BY TIM POTTER
New security measures – ID scanning at bars and additional lighting – are coming to Old Town.
Jason Van Sickle, president of the Old Town Association, announced the measures Thursday at the daily police briefing at City Hall. The measures are expected to be in place by the end of June.
One bar, Pumphouse, has been using the ID scanning system for almost two years, said general manager Daron Adelgren. He said Pumphouse has been telling other Old Town bars that they think the system is “an invaluable tool” that becomes more helpful if other bars use it as part of a network.
“It helps weed out people who are out to cause trouble,” Adelgren said.
And all Old Town businesses benefit from the perception that the entertainment district is safe, he said.
The additional security steps in Old Town have involved the collaboration of the association, businesses and the city, Van Sickle said at the police briefing. He noted that the Wichita Police Department has put more officers on weekends in Old Town, which he described as the city’s top entertainment destination and its fastest-growing residential area.
How scanning works
The ID system goes by the brand name Bar Shield, Van Sickle said, and it essentially works this way:
The bar staff scans or swipes a person’s ID – a driver’s license or state-issued ID – as he or she enters. It logs the name, birth date, part of a driver’s license number and photo, but not private information like Social Security numbers.
If someone causes a disturbance, the system allows for identifying the person by capturing his or her face, name and time stamp so the information can be passed to police and put into a database shared with other bars, Van Sickle said. If a person has “violations” at any club in the network, it shows up, Adelgren said.
If someone has caused trouble in the past, the system can be used by the establishment to keep the person from entering, and that is the bar’s right, Van Sickle said.
So a troublemaker banned by one bar could be banned by others.
“Those very few individuals are causing the majority of our problems,” Van Sickle said.
The system should be able to capture fake IDs, and people trying to use a fake ID would be turned away or reported to police, he said.
Van Sickle said there has been a “100 percent buy-in” by Old Town bars in the ID system. It could apply to about a dozen bars, he said.
The bars are paying the cost of the system, Van Sickle said.
At Pumphouse, Adelgren said, the scanning system is used Friday and Saturday nights or on special occasions, when staff are checking, among other things, to make sure that underage people are not entering to drink.
On the big weekend nights, when the crowds are mainly younger, Adelgren guesses that maybe 800 people on average cycle through the Pumphouse. Typically, one person every weekend gets banned, he said.
So far in May, only one person has been banned. The bans can range from a week to a lifetime, depending on the severity of the behavior.
Besides the scanning system, Pumphouse uses a 44-camera security system. Having visible security sends a message:
“If you’re a knucklehead … this is not the place to come,” Adelgren said.
Regarding the Old Town lighting improvements, Van Sickle said the city has already bought 16 energy-efficient LED lighting units, for about $5,000, to be installed on various buildings to eliminate dark areas.
In the next few weeks, officials will be announcing other Old Town security improvements, including cameras, Van Sickle said.