Court Avenue ‘Entertainment Zone’ ended in September due to funding issue

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Security funding is back in the spotlight after police were surrounded by people at bar closing time on Court Avenue Sunday morning.

J’Vaughn Alexander was arrested by police after he ran from them. The Des Moines Police Department said they found him carrying a firearm after police received a “shots fired” call on Court Avenue and 2nd Street. When Alexander was caught, the officers got surrounded and required additional backup.

“It was one of those rare occasions where we needed everyone available in the city to go down there,” said Des Moines Police Sgt. Paul Parizek. “It took some assistance from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and Iowa State Patrol.”

The Court Avenue “Entertainment Zone” saw its first action this summer, after several multiple shootings happened in the area in the spring. Polk County and the City of Des Moines paid for the zone during the summer. The allotted time for the security to end was on Labor Day, but there were a couple more weeks of funding passed through Sept. 18. This past weekend was the second weekend there were no fences or private security guards monitoring the Court Avenue area.

The president of the Historic Court District said that 90% of business owners in the area want to have the extra security to keep people safe.

“When we put the zone in place we ran it 18 weeks throughout the summer [and] we saw absolutely no violence down there,” said Tom Zmolek, the president of the Historic Court District. “There were a couple incidents outside of the zone in the perimeter area. It really did what we set out to do.”

Zmolek would like the Entertainment Zone to continue through Halloween, but with no funding it is not possible. The Polk County Board of Supervisors is all for an extension in the secured area.

“Polk County was in favor of extending and funding the Entertainment Zone for a longer period of time. However community partners including Court Ave. District and City of Des Moines were not interested in sharing the cost,” the Polk County Board of Supervisors said in a statement.

But asking for the the businesses to pay for the extra security is a tough sell as some barely made it by this summer.

“Some of them are on the verge of closing their doors right now and to go to them and say we need you to contribute more towards the public safety that is going on around here is going to be a hard sell,” Zmolek said.

Parizek added that added security measures that make people feel safe and keep them safe reduce the problems that the police department have to deal with. For now, the Entertainment Zone is still shut down for the year. Zmolek hopes the city and county will want to fund it next year. Otherwise, the area will go the route of private sponsorship to make sure people are safe.

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