Wichita receives community policing grant

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Wichita is receiving a federal grant to fund officers specializing in community policing.

Acting U.S. Attorney Tom Beall announced the $875,000 grant is part of a $119 million national program to pay for current or new officers. Chief Gordon Ramsay told reporters Tuesday the money will fund one sergeant and six patrol officers, beginning in January.

Ramsay said the community policing approach is one of his goals. "We haven't had a problem filling the vacancies that we've had." The officers will patrol on foot or bicycle, and not ride in cars very often. No specific boundaries for the patrols have been set.

Ramsay said the officers' focus will be on the "Broadway corridor," which was also a focus of Wichita police in the 1990s. He admitted the area has problems with human trafficking, illegal drug sales, assaults, homelessness and mental health issues.

The manager of Artichoke sandwich bar on Broadway in Midtown is looking forward to the officers. "I think it would be nice to have police walking up and down the streets," Michael LeBlanc said. "That way, the other homeless people.... know what's going on, and hopefully it will build back this area."

LeBlanc said north Broadway has become such a bad area that businesses and churches are putting up cast-iron fences for protection. "The Lord's Diner and everything else is giving us a bad name," LeBlanc declared.

Beall will talk about community policing Wednesday at the Kansas Peace Officers' Association conference in west Wichita.

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