WSU hoping image of surrounding community will improve

WICHITA, Kansas — Wichita State has struggled in the past, trying to separate itself from crime in the neighboring residential community.

Shocker basketball and the entire area around Koch Arena is flying high right now and getting plenty of attention. New dorms are in the process of being built but the neighborhoods around campus have been known for years as a place that appears to have a lot of crime.

We checked police records and found that violent crime has actually gone down in the past five years in that area from 23 aggravated assaults a year to 18. Murders are also down. Patrol North shows 15 murders in 2008 down to 10 last year. Other crimes are also down.

So with the big push to make the area around Wichita State a better place, KSN looked into whether or not the community’s reputation has indeed changed.

Mel Kahn, a Wichita State political science professor says, “In fact at night, I used to when I started was a little bit leery of going into the parking lot. It was very dim. We have very good lighting now.”

Kahn says the area along 21st Street has had a bad reputation for years and still does despite to changes.

So KSN asked students that may have not known the reputation of the community surrounding WSU before being students.

“It’s alright. It’s not as bad as people make it seem,” said Charles Scott, a student.

Even Scott though acknowledged that along 21st Street was not a great area.

The city has spent a lot of money improving the area. They’ve got the library, they widened the streets on both 21st and along Hillside, and there is a police substation a block from campus as well as other businesses along 21st Street.

So why does the area still appear to have such a bad reputation?

The Wichita State professor, Kahn, says that the media has a great impact on the reputation not changing.

“Where somebody was murdered and the paper reported near WSU. It was about a mile and three quarters away. And you get that kind of publicity going out around the state,” said Kahn.

But with the new dorms going up in the middle of campus and a big student center expansion, Kahn says the reputation for not only the campus but the area is starting to change.

Wichita State points out that they have poured dozens of millions into the campus in just the last few years and the city also says it has made millions in improvements.

Kahn also says that the good run the Shocker men’s basketball team is experiencing doesn’t hurt and is helping to change perceptions.

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