DES MOINES, Iowa — Three high-profile shootings involving teenagers have rocked the Des Moines metro in recent months. Since Polk County’s leading law enforcement official is retiring, the county’s approach to disciplining teenagers for crime could change come November.
A teenager fired gunshots into the air at a carnival just outside of Valley West Mall earlier this week. This comes a month after a shooting injured three Roosevelt High School students at an after-prom house party, and three months after teenagers killed 15-year-old Jose Lopez in a drive-by shooting outside of East High School.
John Sarcone is stepping down after serving as Polk County Attorney for more than 30 years, and two candidates will face off for his seat during the November elections.
The Democratic Party candidate is Kimberly Graham, who fended off two other challengers during this month’s primary election. Graham currently works as a juvenile court attorney and laid out her position regarding juvenile justice reform on her website.
Graham’s website states that if elected, her office would not waive juvenile suspects to adult court. Additionally, it states Graham will focus on diversion programs and early intervention.
In a statement to WHO 13, Graham outlined her four ideas to curb teen crime:
- Invest in our kids. Parents do their best but the community needs to step up, too. We should all be volunteering in some capacity, if we’re able, to help and support our young people.
- Listen to our kids. In the 20 or so years I’ve represented young people, I’ve learned a lot. One thing I know is that most of them know what they need to thrive and if you listen, they will tell you.
- Understand their brains are not fully developed in regards to impulse control. Whenever possible, we should avoid giving kids a criminal record that may hamper their opportunities forever for something they did when they were very young. Diversion programs and restorative justice work hand-in-hand to turn a young person back onto the right path.
- Keep kids busy with things they like to do. There are amazing non-profits in Polk County that provide great opportunities for kids to do what they love.
The Republican Party candidate is Allan Richards, a defense attorney most known for representing the man who killed Mollie Tibbets during the 2018 murder trial. Richards believes law enforcement should work with schools and parents to discourage children from committing violent acts.
“There’s greater problems in those homes than just the fact that they’re going out there violating laws,” Richards said in an interview with WHO 13. “We need to quash the problem, give different directions, and try to correct the youth at a young age. That’s the best option.”
West Des Moines Police have not arrested any suspects for the Valley West Mall carnival shooting, but they did arrest a minor at the scene of the incident for assault and interfering with police.