Ankeny sees spike in gun violence

Ankeny, Iowa has famously been regarded as a safe, friendly community conveniently located minutes outside of the state’s capital city of Des Moines. Home to Des Moines Area Community College’s largest campus and known for its family-centric neighborhoods and events, Ankeny has become a hot-spot for growing families and those looking to escape the larger city for a more small-town feel.

According to the U.S. Census, Ankeny ranks at the tenth fastest-growing city out of those with at least 50,000 residents, with a 4.6 percent increase in growth totaling 65,284 residents in 2018.

Community growth brings along many positives, like economic stimulation of local businesses, housing, and more funding for schools. However, with these pros come cons. And one of the biggest of all might be the most obvious and least desired — more crime.

“As the city gets bigger we’ve seen an increased call for service load that we’ve tried to manage and we have a lot more people living in town,” Ankeny Police Sgt. Corey Schneden told The Campus Chronicle. “As we increase in size and scope we’re going to have different issues arise.”

2022 has so far been a unique year for violent crime according to some residents who’ve taken to Facebook community groups expressing their opinions on the matter.

“I’ve lived in Ankeny for nearly two decades and am seriously disappointed in what I’ve seen happen to our city these past few years (in the area of crime),” Ankeny resident Deborah Oser said. “If this is the price we have to pay for growth and development, I say it’s time to put a stop to all!”

Others cited the uptick in new crime to population growth and expressed their feeling of overall safety despite the climbing crime rate expected in such circumstances.

“I’ve lived here my entire life. Yes, it’s worse. Yes there’s about 50,000 more people as well!” Lisa Woxell said. “I still feel safe, but nothing like when I was growing up,” she added.

Ankeny experienced one homicide in 2020 when a man was charged with the fatal shooting of his teenage girlfriend and her unborn child at a Woodspring Suites hotel. There were no reported homicides prior to then until 2016, when two homicides occurred.

Since Jan. 25 there have been seven reported gun-related incidents in Ankeny that have received public attention, with one being charged as a homicide. All but two instances resulted in several suspects being charged in the crimes.

Suspects still remain at large for two incidents, one of which took place on Feb. 2 when shots rang out in a quiet residential neighborhood and prompted residents to share on social media any footage from doorbells and home security systems in an attempt to further assist investigators.

The other unsolved incident occurred March 29 when a bystander was shot during a drive-by shooting one apartment complex over from where the city’s only homicide of the year took place in January.

According to Sgt. Schneden, each incident since the initial shooting in January is unrelated to all others.

The Ankeny Police Department intends to hold meetings and discuss ways to navigate and implement further security measures to ensure the safety of the community. Schneden cited the force’s number one goal as “the public safety of everyone in our community” and noted the department’s efforts to remain transparent.

For the majority of Ankeny residents, it seems most agree the crime rate throughout recent years is not out of scope for a city this size and still enjoy residing within the community.

“I feel totally safe where I live,” Ankeny resident Erin Evans stated. “I like my neighbors. I hope people don’t start panicking and being less friendly with each other because a bunch of people are telling them that Ankeny isn’t safe.”

Though many safety apps, technologies, and community groups serve to keep neighborhoods well-informed, Sgt. Schneden noted staying off the phone as much and being more physically aware of your surroundings and who you associate with as a good way to ensure your own safety, as well as speaking out when noticing suspicious activity.

“I understand people’s concerns when incidents like this happen. It’s a natural reaction,” Schneden said. “I still believe Ankeny is a very safe community and one of the best communities in the Midwest.”

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