BY JOSH HECK
The effort to improve public safety in Old Town has a new action plan.
Representatives from the Wichita Police Department and the Old Town Association on Thursday detailed a series of changes that will be made in the downtown entertainment district, including identification scanners and enhanced lighting throughout the area.
“These first initiatives are the result of a year’s worth of planning, coordination and dedication by the WPD, the city of Wichita, the Old Town Association and area businesses,” says Jason Van Sickle, a local apartment developer and president of the Old Town Association. “Along with the other initiatives that we will implement in the weeks ahead, these efforts will have an immediate and significant impact on safety in Old Town.”
The measures are part of a larger effort to curb violence in the bar district in the wake of recent shootings.
One of the biggest changes outlined Thursday involves the use of an identification scanner at Old Town bars to track patrons who demonstrate a pattern of public misconduct. The Old Town Association is working with local bar owners to install the scanner system, called Bar Shield.
With the system, patrons have their government-issued identification scanned when they enter a bar or nightclub. The information is stored on a network, which will be shared among establishments. If a person is a habitual problem, their ID can be flagged for possible banishment from an establishment.
The system also is designed to identity fake identifications.
Lighting is another component of the safety plan. The city and the Old Town Association have agreed on a partnership to fund the purchase and installation of additional lighting. The city is buying the lights, with the association covering installation costs.
Full installation is targeted for next month.
Existing lighting is being upgraded to LED, fixtures that are generally brighter and more energy efficient.
In April, a committee endorsed 14 recommendations Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay made for improving Old Town safety, including allowing nightclubs to hire off-duty police officers for extra security.