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2 homeowners grapple with response after police chases damage their homes

After their houses were destroyed in separate police chases, two women asked the city to help foot the bill — and those requests were met with different answers.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Two Des Moines women were faced with severely damaged homes after cars involved in two separate police chases crashed into their properties.

They both asked the city to help foot the bill — and those requests were met with different answers.

"I heard a loud impact, boom, to my house," Charlene Vang told Local 5. "And then the airbag deployed out of this person's car."

Vang said she had just fallen asleep when a car crashing into her front room woke her up.

"At that time, I thought, 'Oh, someone's just had an accident,' not knowing that there was a police chase," Vang said.

Des Moines police were in a high-speed pursuit in her neighborhood when the suspect's car hit Vang's house. Shortly after the crash, she said the police asked her whether she had homeowner's insurance. 

That left her wondering who exactly would be paying for the damages to her home.

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"Why am I responsible for, you know, paying for all this damages? I didn't cause it. You guys caused it, you know, you chase a suspect, and he ran into my house. You guys are responsible for this," Vang said. 

DMPD patrolled Vang's home until it could be boarded up, but she claimed officers gave her no direction as to what she should do from there. She was left in the cold, with a crashed car supporting her roof and nowhere to go. 

"So, I filed a claim," Vang said. "And I got denied."

Turns out Vang isn't the only one battling this issue — Anna Noel, who owns a house on Ovid Avenue, said her tenant was at home when a high speed chase led to a police vehicle crashing into the house. 

According to Noel, the sergeant on scene told her that, with high speed chases, there is a risk they have to take in order to catch criminals. 

But she doesn't believe the reward is big enough to warrant such a risk. 

"I guess that's the reward: they caught that guy. The risk seems to evolve [and it] was left to [be] dealt with by me, and by my neighborhood, you know," Noel said. "[I'm] feeling unsafe, feeling like I haven't been protected by the police station. I feel like they put me in danger."

Unlike Vang, Noel was successful in filing her claim with the city. 

"They're a little bit cagey about what they're going to cover, but they're going to work with me on that," Noel said. 

This left Vang frustrated and confused as to why she didn't receive that same outcome. 

"To me, [in] both cases, the police has complete control over the situation. And they chose to ignore it," Vang said. 

Police told Local 5 Thursday that officers are always performing a balancing act between the risk to people and the risk to property.

"We also have to take into consideration if we call it off, is that risk still there to the public? If we stop or we stop doing what we're doing, and we don't intervene, and that person continues on with those behaviors, is that risk greater than trying to stop them?" Sgt. Paul with DMPD said. 

As for the city's decision to cover the cost of one of the women's homes and not the other, DMPD made it clear that was the city's jurisdiction. 

Local 5 has reached out to city officials and has not yet heard back. 

Local 5 will update this story as more information becomes available. Download the We Are Iowa app or subscribe to Local 5's "5 Things to Know" email newsletter for the latest.

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