DES MOINES, Iowa — Just last week at the Des Moines City Council meeting, a business owner aired out her concerns with the homeless population in the metro.

The Des Moines Police Department said the amount of calls its received this year for panhandlers has gone through the roof.

“Based on the feedback that we get from the community calls for service, conversation or even comments on our social media pages. It seems the perception is that there is way more of this than there has been in a long time,” said Sergeant Paul Parizek on panhandlers in the metro.

The increase in panhandlers could play a part in the increase of traffic accidents involving pedestrians.

“We respond to a lot of calls where there are people in the roadway going from car to car. That becomes problematic because sooner or later you know somebody’s going to get hit,” said Parizek. “We have had a significant increase this year in serious injury and fatality crashes that involve pedestrians. I mean it’s gone up over 100% compared to last year.”

Parizek added that distracted driving, speeding and operating under the influence all has a part as well in the increase of those accidents.

The city passed an ordinance in 2019 that restricts people from being in the roadway where there is not a median that is six feet or wider. If an intersection doesn’t have a median, it’s illegal for pedestrians to be anywhere but the side of the road.

“What we’re seeing is people just keep going out into the street and whether it’s a driver calling somebody over or them going over there knocking on windows. It creates a problem for the traffic and it creates a dangerous situation for that person,” said Parizek.

The Des Moines Police enforces that ordinance, but that is all they are able to do to limit the amount of panhandling. Parizek added that Des Moines has amazing shelter resources here and that there is a disconnect with getting those people to the resources available.