Politics & Government

Wichita working to bring Old Town under camera surveillance

The city of Wichita is moving to install a system of street cameras to watch for crime in Old Town.
The city of Wichita is moving to install a system of street cameras to watch for crime in Old Town. File photo

The city of Wichita is moving to install a system of street cameras to watch for crime in Old Town.

On Tuesday, the City Council will consider a $618,000 contract to install as many as 100 high-definition security cameras throughout the area and software to allow police to monitor them.

The system will give police nearly 100 percent outdoor camera coverage of Old Town. An officer will watch for crimes in progress and direct street officers to suspicious activity, said Deputy Police Chief Jose Salcido.

The cameras will be linked by an Israeli-developed wireless system called Siklu radio, which transfers data at nine times the speed of a cellphone connection and twice as fast as fiber-optic cable, Salcido said.

The city is purchasing enough data storage to keep 30 days worth of imagery at hand, he said.

The system will also be able to link to and give police access to private cameras at businesses and nonprofit groups outside Old Town, if the private owners agree to police monitoring, he said.

United Methodist Open Door, a nonprofit charity that provides services to poor and homeless Wichitans, has expressed an interest in being the first outside organization to link to the system, Salcido said.

Council members at Friday’s agenda review meeting were enthusiastic about the system.

“This is huge, it’s very exciting,” said council member Janet Miller. “I’m very, very happy and so are some of the nonprofits.”

The system is modeled on San Bernardino, Calif., which saw a dramatic decline in crime after putting similar camera coverage in its downtown business district, Salcido said.

Old Town, a popular bar, dining and entertainment district, has had ongoing crime problems including shootings, fights and crowd control issues, including shooting deaths in 2012 and 2013.

While Old Town violence has declined since then, incidents continue to crop up.

In September, a fistfight led to gunshots that wounded two. It was the third shooting incident in Old Town last year, police reported.

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Salcido said at present, the most prevalent crime problems in the area are auto burglary and vandalism.

The council will consider the contract at its meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 455 N. Main.

Wichita police officers, including some on horses, keep watch over the crowds during closing time in Old Town. (Video by Oliver Morrison/The WIchita Eagle/May 7, 2016)

Dion Lefler: 316-268-6527, @DionKansas

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