DES MOINES, Iowa -- On Tuesday night, people and police in Des Moines joined millions across the county in supporting crime and drug prevention.
Neighborhood associations gathered together at dozens of locations throughout the city with a goal of strengthening community spirit and sending a message to criminals that neighborhoods are fighting back against crime. The event is called National Night Out, and this is the 28th year Des Moines has taken part in the outreach event.
At Evelyn K. Davis Park, there was dancing and music and food; everything was positive and fun. State Representative Ako Abdul-Aamad even had his parrot out in full force for everyone to see, pet, and enjoy. But all of the fun and festivities comes in the context of the fact that there have been 19 homicides so far this year in Des Moines. The most recent one happened on Friday on the 1800 block of Oakland Avenue, just over a mile away from the park.
In in light of all of the violence, neighborhood leaders gave their thoughts on what a good message for young people is and what they believe could be a solution to violence.
"Back in the day, we used to have everybody look out for everybody, and so I think we need to make sure that we're doing that again, is looking out for everybody," said Ramona Bates, president of the King-Irving Neighborhood Association. "So if I see a child out that needs to pull their pants up, I'm going to say so, you know, and I think it's about working together," said Bates. "It's about building community."
"Just to show up at your neighborhood park, get involved, you know, when you see something happen, report," said Stacy Nichols, president of the Good Park Neighborhood Association. "Don't be afraid of the police, tell your parents, tell your pastor, tell your teacher, tell people that you see here at the community centers, you know, things of that sort."
"The best way to do that is to have events where we collaborate with all the neighborhood associations, all the nonprofits in the area, and including the Des Moines Police Department, where we could know the officers by their first name and officers could know us by our names," said Rick Singleton, Good Neighbor Advocate at John R. Grubb Community YMCA.