Crime is down, but not out in Hutchinson and Reno County so far in 2019, according to data from Hutchinson Police Chief Jeff Hooper.
Last year, this area bucked a statewide trend of growing crimes rates. But totals, however, show the city and county overall continue to have an issue with property crimes, with higher rates of burglary, theft and motor vehicle theft than peer communities.
Hooper credited the 2019 drops to a few initiatives since he took the helm in October 2018, including increased community engagement by assigning officers to regular beats and the K-9 and repeat offenders units.
The K-9 unit, which started in January, contributed to 92 drug arrests through June, while the repeat offender unit clocked in 97 arrests, Hooper said.
“I don’t like to play defense, and that’s what this agency used to do,” Hooper said. “A crime would happen and we would go and make a report … We weren’t being proactive in (fighting crime).”
The Kansas Bureau of Investigation tracks crime throughout the state through reports submitted by individual law enforcement agencies.
The statistics come with the caveats, however, in that not all agencies report, not all report for a full calendar year and some report differently.
The statistics for 2018, released a couple of weeks ago, indicated that violent crime in Kansas continues to trend upward.
In 2018, law enforcement across the state recorded 12,367 violent crimes, which represents an overall increase of 5.3% in the categories of murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault or aggravated battery.
The statewide violent crime rate of 4.2 crimes per 1,000 people is currently 16.5% above the 10-year average.
Contributing to the overall increase was a nearly 11% increase in reported rapes and a 7.8% increase in aggravated assaults, compared to 2017.
The number of murders and robberies statewide, however, both declined.
Hutchinson marked its lowest overall level of crime since at least 2013, with a drop in every category of Class 1 crime except rape, which matched 2017.
Overall, total felony-level crimes in the city for 2018 was down more than 14% from the prior year and down more than 9% over the five-year average.
The data shows Hutchinson ranks 11th among all cities in the state with a police department by its total population, with 40,573 residents.
The city, however, came in eighth among more than 200 reporting municipal police departments for its rate of crime per 1,000 residents, or per capita crime.
The city recorded 46.7 crimes per 1,000 residents in 2018. That compared to a rate of 53.7 in 2017 and a 5-year average of 51.
The statewide per capita crime rate was just 27.2 last year.
HPD Chief Jeff Hooper said through the first half of 2019, the department has recorded a crime rate of just 31.6 crimes per 1,000 residents, and at the current trend, would end the year at 32.8.
That’s a roughly 31% drop in overall crime, with property crimes down 33% compared to the first half of 2018, Hooper said.
If the decline holds for the year, it would also drop Hutchinson down to 28th on the police department list.
Hutchinson’s overall 1,895 felony crime reports for 2018 ranked it seventh overall for cities with a police department in terms of the total number of crimes reported, behind Wichita, Kansas City, Topeka, Overland Park, Lawrence and Olathe.
Independence tops the per capita crime list, with an average of 71 crimes per 1,000 people. Wichita, Kansas City and Topeka were also in the top 10, joined by Coffeyville, Pittsburg and Arkansas City.
In 2018, Hutchinson recorded one homicide, 26 rapes, 18 robberies and 118 assaults.
That was one less homicide, 21 fewer robberies and 56 fewer assaults than the previous year, or a nearly 54% drop in robberies and a 32% drop in assaults, year-over-year.
For violent crime, Hutchinson ranked 11th among police departments in total crimes, though it falls to 19th when viewed by per capita, with four violent crimes per 1,000 people.
Topping the violent crime list per capita is Wichita, with 11.8, followed by Leavenworth, Parsons, Great Bend, Independence and then Newton.
Hutchison ranked 10th in the state for the total number of rapes and robberies, but it was 21st among cities for its per capita rate of sexual assaults and 24th for robberies. It fell to 34th for per capita batteries or assaults.
The city also recorded healthy declines in property crime, with an overall drop of 12%, including a nearly 18%% plunge in burglaries.
The data showed 354 burglaries in Hutchinson last year, compared to 431 in 2017 and an average since 2013 of 381.
The city, however, remains in sixth place in the state for total burglaries, behind Wichita, Topeka, Kansas City and Lawrence.
All those cities, except Hutchinson, drop off the top 10 list cities when looking at per-capita burglaries. There Hutchinson ranks ninth.
Independence again tops the list, with all the other towns in the group having populations under 10,000 people.
Hutchinson’s felony theft rate also dipped, with 1,255 thefts reported in the city in 2018, down from nearly 1,400, though that’s still an average of more than three per day.
For data from the past five years, the city’s theft rate peaked in 2015, the FBI reports indicate, at 1,452 or just under four thefts per day.
Like Hutchinson, the county overall experienced drops in every category of crime except rapes — which went up by one. The change was in the number of sexual assaults investigated by the Reno County Sheriff’s Office, which went from three to four.
The sheriff’s department also saw one other crime category grow, motor vehicle thefts, reaching its highest mark in at least five years.
The number of vehicle thefts investigated by that agency shot up from 27 to 37, a 27% increase.
Overall countywide, however, vehicle thefts were down about a dozen.
The county witnessed a 30% drop in violent crime including a nearly 54% drop in robberies and a 30% drop in assaults.
Countywide, there were also 100 fewer burglaries, an almost 19% decline, and 169 fewer thefts, for a 10.5% change.
Exploring the county’s rankings among the state’s 105 counties, it scores comparatively well for violent crimes.
The county, however, is way up there for most categories of property crime.
Reno County, which ranks ninth in total population, was sixth in total property crimes, seventh in per capita property crime rate and sixth in total burglaries.
The 438 vehicle or home break-ins reported countywide last year pushed the county to fifth in the state for its per capita burglary rate.
Ranking higher were only Montgomery, Kearny, Thomas and Sedgwick counties.
Montgomery County had almost nine burglaries per 1,000 residents, compared to Reno’s seven, while the state average is just 4.25. Reno tied with Barton County.
The county also ranked 6th in motor vehicle thefts, with 164, or almost one every other day, and sixth in per capita motor vehicle theft.
Crime data for the Reno County Sheriff’s Office showed that agency, ranked sixth in the state for its population served the by the office, was also sixth for total crime.
It ranked fifth among SO’s for total rape reports, theft reports and motor vehicle thefts, while ranking sixth for total burglaries and arsons.
In per capita comparisons, however, Reno County was way down the list.
It ranked 49th in per capita violent crime, 28th in rapes, and 44th for assault and battery.
For property crimes, it was 21st in total per capita, 31st for burglaries and 29th for theft.
Its highest ranking was for motor vehicle thefts, where it came in 12th per capita.
Other local towns
Law enforcement in three other municipalities within Reno County also reported crimes statistics for 2018, though none of them had a full year’s reporting.
The South Hutchinson Police Department, which saw much turmoil in the past year with cuts to the department and a couple of changes in administration, reported data for just seven months.
The city experienced a drop in most categories of felony crime reported, ranging from 12% to 50%. The exceptions were one more battery in 2018 than 2017, with three, and a big jump in burglaries, going from nine to 13.
In all, South Hutchinson reported 53 felony crimes, including 36 thefts, one auto theft, and two arsons. That compared to 61 crimes in 2017, with 43 thefts, seven stolen vehicles and three cases of arson.
The city of Haven, which was without a police chief for a few months, reported statistics for nine months.
That city had even more dramatic drops than South Hutchinson, with only eight felony-level crimes reported for the year, compared to 26 in 2017.
Haven reported no violent crimes, compared to five in 2017, and eight property crimes, compared to 21 the prior year. There were only half as many burglaries, and thefts went from 16 to four. The only category that showed an increase was vehicle theft, which went from one to two.
Buhler police also reported for only seven months of statistics, though that historically has been the department’s practice.
It also saw dramatic drops, going from 13 Class 1 crimes in 2017 to just four last year. The four, however, included a rape, the first there in several years. There were also two thefts — down from nine in 2017 — and one motor vehicle theft.
Find the full Kansas Crime Index Report at http://www.accesskansas.org/kbi/news/72519.shtml.