by George Lawson
Wichita police chief Gordon Ramsay says bar owners and businesses in the Old Town district have been very receptive to ideas for improving safety and security in the district. He said a police leadership team met with bar owners and presented them with a list of over 20 recommendations for their safety plans, and he was pleased with their response. He said "there is no doubt in my mind that the bar owners are sincere and committed to ensuring that we maintain a safe environment there."
Four people were injured in a shooting in Old Town on March 5th, after a fight broke out at a bar called Pandora. Ramsay said crime overall has been going down significantly over the last few years in Old Town. He said his department will be direct and decisive in dealing with public safety issues when they come up, and he said the department is committed and determined to maintain and enhance safety in the area. Ramsay said more officers have been assigned to Old Town when the bars are closing, and the department is looking at a policy change to allow the hiring of off-duty police officers by establishments in the district. He said traffic patterns will also be changed to prevent cruising, and the city will look at additional cameras and lighting.
Ramsay said the department is also looking at tools to be quicker in resolving problems when they come up, including improved data collection, a swift response to crime and incident trends, and ordinance changes to deal with nuisance properties and habitual offenders.
Old Town Association president Jason Vansickle praised the efforts of the police department in responding to issues in the district. He said Old Town is a safe neighborhood, and the problems have occurred during a narrow time period when the bars close on Friday and Saturday. Vansickle said Old Town businesses will continue to work with the city and the police department, and he praised the response and commitment that the police department has shown.
City council member Janet Miller has been involved in discussions on Old Town safety, and she said the talks have been going on since last summer. She said ideas are being put together to present to the city council, and the city will continue to be proactive in dealing with issues affecting the Old Town area.