Tuesday, June 5, 2012
You might not know it, but if you're at the Wichita River Festival, you're being watched. The Wichita Police Department is monitoring the crowds in person and with surveillance cameras both on the ground and in the air. It's all part of the elaborate security detail used to keep you safe.
When an arrest happens, few people even see the commotion. Wichita Police Lt. Joe Schroeder says that's all part of the plan.
"We're not down here to harass people or cause problems. What we don't want is for people who are coming down to enjoy the festival to be inconvenienced by people who are infringing on them," said Schroeder.
At times, there are as many as 25 officers monitoring the crowds on horseback, bike, foot or from high above, using the surveillance cameras that are secured in nearby buildings.
"They can see the crowd from above. That way, we can monitor crowds as they move. If we see a problem.... we can stop it before it even begins," said Schroeder.
The operation takes months of planning every year. Beginning in January, police and festival organizers begin meeting to develop their security strategy.
Most of the officers involved are hired and paid by the River Festival. They watch for many things, including underaged drinking, fights and gang activity.
"They're looking for documented gang members and did actually make a couple of arrests of gang members," said Schroeder.
Schroeder says over the last two years, he's seen more and more families attending the River Festival. He says that helps keep crime down.