LJWorld.com weblogs The Lawrence Crime Blotter
Police checkpoint near Wakarusa causing a stir
A police check lane that appeared yesterday near the Wakarusa Music & Camping Festival is expected to continue throughout the day today and through Thursday afternoon, as an estimated 15,000 revelers pour into town for the four-day festival.It's an aggressive anti-drug effort that police say is to promote safety- but that festival promoter Brett Mosiman this morning called "a big overreaction.""We create this amazing festival and we sell tickets in all 50 states, and the second everybody gets here, they get met by a police state," he said. The check lane, funded in part by a federal anti-drug-trafficking grant, appeared yesterday afternoon at the interchange of Interstate 70 and Kansas Highway 10 about three miles from the festival's entrance. In conjunction with the check lane, police agencies from Franklin, Johnson and Douglas counties will be conducting a "saturation patrol" in coming days along U.S. Highway 59 and Kansas Highway 10. The U.S. Drug-Enforcement Administration and FBI also are involved in the effort, according to the Kansas Highway Patrol.Troopers are stopping as many vehicles as possible as they come off the westbound Turnpike, checking drivers' licenses and registration, and looking for any apparent violations, said Lt. John Eickhorn of the Kansas Highway Patrol. In some cases, a drug dog is being run around cars. People driving through a "K-Tag" lane for drivers with an automated Turnpike pass are not being stopped.In recent weeks, police have said they will have an increased presence at the festival this year because of concerns about illegal drugs. "Our primary objective, of course, is to arrest criminals and intercept illegal substances and contraband before it enters the fairground or festival," Eickhorn said.Promoter Mosiman said he's had a good relationship with law enforcement in the months leading up to the festival and supports their efforts to curb drug dealing. But he said he had no idea the checkpoint was coming. He said he thinks it sends the wrong message to tourists coming from out-of-state to visit Kansas.He said four of his managers have been stopped at the checkpoint, and one was cited for having a cracked windshield."It's like you've got the opposite of the red carpet for our visitors.... Would they consider throwing out that welcome mat for KU homecoming?"The lane is set to continue until 1 a.m. Thursday morning, then to run again from 8 a.m. Thursday until the early afternoon.