MaST to become police substation

By Peter Brooks - Staff Reporter

Highline's Marine Science Center in Redondo could soon double as a police substation if the college comes to an agree- ment with the Des Moines Po- lice Department.

It would include remote-con- trolled cameras operated from officers' cell phones in order to deter the high rate of crime in the Redondo beachfront com- munity. Officers would also have at least one office in order to be stationed there.

Rus Higley, manager of the MaST Center, confirmed that a plan is in motion.

"Des Moines is a long and skinny area, so it's hard to get officers from one end to the other," Higley said. "Downtown Des Moines is 10 minutes away, so it would be much easier for them to handle Redondo having a place here."

He said that most of the time the center isn't being used by students or faculty, or during the night, so the police wouldn't be in the way of the school.

"This is my baby," Higley said. "I care about the center and the people in this area and want everyone to be safe."

Plans for the substation came to the surface when Des Moines Police officials partici- pated in a community forum on Sept. 19 in Highline's Building 7. About 20 citizens attended and listened to several officers, including the new Police Chief Ken Thomas, who outlined the current state of affairs regard- ing the city's substation plans at the MaST Center, as well as local crime statistics.

Previously, the city main- tained a police substation at the Redondo Square Shopping Cen- ter at South 272nd and Pacific Highway South. That facility closed a few years ago.

Several citizens who attend- ed voiced their concerns after introductions and an hour-long briefing by officers and the po- lice chief. All were concerning the Redondo beachfront area.

Complaints ranged from speeding along the Redondo Beach Drive boardwalk and up the First Avenue hill to crimi- nal activity near the boardwalk in the parking lots where teen- agers and young adults hang out late at night. There were general complaints about noise, and drug and violent crime in- cidents in the area.

Most gun violence in Redon- do was said to occur between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. Violence also escalates due to the summer season, when more people go outside due to the weather. De- spite seasons, Redondo's beach- front has been a hotspot for vio- lent crime year-round.

Citizens attending the forum mostly asked about what po- lice have planned to fix this and complained about how bad it is, while the representatives of the department said they are already working on it, namely with plans to install cameras and a substa- tion at the MaST Center.

Des Moines Police officials also noted that they receive about 18,000 calls yearly, re- sulting in about 3,000 cases on paper. Most calls are reporting homeless people and suspicious activity, police said.

An officer said they "can't ar- rest away the problem."

They also noted that most homeless people are direct- ly connected to mental illness and/or substance abuse. In the city of Des Moines, about two people die each day related to substance abuse, police said.

The way Des Moines Po- lice say they plan to handle the higher homeless, mentally ill, drug-using populations is not through arresting them all, but by way of deterrence. They plan on clearing out brush that could be used for camps, and also are currently employing undercov- er detectives who are observing areas for activity where many citizens claim on social media to notice problems.

Thomas said the Woodmont Library is also a hotspot for criminal activity regarding loi- tering, drug use, and a bed for local homeless populations. The plan is to turn off public Wi-Fi at the libraries after-hours since many homeless people own cell phones,anditencouragesthem to camp nearby.

Police representatives ac- knowleged they don't have much of a social media pres- ence, but they are working on it. However, the chief mentioned on behalf of the department that in order to have more ideal programs, that they need more funding and resources, and that even if there are threats online right now, that they do not have people watching social media comments all day every day.

Therefore, if you notice some- thing on social media regard- ing the local department, you should report it yourself direct- ly to the department.

Other issues came up regard- ing shorthanded funding and resources in the department.

Commander Doug Jenkins said that he has five detectives working under him right now. Jenkins said that their detec- tives cleared more than 600 cas- es since 2017, and that about 155 cases are cleared per detective per year. About 480 were closed by arrests.

"We need to work smarter, not harder," Chief Thomas said with regard to department fund- ing concerns. He said due to theirbudgetandresourcesavail- able, the choice is between de- ploying analysis-based officers vs street-based officers. He said that city officials think that they are adequately staffed, except concerning traffic problems.

Concerning traffic problems, Chief Thomas said he'd like to raise funding for an additional force that manages traffic issues by regulation and enforcement. Again, they'd need more fund- ing for expansion of anything, he said.

'This is my baby. I care about the center and the people in this area and want everyone to be safe.'

— Rus Higley, MaST Center manager

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