Des Moines Police Chief Ken Thomas speaking at a City Council meeting in May, 2020.

Des Moines Police Chief Ken Thomas on Monday, Nov. 29, 2021 issued a statement and proposed a plan to fight a recent increase in violent crime on Pacific Highway South near Kent-Des Moines Road.

The Chief’s “Pacific Highway South Safety Plan” is intended to “increase safety and improve the quality of life” in that area, where a total of four people have been shot (read our previous coverage here). Many of the shootings have occurred at a King County Metro Bus Stop at this location.

Thomas has spoken about this issue with the Kent Police Chief, King County Metro Police Chief, King County Transit Police Chief, the District Captain of the Washington State Patrol and the Special Agent in Charge of the ATF, and all have agreed to partner on this endeavor.

“The violence and disorder along Pacific Highway South near Kent Des Moines Rd. is unacceptable and I am sorry that we all are negatively impacted,” Thomas said. “I would like to provide you with our initial plan to address the issues. First, what we are going to do within our department and then what we are going to do with our law enforcement partners.”

Thomas’ proposed plan will include hiring two social workers to focus on the area, as well as having Code Enforcement Officers from Kent and Des Moines inspect businesses and properties along this area and strictly enforce violations. He will also request that ATF “conduct an operation in our emphasis area where federal confidential informants are brought in to infiltrate gang, gun and drug operations. This has been done very successfully in the recent past in our region.” In addition, police will conduct frequent high visibility traffic emphasis patrols, as well as enforce trespass and other misdemeanor charges to gain compliance and control of the area.

“There are challenges with new laws and prosecution but you will hear no excuses, we will figure out a way to provide safety and clean up this area to reduce crime and disorder to improve the quality of life,” he added.

The initial emphasis operation area will be from S. 224th St. to S. 240th St. along Pacific Highway South.

“This plan is a work in progress,” Thomas said. “I can assure you that addressing the crime and disorder on Pacific Highway South is a top priority for our police department.”

Here’s Thomas’ full statement:

Residents and Business Owners in Des Moines,

The violence and disorder along Pacific Highway South near Kent Des Moines Rd. is unacceptable and I am sorry that we all are negatively impacted. I would like to provide you with our initial plan to address the issues. First, what we are going to do within our department and then what we are going to do with our law enforcement partners. I have spoken with The Kent Police Chief, King County Metro Police Chief, King County Transit Police Chief, the District Captain of the Washington State Patrol and the Special Agent in Charge of the ATF. All of these police leaders have agreed to partner with this endeavor. We have also reached out to all of the South King County Police Chief’s and will be holding a meeting to formalize a plan as quickly as possible. There are challenges with new laws and prosecution but you will hear no excuses, we will figure out a way to provide safety and clean up this area to reduce crime and disorder to improve the quality of life.

With Des Moines PD, we will dedicate two Detectives and one Sergeant to lead our department efforts on this problem. We are currently in the process of hiring two social workers and plan to deploy them as quickly as possible to address the individuals hanging out in the area that are suffering from mental health and addiction issues. Our goal is to get them assistance and remove them from the area. We will also dedicate officers to conduct high-visibility traffic enforcement in the area to deter criminal activity.

We will be participants in the overall plan that is currently in development.

Pacific Highway South Safety Plan

Purpose: To increase safety and improve the quality of life.

Location: The initial emphasis operation area is from S. 224th St. to S. 240th St. along Pacific Highway South.

Problem Statement: Within the past several days, a total of four people have been shot near the intersection of Kent Des Moines Rd. and Pacific Highway S. In the past two months there have been at least 8 shooting incidents (5 Homicides) near this intersection. Many of the shootings have occurred at a King County Metro Bus Stop at this location. This area has a significant number of closed businesses, derelict properties and several homeless people that openly use drugs and solicit money from the intersection island from passing vehicles. A more specific crime analysis review of this area needs to be conducted to further illustrate and understand the complete problems. This area is a combination of jurisdictions to include Kent, Des Moines, King County Metro, Washington State Patrol and a King County Transit Station is currently under construction in the emphasis area.

Strategies:

Enforcement: Proposed agencies involved: Kent Police Department, Des Moines Police Department, King County Metro, King County Transit, Washington State Patrol and ATF.

    • Request that ATF conduct an operation in our emphasis area where federal confidential informants are brought in to infiltrate gang, gun and drug operations. This has been done very successfully in the recent past in our region.
    • Conduct frequent high visibility traffic emphasis patrols.
    • Enforce trespass and other misdemeanor charges to gain compliance and control of the area.

Officers and Detectives need to be refreshed on the new police reform legislation and ensure that we are in full compliance with the new restrictions.

Code Enforcement: Code Enforcement Officers from Kent and Des Moines will inspect the businesses and properties along this area and strictly enforce violations. Also work with owners and property managers to actively prevent crime and disorder on their properties through Crime Prevention through Environmental Design and take recommended actions.

Behavioral Health Workers : As quickly as possible deploy behavioral health workers to assist with removing homeless subjects and panhandlers and direct them to available resources. Offer services and if the subjects refuse, call in officers to enforce trespass laws.

Community Role: Making a positive and effective impact on this area requires a partnership with not only various law enforcement agencies but also partnerships with our residents and businesses. This means reporting crimes, complying with strategies meant to reduce crime and addressing areas on your property to reduce disorder. Through our community service officer, we will engage block watch and business watch groups in the area for increased communication.

This plan is a work in progress. I can assure you that addressing the crime and disorder on Pacific Highway South is a top priority for our police department.

Thank you,
Chief Ken Thomas