The Chapman Center Crime Map Project represents three semesters of research by approximately 50 undergraduate students and interns into rural crime between 1890 and 1930. With the advent of the Great Depression, rural newspapers stopped reporting local events and focused on national coverage to a much greater degree. The reporting of rural crime is much more consistent before 1930.
Students used newspapers from several counties in Kansas to gather data about crimes. The selection of counties was determined solely by student access to early newspapers. Some of the newspapers appear in the Library of Congress database, such as issues for Iola, Wichita, and Junction City.
The Westmoreland Register in Pottawatomie County became the single-most important source, as those volumes are available for student browsing at Rock Creek Valley Historical Society. Although this study is partial, it does include isolated rural areas as well as areas in proximity to larger cities.
After interns tabulated and analyzed the data, three interesting patterns appeared: 1) a major spike in theft, robbery, and other property-related crimes occurred around 1900; 2) the incidence of violent crime increased during World War I; and 3) alcohol-related crimes showed a significant increase in the 1920s, with the advent of both National Prohibition and the automobile. Of these patterns, the one most surprising was the 1900 crime peak, as depicted in the mapping above.
Students then investigated possible factors to explain this increase, including national, state, and local events as possible catalysts. These causal factors are represented on a timeline which correlates with the time period showing the rise in crime. The Crime Map Project suggests the need for further research into the sociology of rural crime in the Great Plains states.
All maps were prepared by Angela Schnee, former intern and then Undergraduate Research Assistant at Chapman Center for Rural Studies.