Vandalia listed as second safest city in Missouri

Vandalia listed as second safest  city in Missouri
Dave Faries

It happened a couple years ago or so, as far as Darren Berry recalls. The sound of gunfire cracked from a city park, piercing the calm of an evening.

“We don’t get those calls,” he said. “That’s the first one I remember.”

Berry has been with the city of Vandalia for 15 years in various positions, currently as city administrator. Such outbreaks are rare in the community.

And he’s not the only one to notice.

Recently the home security company Safewise listed Vandalia as the second safest city in Missouri.

The safest – Clever – reported the lowest property crime rate in the state and sees few violent incidents. But Berry doesn’t mind being also ran.

“For a small town it’s quite an honor,” he said.

Mexico ranks 64th on the Safewise board with 0.8 violent crimes and 34.5 property crimes per 1,000 people, based on 2019 data. By comparison, Vandalia witnessed just 0.2 violent crimes and 7.4 property crimes per 1,000.

Both figures represent decreases from previous years.

Berry believes it is the second time the city has appeared in the Safewise top 10. He credits the former Vandalia police department and the Audrain County Sheriff’s Office for the results.
He also cites the character of the city’s residents.

Not long ago someone called City Hall after noticing grass that had not been mowed for some time. The person wasn’t complaining, he just wanted to know if the homeowner was OK.

“Everybody looks out for each other,” Berry observed. “That’s a positive thing.”

Following Vandalia in the company’s rankings are Savannah, Oronogo and Cottleville. Montgomery City files in at 11th. Jefferson City is 69th, Columbia 72nd. St. Louis sits at 124 on the list, which is by no means complete.

It may seem curious that a town that is host to a prison, the Women’s Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center, rates as a haven from crime. Safewise pulls data from the FBI Unified Crime Report. Not all communities provide full or timely information.

The study is further limited to violent crime and property crime. Drug deals, meth labs and other activities beyond the law play no part in the ranking. And the company established other thresholds, eliminating some cities from contention.

Only 124 of Missouri’s cities are included in the rankings.

But the information provides a useful glimpse into community safety. Clearly, the city would not provide the best location for a television cop show. No “CSI: Vandalia,” sorry.

For Berry, the importance of such reports is for marketing purposes. He ticks off the reasons people take interest in relocating from one city to another, such as schools, activities, access to healthcare, jobs and safety — the details packed into the phrase “quality of life.”

“We have a great school, we have business opportunities,” Berry points out. “That’s something people look at.”


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