There weren’t metal detectors set up Friday night in Westport as an announcement earlier that day about “enhanced” security efforts had indicated, but they’re still coming.
Friday morning, Westport officials issued a press release saying that beginning that night, from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, there would be four security checkpoints set up in the entertainment district. Visitors would be expected to empty their pockets, get their bags and purses checked and walk through a metal detector.
The new security measures are part of the district’s plan to improve public safety in an area that’s seen fatal shootings and other acts of violence. The Kansas City Council in December allowed privatization of some sidewalks in the entertainment district to allow these measures to be put in place.
David Strickland was among a few observing the preparation Friday night at one of four newly established security checkpoints — Westport Road and Mill Street.
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Strickland, vice president of operations at Kansas City-based Kenton Brothers Inc., said his company is providing the metal detectors for Westport’s new weekend security plan. He was there Friday night to help with the installation.
And while Westport’s new security measures did not yet appear to be in full force, Strickland said that’s no surprise in the first night.
“They’re doing a great job, actually .... In most of these efforts, the first time you do it, it’s going to take a while, and I think they’re probably more organized than most entities in this situation,” Strickland said. “There are so many unknowns when you first do something: You’re establishing your perimeter fencing, you’re looking at traffic flow, the sheer size of the area .... It’d be as similar as creating a checkpoint like the Boston Marathon every night of the week.”
Slowly, but surely, hints of its upcoming security changes began appearing by midnight — starting with truckloads of metal barriers typically used for crowd control.
Covering some of the metal barriers on the roadway were messages informing guests that the area is regulated by the city, also adding visitors “must be 21 years of age or older to pass the street barricades.”
Metal detectors hadn’t yet been deployed, but when they’re ready, Westport officials said visitors will be expected to go through them. If it goes off, visitors will be asked to undergo a second screening — described as a “wanding,” the statement said.
The new security measures also come with a long list of things people aren’t allowed to bring inside the entertainment district (or are allowed to bring under some conditions).
The 19-page “prohibited items” document includes weapons, including firearms and knives with blades more than 3 inches, and beyond — listing dozens upon dozens of various items from A to Z.
Glow sticks? Prohibited.
Bows and arrows? Prohibited.
Umbrellas? Allowed sometimes — “only when the National Weather Service indicates that there is a 25 percent or greater chance of precipitation,” the list said.
Also among the list: crochet hooks, Magic 8 balls, balloons, stuffed animals, violins and “Wizard/Mythical” wands.
In tweets replying to questions and comments about the list, Westport said the banned items came from the Department of Homeland Security.
A Westport official was not immediately available for more comment late Friday.
More information on its public safety plan has been posted on Westport’s website.