Increased security makes Riverfest a family-friendly destination

WICHITA, Kansas — After what some Wichitans call a “checkered” history, recent improvements in security measures at Wichita’s Riverfest seem to have made the annual event one for the entire family.

KSN requested the arrest data for Wichita’s Riverfest 2014 from the Wichita Police Department.

We learned, as of Friday afternoon, the department has only made ten arrests so far this year at Riverfest. The arrests were all misdemeanor arrests. In fact, at last report, no arrests were made Thursday or Friday this week.

Compared to previous years, the number of arrests at the annual festival are reportedly down.

Interestingly enough, EMS had more transports from Riverfest than Wichita Police. EMS reportedly transported 14 people to the hospital at this year’s Riverfest.

KSN went straight to the source to learn what has been implemented to make the annual event safer.

The Wichita Police Department, along with Wichita Festivals, credits an added police presence, utilizing a fenced-in area at the festival to promote a more ‘controlled environment,’ and connectivity as crucial to the safety and security at Riverfest.

Wichita Police Sergeant Kelly O’Brien, who is over Riverfest, explained to KSN that being proactive is key, as well.

“Arrests have been down, it’s a more peaceful environment, food sales have been up for the festival, their button sales are up, and it’s just been a better event,” said Sgt. O’Brien.

“The festival area is covered by officers and it’s being watched,” said Sgt. O’Brien. “So, if there is an incident, officers – we expect a quick response time to handle the situation and remove it from the area.”

Organizers told KSN that law enforcement, volunteers, and organized staff are in constant contact.

“The rescue boat that’s out on the river, the EMS that’s on their bikes here on the footprint, the officers that are helping us out on the grounds, and our private security force; all of us are connected by radio in order to make sure we can keep people safe,” said Mary Beth Jarvis, the President and CEO of Wichita Festivals.

The public has noticed a positive change.

“Over the years, I’ve noticed it’s been improving a lot… see a lot more cops around now,” said Matthew Farley, a Riverfest-goer who’s attended since he was a teenager.

Garrett said that the festival has become more family-friendly. As a father, he says that as long as security stays on top, he’ll continue to bring his young daughter to the event.

Shannon Garrett has attended Riverfest for more than a decade.

“The best year, I’d say, in safety,” said Garrett, who believes fencing in the area has helped security. “That makes you have to have a button to come in here, and you don’t have the people that are not coming here to be at the River Festival.”

“It’s always a fun family outing to come to,” said Kaitlin Tennyson, who attended Riverfest Friday with her parents and younger sister. “I feel very safe… There’s people all around. There’s no reason for you not to feel safe, in my opinion.”

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