Contractor: Ensuring Security of Des Moines, Iowa, Skywalk a Tough Job

Ensuring safety on the skywalk system in downtown Des Moines, Iowa, has become tougher in recent years, in part because funding for security officers has been cut, a security contractor said after a gang of young men attacked a man and woman there.

The Conley Group President Tom Conley told The Des Moines Register that thousands more people live downtown than decades ago, and that the system of bridges connecting downtown buildings is no longer almost exclusively for daytime commercial traffic. His company has been providing skywalk security since 2002.

Conley said he had warned the Des Moines Skywalk Association that its security plan and spending were inadequate long before the attack Saturday night.

“For whatever reason, they will just not follow professional advice,” Conley said.

A 21-year-old man and his girlfriend were attacked by 20 to 30 teens or young men just before 9 p.m. Saturday in the skywalk near the Wellmark YMCA, police said. A witness reported that the man was pinned to skywalk glass and kicked and punched. The woman fell to the floor after also being punched. He was hospitalized for treatment.

No arrests have been reported.

The city owns the skywalk system, which connects 55 buildings and 12 parking ramps. The Des Moines Skywalk Association said it’s committed to ensuring safety.

“The association is aware of the recent incident that occurred in the skywalk that remains under criminal investigation by the Des Moines Police Department,” the associated said in a written statement. “We expect to gain additional details as that investigation continues. Those additional details will be evaluated as a part of the association’s ongoing efforts to keep the skywalk safe.”

The Conley Group deployed four security officers in the skywalks around the clock in 2002, Conley said. Today the contract pays enough to provide two officers around the clock, except during business hours Monday through Friday, when only one security officer is present.

It’s not clear where either of the two officers were when Saturday night’s attack occurred. Conley didn’t immediately return a message Wednesday from The Associated Press.

Des Moines Police Sgt. Paul Parizek said the downtown is safe and properly policed.