Des Moines Police focus on stopping crime along Pacific Highway

More patrol, services along stretch of street north and south of Kent Des Moines Road

The Des Moines Police Department has increased patrols and services along Pacific Highway South in an effort to stop the high amount of crime along the street.

A fatal shooting in November 2021 at a bus stop in Kent just south of the Kent Des Moines Road and Pacific Highway South intersection brought more attention to an area that has been crime infested for the last few years.

Des Moines had a triple killing in September 2021 when fights and a shooting broke out in the parking lot of the La Familia Sports Pub and Lounge, 22855 Pacific Highway S.

“The Des Moines Police Department has taken a leadership role to address crime, disorder and quality of life issues along Pacific Highway South,” said Des Moines Police Chief Ken Thomas in a Jan. 20 statement. “Keep in mind that we want to provide a solution to these issues that we sustain for the long-term. This will take time but we are committed to doing it right.”

Since the start of the year, Des Moines Police expanded its special investigations unit to address homeless and mental health outreach as well as violent crime along the highway, Thomas said. The unit includes a detective sergeant, two street crime detectives, one code enforcement officer and a Getting People Services team that includes one civilian community service officer and two civilian crisis response specialists.

The department has hired a community service officer and plans to hire two crisis response specialists. The unit will focus on outreach and enforcement.

“So far this month, we have reached out to 12 people with homeless needs and five people with mental health needs,” said Thomas, a former Kent Police chief.

The code enforcement officer will work with businesses and property owners.

“We are also addressing hotels/motels for violations of Des Moines Municipal Code and quality of life issues,” Thomas said. “We are specifically working with two of these businesses with high rates of violations. There are several derelict properties, including a former car wash, which have turned into homeless camps and areas to dump trash. We are currently working with our legal department to enforce Municipal Code and force these property owners to clean up and secure these properties.”

Thomas said so far this month they have contacted 24 owners. They have contacted and warned 28 people for trespassing and 36 for pedestrian violations.

The street crime detectives will focus on human trafficking, firearm violations, drug crimes and other violent crime.

“We have already established working relationships with ATF, FBI and DEA, as well as the Federal Way, Kent and Tukwila Police departments to assist us in conducting these operations,” Thomas said.

So far, detectives have filed four felony cases, participated in two operations and seized 100 fentanyl pills. An extreme risk protection order was also served where they took possession of 15 firearms. They also assisted in two vehicle/pedestrian collisions, one being fatal. They helped with investigations concerning the shooting of a 14 year old boy and the shooting of a dog. They are looking for a suspect with a $50,000 arrest warrant for commercial sexual abuse of a minor.

The patrol division has spent 66 emphasis hours in January along Pacific Highway and taken 49 case reports. Since the start of the year, they have made five arrests, referred 13 people to homeless and mental health resources, issued 23 warnings, made 35 suspicious vehicle contacts, made 23 traffic stops, recovered 11 stolen vehicles and responded to 18 unwanted persons calls.

“We have additional plans to further partner and enhance our services and enforcement along Pacific Highway South,” Thomas said. “We are committed to making this area a place where people feel safe to live and work.”

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