Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Section: MAIN NEWS
Edition: main
Page: 1A
BY BRENT D. WISTROM, The Wichita Eagle

Some of the people strolling in and out of Wichita City Hall are giving new meaning to the term “potted plants.”

Since the city installed a security checkpoint at City Hall’s front doors in April, guards have found several bags of marijuana and crack and other illegal goods in the potted plants outside the checkpoint, Capt. Joe Dessenbe rger said.

And the stash spots don’t end at the security gate. Police have found drugs, alcohol and other mischievous items throughout City Hall, according to a report police gave to the City Council on Tuesday.

Here’s a sample of some of the things police have spotted on both sides of the checkpoint:
— A baggie of crack rocks near the first-floor board room.
— A marijuana pipe in a flower pot on the third floor.
— Crack rocks concealed in the second-floor men’s bathroom.
— A bag of marijuana in a woman’s purse.
— A marijuana pipe in the parking garage.

They’ve also found an open bottle of whiskey in a man’s bag, a woman carrying brass knuckles and a city employee disabling a security camera.

In the first 39 days of screening, City Hall security officers seized 3,457 prohibited items and detained 15 people, according the Police Department’s report.

On average, officers screen 2,049 people a day. That does not include city workers who use an alternate entry point that does not have security check.

“We expected to be busy,” Dessenberger said. “But not as busy as we’ve been.”

Dessenberger said officers once spotted a fake pistol in a lawyer’s suitcase, but they’ve never caught anyone with a real gun. That may change when a new state law that allows people to carry concealed weapons goes into effect next year, he said.

City Manager George Kolb pointed out that people carrying illegal goods have the opportunity to turn around and leave once they see security. But, for some reason, they just come in, he said.

“I have a tendency now to check the plants,” he joked.
Reach Brent D. Wistrom at 316-268-6228 or