In recent years, multiple incidents of gun violence have plagued the Old Town district, prompting the Wichita City Council to designate the bar area as an entertainment district, which allows for increased penalties for offenses such as loitering and disorderly conduct.
Most of the incidents were occurring in parking lots, after the bars close. Patrons tend to move very slowly, if at all as they exit the district, and the longer the crowds remain the greater the chances are for an act of violence to take place. In 2012, multiple incidents of police violence in the area caught the attention of police accountability activists, most notably the shooting death of Marquez Smart, and the unrelated tear gassing of over 1,000 bystanders.
Today, despite the increased authority to cite and arrest patrons for not exiting the district quickly, officers are using a community policing-based approach to clearing the area, and are exercising patience and restraint as they do so. Acting on tips from people who work in the district who have been impressed with the Wichita Police Department’s performance in Old Town over the past year, Kansas Exposed was on the scene last night to film the police department’s tactics as the bars closed.