have used the program to reduce the number of police calls to the state’s largest apartment complex, Sun Prairie Apartments, by 70 percent since 1998.