Kansas : Safety by City
- Cottonwood Falls
- Council Grove
- Dodge City
- Fort Scott
- Garden City
- Great Bend
- Junction City
- La Crosse
- Overland Park
- Prairie Village
Fort Scott is a city, former military base, and all-around slice of American history tucked in southeastern Kansas near the Missouri state line.
This area was part of the literal line in the sand that separated the Missouri territory from Native American lands.
Once Manifest Destiny lured pioneers westward, it became a stopping point on the Sante Fe and Oregon trails, then played a key role in the Civil War.
The building blocks of Fort Scott still rest in the roadway as one of the cities with the most brick streets paving the way, block by block.
It gives this historic town a deeper sense of history even when driving outside of the downtown core.
As the city struggled with crime, a local artist stepped in to make amazing murals where racially-charged graffiti was once sprayed.
It’s now on display in the park along the Marmaton River.
With a mix of history, outdoor spaces, a bustling main street, and river activities, Fort Scott is a great place to spend a weekend or longer, with Kansas City just an hour north.
Warnings & Dangers in Fort Scott
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk here, with violent and property crimes substantially higher than state and national averages. One speed bump in crime numbers for cities this small (population: 7,552) is that when data crunchers like me figure out the "Per 100,000 people" rates, which is how the FBI does it, the numbers can be easily skewed one direction or another. Even with that caveat, Fort Scott does have more than its fair share of crime.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
Old Fort Transportation is a taxi service that will also do long-haul rides, but having a car here will be ideal. There's a low risk but also hardly any options.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk here, and I'm not sure I've seen a small town with five pickpockets among the hundreds of cities I've researched. The average theft was $481, so that's a good reminder to avoid carrying valuables and large amounts of cash with you. While five isn't a larger number, it's still way more than most cities in Kansas, under 50,000 people.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
A medium-risk exists here as well with winter snow and ice storms, spring thunderstorms, and tornadoes that can stretch through the summer and then a secondary storm season in the late fall. Kansas gets some of the most intense weather in all the states.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
There's a low risk, with just three robberies reported in 2020, and only one of those was in a public place. There were 42 aggravated assaults, which could have started as robberies and escalated, but the crime data doesn't get that specific.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
Given that Fort Scott, the military base, has long been decommissioned and the fact that this is a small population area, there's a low risk here.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
The typical nationwide phishing scams happen here and a few fake police officers trying to swindle people out of money. There is a low risk that a tourist scam will happen.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk for women due to the high crime rates. One example of that crime data speed bump I was talking about is this - there were five sexual assaults in 2020. When you figure that number "per 100,000", the percentage is 40% higher than the national average. Don't walk around at night alone here, and try to travel with a buddy as much as possible.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
One violation was reported in 2021 due to a forgotten report filing, not because of dangerous water issues. The water utility says it will always notify customers within 24 hours of any contamination or water quality concerns. All other standards were met or exceeded. The water is safe for consumption and bathing.
Safest Places to Visit in Fort Scott
Fort Scott National Historic Site should be towards the top of your list.
While only open for 31 years, this fort saw America grow up, expand, and fight for freedom.
It also played a critical role in all of those aspects.
There are 11 original buildings among the 20 historic structures to visit.
You start in the visitor center with a quick movie around the history of the fort, are handed a map, and get to self-guide yourself through the site.
You can schedule a guided tour ahead of time if you choose.
Kansas Rocks Recreation Park is the type of place Jeep would shoot a commercial.
There are trails for 4×4 vehicles, mountain bikes, and hiking, all with various difficulty levels.
You can also camp or park your RV here.
You do have to bring your own vehicle or bicycle, so consider that if you’re renting a car.
On nearly the complete opposite side of the spectrum, you can visit a lavender farm for fresh flower picking, a bustling gift shop, farm tours, and games for the whole family.
If you’d rather enjoy something picked from a vine, stop by Vinedo Del Alamo Winery just north of town for some local wine.
You can also camp there if you’d like.
You can also check out Black Dog Farms to see what events are happening during your visit.
This farm is dedicated to rescuing dogs, helping keep the bee population buzzing, and raising sheep.
Fort Scott offers trolley tours that last almost an hour to stop by some of the biggest sites in the city.
You’ll get a nice mix of historic buildings, elegant homes, and National Cemetery #1.
There are self-guided walking and driving tours through downtown and the local neighborhoods if you’d prefer.
Lake Fort Scott is a popular recreation area for fishing, boating, hiking, swimming, and wildlife viewing.
Unlike the western Kansas parks, this one is green and lush throughout over 350 acres.
Camping is also available here.
Places to Avoid in Fort Scott
Honestly, Fort Scott isn’t really big enough to have a more or less dangerous part.
Half of the violent crimes that happen here are in private homes, so it backs up my advice to always stay on the main roads and avoid cutting through the neighborhoods.
With an average home value of $64,000, there really aren’t stately neighborhoods to explore outside of the self-guided historic home tour.
If you get easily freaked out by severe weather, including intense flooding, you might want to avoid the self-guided “Great Floods of Fort Scott” tour.
The city has been inundated with water several times throughout history.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Fort Scott
- While there are many advancements in flood prevention and damming of rivers, you still need to always be prepared for severe weather here. Fort Scott is in Bourbon County, which subscribes to CodeRED alerts. You would be smart to sign up before you go. You’ll get weather emergency notifications on your mobile device.
- Keeping an eye on the roads during severe weather or any time of year is crucial, too, in rural areas like this. Kantravel.org is the website that keeps an eye on the roads for you. You’ll see real-time traffic accidents, construction projects, live cameras, and even cameras on snow plows during a snow storm.
- Anglers need a Kansas fishing license before they cast a line in the lakes or rivers. You can get that on the website of the Kansas Department of Wildlife. Be sure to get a non-resident license. Your home license won’t suffice here.
- The police department and city website for Fort Scott aren’t very robust with updated news, but you can follow both of them on Facebook. The police department is @FortScottPD, and the city is @fortscottcity. There’s important information here – just a few weeks before the writing of this article, there was a boil water order due to a pressure drop at the water treatment plant.
- This is a railroad town. You should never try to “beat the train” when crossing the street. Sometimes the trains go very slow or can even break down or get stuck. Just be patient or find a detour.
- The Fort Scott Chamber of Commerce has a YouTube channel where you can watch videos of the different tourist attractions or take a peek inside local businesses. This is a great way to familiarize yourself with the city before you get there.
- The city of Fort Scott appears to have an alert system you can sign up for. Look for Emergency Alerts on the homepage. My only hesitation about this is I’m writing this article on one of the hottest days of the year and the latest warning is for a cold weather warming center from February 2021. The CodeRED alert will be much more reliable for weather alerts, but the Fort Scott city notification system should send information about city issues.
- You know, I’ve seen so many cities that put this forthcoming information on their websites. I guess it’s not information that everyone knows. When there is a tornado warning in the area or a tornado is on track to enter Fort Scott, the tornado warning will sound. Most people know that. However, there is no “all clear” sound or siren after a tornado is over. That’s the part that surprises me, but I also grew up with tornadoes every year. After a storm, you should wait until the tornado warning has expired before going outside.
- When visiting in the winter and there is extremely cold weather, you should let your faucet drip before you head out for a day of exploring. This will help prevent frozen or busted pipes. Most hotels will post signs about this if the temperatures are cold enough.
- If you are there during flash flooding, don’t ever try to drive on a flooded roadway. It takes just a few inches of water to carry a car away. This city has seen an enormous amount of flooding, and you should take all the barricades and flood warnings seriously.
So... How Safe Is Fort Scott Really?
Fort Scott is a working-class town with 18% of the population living in poverty.
Financial struggles and drug addiction can lead to more crime.
Just about every city in America is dealing with the opioid crisis now being fueled by deadly Fentanyl mixed into street drugs and illegal prescription drugs.
As it stands, based on the raw crime data, the risks in Fort Scott are:
- Violent Crime: 1 in 149
- Robbery: 1 in 2,517
- Theft: 1 in 35
Six percent of the violent crimes happened against strangers, dramatically lowering the risk for tourists.
49% of the crimes happened in homes.
55% of the crimes happened against women.
As for thefts, the largest category is shoplifting, at 33% of all theft crimes reported.
19% of the thefts were car break-ins.
While Fort Scott is a more dangerous city to live in than to visit, it’s important to see the reality of crime in any city so you can better prepare using your own personal safety decisions.
There’s nothing in Fort Scott that basic common sense and good safety techniques can’t overcome.
Also, if you see trouble brewing, get out of there and call the police.
It’s really that simple, and you’ll get to enjoy all the unique parts of Fort Scott and Bourbon County.
How Does Fort Scott Compare?
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- Visas - You'll need either a U.S. Travel or a Work Visa to enter the U.S. from outside the country. The cost will be between $160 and $190. Plan for about three months of processing time as you go through the steps before your trip.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar in Kansas and Missouri. Exchange any currency before you get to Fort Scott, ideally at the airport. Don't carry around a lot of cash since those pickpocket risks are higher here.
- Weather - You should dress according to the season, like wearing warm clothing in winter. You'll likely need a coat and winter accessories from November through March. Summer will be hot and especially humid, so plan loose-fitting, light-colored clothing for ultimate comfort. You'll need bug spray and sunscreen from spring through fall. Always pack layers of clothing because it could be mild one day and freezing the next in the Midwest.
- Airports - You should plan anywhere from 90 minutes to two hours to get to Kansas City International Airport. Joplin, Missouri's airport is about an hour southeast. Fort Scott has a municipal airport, but there isn't any commercial airline service.
- Travel Insurance - It's a smart idea to get travel insurance here for all the risk the weather can create on the roads and in the skies.
Fort Scott Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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