Lights around Wichita State upgraded to improve safety

Chance Swaim

After being a key issue at campus safety discussions — in response to a string of crimes on campus earlier this fall — lights on the outskirts of campus are being replaced and redirected in an effort to make the area safer.

The improvements are the result of a partnership between Westar Energy, Wichita State and the city of Wichita, said Westar spokeswoman Gina Penzig.

During a town hall safety meeting earlier this fall, senior Isaac Stine voiced concerns with safety along the north side of 17th Street.

“There’s a dead zone where there’s a parking lot,” he said at the time. Stine is a member of Delta Upsilon fraternity, located south of campus on Vassar Street. “It’s really a problem area for us right now.”

University Police Capt. Guy Schoeder said he has met with Westar to identify and discuss lights that need replaced or redirected around campus to improve safety.

“On Holyoke just south of 17th, on the west side of the street, the light has already been replaced,” he said.

Schroeder said several lights on 17th Street from the tennis courts to Hillside on the north side of the street will be replaced. The lights on the south side of 17th Street will be redirected in the direction of campus.  

The light on the west side of Hillside, just north of the McDonald’s, will also be replaced, and another light is being considered directly north of that light. On the east side of Hillside, north of 21st Street, lights will be added on two different poles, and west of Hillside on 22nd Street near Fairmount Towers, at least one light will be added to a pole there, Schroeder said.

“Many of the lights that are off campus, but in the area, can also be redirected in the direction of the campus to help, as well,” Schroeder said.

Some of the replacement lights could be updated as LED lights, Penzig said.

Recently, Westar has been upgrading streetlights to more energy-efficient LED lighting, which provide better directional lighting than some of the more traditional street light technology, Penzig said.

 “Lighting can provide a variety of benefits — making a space more inviting, or making people in that area feel safer — both from an aspect of personal safety to driving safety,” she said.  

Penzig said there was no definite timeframe on when to expect completion of the project.

“This is great news and I appreciate the action steps that are being taken,” stated Ted Ayres, director of Community Engagement and Opportunity, in an email.  “This kind of collaboration and teamwork — involving the City, the community, the University and industry — is how we get positives accomplished.”