Wichita police say they are concerned but not panicking and will deploy their standard contingent of officers in Old Town tonight after three straight weekends of gunfire in the citys downtown entertainment district.
Police officials say they have been cracking down on criminal activity in Old Town this summer a special enforcement Thursday night yielded 25 arrests and 30 citations but the recent shootings havent prompted any change in the overall strategy of policing Old Town.
Police instead are treating the three cases as isolated incidents that are part of the ebb and flow of crime that can be expected in any large gathering of people.
Are we concerned? Sure were concerned. Anytime somebody shoots a gun theres a concern, said police Lt. Doug Nolte. Are we worried? No. This is something we will continue to monitor, but were not going to panic.
Nolte said that anytime you combine alcohol and a large crowd, youre going to have issues. What you cant account for is, Do these people have guns?
Police records show there were 147 reported violent crimes in Old Town from 2008 through 2011 about three cases a month. The FBI defines violent crime as murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. The bulk of the crimes 104 were aggravated assaults that involved threats or assaults involving guns, knives or other weapons capable of causing death or great bodily harm.
Police Capt. Max Tenbrook said that for the past three weeks, police have been involved in a special project that has flooded Old Town streets with officers on Thursday nights, which this summer have often been as busy as Friday and Saturday nights. During those operations, Tenbrook said, as many as a dozen officers, most of them officers who normally focus on gangs and street-level drug crimes, supplement the beat officers working in the area.
Those officers basically deal with whatevers going on down there, he said.
Tenbrook said most of the 30 citations issued Thursday night were for traffic violations. He said most of the arrests for were for minor crimes, such as urinating in public, and resulted in suspects being released after being issued notices to appear in court.
Tenbrook said the special assignments will continue next week, though the focus will shift from Thursday nights to Saturday nights. He said the timing of such operations is typically rotated to cover different days of the week.
Tenbrook said that on a typical weekend night when extra officers are not on duty, Old Town is monitored by a about a half-dozen officers and two officers on horseback. At around 1 a.m., as the clubs begin to close, he said, at least a half-dozen other officers from nearby beats usually migrate to the area to help with the club closings.
Brandi Cross, who works at Old Chicago in Old Town, said she doesnt feel less safe because of the recent shootings.
Altogether I think its fairly safe, she said. Theres going to be people causing a ruckus wherever you go. I cant think of any part of town that hasnt had some kind of criminal activity.