Crime

Study says two KC area cities among safest in US — but it missed a mass shooting

In their own words: Kansas mass shooting and its aftermath

Survivors, victims' families and law enforcement tell of the deadly mass shooting at Excel Industries in Hesston, Kansas on Feb. 25, 2016. Video by John Albert/The Wichita Eagle
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Survivors, victims' families and law enforcement tell of the deadly mass shooting at Excel Industries in Hesston, Kansas on Feb. 25, 2016. Video by John Albert/The Wichita Eagle

A new study says two municipalities in the Kansas City area are among the safest in the country, based on their low crime rates.

But it says the same thing about a Kansas town that experienced a mass shooting.

Safewise, a home safety and security company, says it analyzed violent and property crimes reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for the year 2016 to come up with the list.

Mission Hills ranked No. 36 safest, and Pleasant Hill ranked 76.

Hesston, Kan., ranked 39.

Yes, that Hesston, where on Feb. 25, 2016, an employee at the Excel Industries plant shot and killed three co-workers and injured 14 others.

But according to the Uniform Crime Reporting system maintained by the FBI, Hesston had 0.0 violent crimes in 2016. The FBI does not collect the data itself. Instead, local law enforcement agencies across the country submit information to the FBI, which then compiles and publishes the report.

The report failed to mention that Hesston, population 3,832, had a mass shooting that year.

That was a surprise to Hesston Police Chief Doug Schroeder, who could not explain the omission.

Schroeder was the officer who shot and killed the shooter, Cedric Larry Ford, thus ending the rampage at Excel Industries. Because of his involvement, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation took the lead on the case instead of the Hesston Police Department, Schroeder said.

Hesston Police Chief Doug Schroeder was the first on the scene when Cedric Ford began shooting co-workers at Excel Industries in February. His fast reaction to taking down the shooter has him being honored by the Wichita Crime Commission as Hero o

"Whenever there are multiple jurisdictions involved in an investigation, it is up to them to decide who will be responsible for various aspects," KBI spokeswoman Nicole Hamm said in an email to The Star. "In this case, it was decided that Harvey County would submitted (sic) the necessary Kansas Standard Offense Report (KSOR), which they did. So, these three homicides were counted under Harvey County."

In fact, Harvey County reported six killings in 2016 to the FBI.

Hamm said it is not uncommon for a county sheriff's office to report violent crimes in multi-jurisdictional cases. If so, then it is unclear how many other violent crimes are not listed under municipalities where they occurred.

The Star told a Safewise spokeswoman about the Hesston case.

"Thanks for doing your research on this," Krystal Rogers replied in an email. "We can take this into account for future reports!"

Assuming the Hesston case was an aberration, the rest of the Safewise report might still be a reference tool for the relative safety of other municipalities in country.

The rankings are based on the number of reported violent crimes and the number of reported property crimes per 1,000 population. The national average for 2016 was 3.86 violent crimes and 24.5 property crimes.

Not surprisingly, the safest places tend to be suburbs and small towns. No city on the list is larger than 50,000 people.

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The Verona Columns are a Mission Hills fixture. File photo

Mission Hills, with a population of 3,621, reported no violent crimes in 2016 and just 11.32 property crimes per 1,000 people. Developer J.C. Nichols planned Mission Hills as an elite Johnson County community, and it has remained so since he laid out the plans in 1914. Forbes Magazine in 2011 named Mission Hills the third wealthiest municipality in the country.

Pleasant Hill in Cass County on the Missouri side, with a population 8,320, reported just .12 violent crimes and 15.26 property crimes per 1,000 people. The city's website calls it a "charismatic little trail town."

Three other Missouri towns made the list: Portageville, in the Bootheel, ranked 19th; Chaffee, near Cape Girardeau, ranked just behind Mission Hills as 37th; and Carl Junction, near Joplin, ranked 44th.

The Safewise study comes days after the nonprofit Violence Policy Center said Missouri had the highest rate of black homicide victims in the country.

The safest city for the third year in a row, according to the Uniform Crime Reporting system, was Lewisboro, N.Y., in Westchester County, bordering Connecticut. It reported 0.0 violent crimes in 2016 and just .16 property crime per 1,000 population.

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