Four regional cities ranked among safest in Kentucky

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Hodgenville, Vine Grove, Leitchfield, Radcliff make the cut

By Carly Besser

Central Kentucky residents can breathe a sigh of relief knowing their surrounding cities made the cut for Kentucky’s safest places to live.

Published by Safewise, the list features Hodgenville, Vine Grove, Leitchfield and Radcliff. Cities were chosen based on their level of reported violent (murder, rape, aggravated assault) and property crime (burglary, larceny, theft). The data was collected from FBI reports and numbers were calculated as occurrences per every 1,000 people.

Prospect was ranked first.

Hodgenville ranked third for its firm stance against violent crime, with only 0.62 reported per every 1,000 people. The historic birthplace of Abraham Lincoln had no reported murders and the third lowest property crime rate in 2012.

Mayor Kenny DeVore, an on-again, off-again resident of Hodgenville since 1960, said he knew it was a safe place to be.

“That’s why I kept coming back,” DeVore said. “That’s typical of LaRue County as a whole. We’re just a small part of it, but it’s mostly good folks here. We just have good people. People come here because we have good school systems and we have a fair economic opportunity.”

According to state crime rate statistics, the Hodgenville crime index is 59 percent lower than the Kentucky average. Hodgenville is safer than 87.9 percent of cities in the nation, and the chance of being a victim of a crime in Hodgenville is one in 90.

Despite knowing how safe the city is, DeVore said he was unaware of it being named the third safest in the state.

“I’m very humbled,” he said. “It is an honor to be in the position that I’m in.”

Vine Grove ranked No. 15, commended for its small and family-friendly atmosphere. The city, which capitalizes on recreation and community, reported 1.08 violent crimes and 14.08 property crimes per 1,000 people, according to the report.

Kenneth Mattingly, chief of the Vine Grove Police Department, said the atmosphere of the small town is much of why it is a safe place to live.

“We’re surrounded by Elizabethtown and Radcliff, but it still has that small-town feel,” Mattingly said. “… We have more time to get out of our cars and talk to people on a day-to-day basis.”

State crime statistics show Vine Grove has 1.7 police officers for every 1,000 residents, but the chance of being a victim of a violent crime is one in 2,276. Vine Grove is safer than 72.5 percent of cities in the nation.

Mattingly said the tight-knit community has higher levels of communication, which is a major factor in the low crime rates of Vine Grove.

“It’s important, and that’s why I strive for that with the department,” Mattingly said. “I’ve hired two new officers since being the chief here, and I tell my veteran officers, too. Drive down the street, stop and talk to someone, say ‘Hey.’ Interact with them.”

VGPD has eight sworn officers and stresses the importance of heavily reporting incidents. Mattingly said there is pressure to uphold the high ranking as one of Kentucky’s safest cities, but he is glad to work in the recognized city.

“We’re going to shoot for 14 next year,” he said.

Leitchfield ranked as Kentucky’s 39th safest city for its exceptionally low violent crime rates. The city nestled between lakes saw an average of 1.18 violent crimes and 24.39 property crimes per 1,000 people. There were no reported murders in Leitchfield in 2012.

Despite being the third-most populated city on the list, Radcliff managed to rank 48th.

Jeff Cross, chief of the Radcliff Police Department, said he is proud of making the list.

“We’re glad and we hope it reflects that we take pride in providing a city with quality service,” Cross said. “The men and women in this department do an incredible job. We also have to give credit to citizens that take pride in their community to always do the right thing.”

Radcliff reported no murders in 2012 and maintained a solidly low crime rate, averaging 2.30 violent crimes and 28.04 property crimes per 1,000 people.

Kentucky crime statistics show the crime rate in Radcliff is lower than 25 percent of cities in the state. The chance of being a victim of crime in Radcliff is one in 37.

Cross said RPD makes a point to keep relations strong with the community through the Citizens Police Academy and increased communication with residents.

“We have 23,000-plus people in a little over 11 square miles,” Cross said. “It’s dense and when people are close together, it helps. That’s why we do CPA classes. We get to know each other. I always say I would rather have 23,000 cops than 43. Everybody here looks out for each other.”

To see more on the regions that made the list or to research other cities in Kentucky, go to www.safewise.com.

Carly Besser can be reached at 270-505-1740 or cbesser@thenewsenterprise.com.