Kansas : Safety by City
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The town of Liberal, Kansas, is named after an act of kindness, not a political stance.
Even more ironic?
The guy who was known for giving water to weary travelers was known to say, “That’s very liberal of you,” and his name was Mr. Rogers.
Liberal is in remote southwestern Kansas, just a stone’s throw from the Oklahoma state line.
It is otherwise known as the “Land of Oz” with a replica of Dorothy Gale’s home from the Wizard of Oz and a Land of Oz attraction.
There is more to see than the yellow brick road, including pancakes and airplanes and arts, oh my!
Liberal also has an abundance of hotels, being one of the largest cities in this section of the state, even though the population is less than 20,000.
You can find camping and RV sites as well.
Fishing and hunting are popular activities here, and if you visit during a certain time of year, there’s a pheasant hunting contest.
Annual festivals include International Pancake Day, Oz Fest, and Cinco de Mayo.
Within an hour of this isolated city, there are natural and historical wonders waiting to be explored, from a rock formation that was critical to pioneer exploration to a look at the hideout of notorious Kansas criminals.
Warnings & Dangers in Liberal
OVERALL RISK: LOW
Glinda must've blessed this city because there are very low crime rates in both violent and property categories. The police didn't supply crime data to the FBI for 2020, but I did get 2021 data from the police department crime statistics page.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
You actually have a choice of several low-risk options. While you'll need a car or a ride to get to Liberal, once you're here, you can call a taxi or use the Liberal City Bus system. Linda's Taxi Service will do long-haul rides to major cities, and the Joy Ride taxi service will do grocery deliveries.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
There's a low risk here, with just 22 thefts reported in 2021. Looking at the year-to-date data for 2022, the city is on track to exceed the 2021 number. As of July 2022, there are 19 thefts reported so far.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: LOW
There won't be any witches stuck under houses, but you will find wicked weather of the west here. There are flooding, severe thunderstorms, and tornado risks in the warmer months. These can come with intense lighting, damaging hail, and damaging winds. Winter can bring snow and ice storms, with limited visibility during blizzards.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
With three robberies in 2021 and no robberies reported as of July 2022, there's a low risk in this category too. It's so safe here it almost feels like you're in the Land of Oz.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
There's a low risk here too. This is a highly remote area with wide open land in all directions. You are more likely to be affected by a burly bison than by an act of terrorism.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
Liberal is a city with a 62% Hispanic/Latino population, and one of the common scams involves scammers begging for money to "help their family in Mexico." There are also utility scams and fake police officer scams. Most of these are targeted as residents, so there's a low risk it will happen to you. However, don't let a scammer prey on your emotions to beg for money.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
There was one sexual assault in 2021, but as of July 2022, there have been 16 sexual assaults. That's an astronomical increase, but no context is provided for that data. While overall, there's a low risk, be very careful when interacting with strangers or walking around the city, especially after dark.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
While there were no violations in the most recent water quality tests and all requirements were met or exceeded, water conservation is huge here. There isn't much water in this part of Kansas, so every little bit helps, even just shortening your shower by a few minutes. There's a low risk of using the water but use it sparingly.
Safest Places to Visit in Liberal
The Coronado Museum is where you’ll find a replica of the house from the Wizard of Oz and the Land of Oz attraction.
You’ll be guided by characters from the movie as they walk you through 5,000 feet of exhibit space with some of the artifacts and replica sets from the movie.
The Coronado Museum on site tells the story of Don Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, who came through this part of Kansas in the 1500s.
There’s also a Native American exhibit in honor of those who roamed the land before Kansas was a state.
The International Pancake Hall of Fame is centered around an annual race that happens on Fat Tuesday.
It’s part of a tradition that started in England, as women raced to the church with fresh pancakes trying to use up the last of the “fatty foods” before the start of Lent.
The first woman to arrive was given the “Kiss of Peace.”
A replica of that race happens annually, along with pancake eating contests, a pancake parade, and so much more.
The Mid-America Air Museum in Liberal has more than 100 aircraft waiting to be explored.
This was a World War II B-24 pilot training site and is now home to the museum and the airport where private and commercial flights take off.
Less than an hour up the highway, you can visit the Dalton Gang hideout and western village replica.
This is the actual home where the outlaws hide from the authorities, and you can even walk the hidden tunnel that allowed the Daltons to escape.
On your way there or back, stop by Arkalon Park for some fishing or hiking.
There are campsites available for rent here too.
An hour west of Liberal, you can see the Point of Rocks landmark.
This rock outcropping and bluff were used to signal a source of water to parched pioneers making their way west.
The Cimmaron National Grassland surrounds this area, and while it might look like an unkempt plot of land, there was actually a lot of restorative work that had to be done here after the Dust Bowl in the 1930s.
If you haven’t studied the Dust Bowl, please do so while visiting here.
It’s really overwhelming when you see how bad the dust storms really were.
Places to Avoid in Liberal
The eastern side of the city along the highway is where the highest crime numbers are, but it’s also where much of the city, hotels, and tourist destinations are.
You really aren’t going to stumble into a dangerous neighborhood, but it’s always wise to stay on main roads and avoid going through neighborhoods.
Don’t look for the Oz Museum, because it’s five hours away in Wamego.
Since the Wizard of Oz movie was ambiguous about which Kansas town Dorothy was from, Wamego and Liberal have taken their own liberties to create tourist attractions that are similar in some ways but very unique in others.
You need to be prepared when visiting this remote region.
You are actually closer to Amarillo, Texas, than you are to Wichita, Kansas, but both of those are the closest large cities.
Western Kansas is a series of small towns surrounded by wide open land.
Bring a gallon of water for every person you’re traveling with, pack extra antifreeze and windshield wiper fluids, ensure your spare tire is inflated, and avoid blowing tumbleweeds.
If a tumbleweed blows under your vehicle, pull over as soon as it’s safe to remove it.
Those suckers can really tear up the underside of a car if you keep driving.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Liberal
- I’m going to give you two phones to program into your phone. The first is the Liberal Police Department non-emergency line. That is (620)626-0140. To contact the Seward County Sheriff’s non-emergency line, call (620)309-2000. It’s smart to have these numbers now instead of trying to find them as you go.
- There is a good chance you’ll have spotty mobile phone service outside of Liberal. Check with your provider to see the service area map, so you know the dead zones. Keep your phone in airplane mode when you don’t have service to avoid draining the battery.
- The city bus system has three routes that run from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm Monday through Friday. There is no weekend service, so you’ll need taxis or a rental car to get around.
- Liberal’s city website has a place where you can sign up for notifications. It’s under the “Notify Me” section. This will include hyper-local information but isn’t guaranteed to cover all the weather events that might happen. To get that information, sign up for emergency notifications from Seward County, Kansas Emergency Management. Be *SURE it’s Seward County, KANSAS, as there are other Seward Counties in the Midwest. I live near Seward County, Nebraska, right now.
- The Police Blotter listed on the Liberal Police Department website is outdated, so to keep up with crimes and police information during your visit, follow the department on Facebook. The handle is @liberalpolicedepartment.
- You’ll need a fishing license from the Kansas Department of Wildlife for all fishing in the city, county, and state. You can get this online, and be sure to check for special permits that apply to certain fish. You cannot just use your home state or city’s fishing license.
- Southwestern Kansas has some of the best pheasant hunting in the country. You will need a license from the Department of Wildlife as well. To make fishing and hunting licenses and information easier to handle, download the “Go Outdoors Kansas” app. You’ll have all the information a hunter or angler needs in the palm of your hand.
- Follow the fishing guidelines at each fishing hole. For example, the Arkalon Park pond is a “catch and release” pond only because the water contains wastewater, and the fish are unfit to eat.
- Don’t be surprised if you’re walking around Liberal and a police officer approaches you or comes into the restaurant where you are dining. The police here strongly believe in literally “walking the beat” and interacting with the community as part of community policing and building strong relationships.
- Just about all of the roads in this part of Kansas are two-lane streets or highways. You should never drive distracted, to begin with, especially in this part of the country. You will share the road with semi-trucks, farm equipment, and random animals. Major winter events can actually shut down entire stretches of highways, so plan ahead if a blizzard or snowstorm is in the forecast. Also, use extra caution after rain because the roads are most slick at the start of a rainstorm.
So... How Safe Is Liberal Really?
Usually, I have to make a disclaimer about how “the crime rates in a city this small aren’t as bad as they appear on a national average.”
I don’t have to do that with Liberal because any way you slice it, crime rates are staggering low.
Property and violent crimes are much lower than the state or national average.
For example, nationwide, the violent crime rate is 399 crimes per 100,000 people.
In Liberal, the violent crime rate is 55 crimes per 100,000 people.
Another example – nationwide, the theft/larceny rate is 1,398 crimes per 100,000 people.
In Liberal, that rate is 110 crimes per 100,000 people.
The 2022 numbers do seem to be building to a much higher level than the 2021 tally.
However, there will still be lower than average crime in 2022 if the patterns hold up.
The biggest safety concern here is the weather.
Rouge windstorms can reduce visibility without a severe thunderstorm or extreme temperatures.
Winter storms can leave you stranded on the road or in a city.
Tornadoes can be seen for miles, and too many people try to step outside to see them instead of running for cover.
I’ve researched dozens of cities in Kansas, and Liberal is by far one of the safest with still a hearty number of things to do.
How Does Liberal Compare?
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- Visas - You'll need either a U.S. Travel Visa or a Work Visa. Those will cost $160 and $190 respectively. Plan for about three months of processing to get approved, and you'll need to do an in-person interview. Once you are in the U.S. and have left the airport, you won't need a visa until you return.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar (USD) here. Carrying a lot of cash is frowned upon for safety and fraud protection reasons. You can pay for just about anything here with a credit card.
- Weather - You'll need layers of clothing throughout the year, but in winter, you'll want warm outerwear. Summers will be hot, and please use sunscreen. You'll also want bug spray. Bring a mix of short and long sleeves with shorts and jeans for spring and fall due to fluctuating temperatures.
- Airports - Liberal's airport has direct service to and from Denver. If you want a bigger airport, it will be about a four-hour drive to either Wichita or Oklahoma City. For those heading west, the Colorado Springs airport is five hours away.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance is a great idea because the Wizard of Oz can't help you if your flight gets canceled or the roads get shut down due to winter weather.
Liberal Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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Kansas - Safety by City