Texas : Safety by City
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“Once upon a time…” seems like a great way to start an article about Abilene, Texas, the Storybook Capital of America.
This West Texas town might be known for its oil, but it’s also part of a rich history involving the art of reading and engaging children in literature.
The city is two and a half hours west of Fort Worth, with the next largest city to the west being El Paso, which is about seven hours away.
The town of 125,000 people offers history, culture, and plenty of year-round activities with Dyess Air Force Base on the west side.
Just northeast of the city is Fort Phantom Hill, which can be seen as an eerie reminder of a bad decision in the history of Texas or a pristinely preserved historic site that hasn’t changed much since pioneers first saw it in the 1850s.
Both versions have a little truth to them.
Abilene is where the green grass of Texas stops, and the desert stretches westward for hundreds of miles.
It’s a great place to visit for those who don’t like the cold weather of winter, but the summers can be scorching.
You might look at the map and say, “It’s in the middle of nowhere!” but Abileven is actually the shopping and cultural hub of the Big Country, as it’s called.
Think there’s nothing to do here?
How about a Rattlesnake Roundup with snakes for dinner?
Or exploring the Old West like a pioneer?
Kick back and relax as our storybook of Abilene continues.
Warnings & Dangers in Abilene
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low risk in Abilene with some increased crime statistics in certain areas. The city ranks about midway through all the Texas cities as far as overall crime rates go. The city has historically lowered the majority of crime categories year over year since 2010.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
It's ideal to have a car in Abilene so you can explore the city and nearby cities, but there is a public bus system called CityLink. Taxi and rideshares are available. too. There's low risk with any option.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
Just three pickpockets were reported in 2021, so that's another low risk for you. Be sure to still use basic safety precautions, and if you're at a community event or crowded venue, use extra caution. 34% of thefts were related to car burglaries, so always lock your car and leave the windows rolled up.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, and extreme heat are the biggest concerns here, along with flash flooding. Winters are generally mild, but just this past winter, Abilene made it below 0°(F) twice! If there is snow or ice, it can really stop all traffic in its tracks. Because of the severe weather and flooding potential, there's a medium risk here. Research the 2019 EF-2 tornado here to see how damaging those storms can be.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
Just 16% of the robberies were highway robberies, and the robbery rate is actually lower than the national average. There's a low risk, but keep in mind the violent crime rate is slightly higher than the national average. Use caution as you would in any city.
TERRORISM RISK : MEDIUM
With the Air Force Base, even a small town like Abilene gets a medium risk. The base here trains some of the best pilots in the military, and there is extra security because of the risk.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
There's actually a Facebook group called "Abilene Scammers & Thieves," so you can review the reports there. While it's a public group and not an official government page, it might give you some clues about recent scams. Officially, police only have records of the typical utility and fake law enforcement officer scams.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM
The sexual assault rate is nearly three times the national average, but it's not detailed how many of those crimes were domestic in nature or against strangers. You should still use smart steps to avoid being alone near a stranger, like walking in groups, avoiding walking around at night, and don't go to a private place with someone you just met.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2021 Water Quality Report states that all tests met or exceeded the required levels, but it also listed seven violations from February of 2021. As soon as the violations were noted, a boil order was issued and extended until corrective action was taken. There's a low risk and a good vote of confidence that the utility is transparent and honest when things go wrong. You can sign up for water quality alerts through the Water Usage section of the city's website.
Safest Places to Visit in Abilene
A great way to start your visit is with a self-guided walking tour of the city.
You can download it from the tourism website, aliblenevisitors.com.
With two dozen stops along the way, you’ll see how the city rose from a barren landscape to an oil-infused industrial focal point.
You can’t come to the Storybook Capital of America without exploring the stories, right?
Near 1st Street and Cedar Street, you’ll be at the center of a storybook sculpture hunt.
Look for 26 sculptures, including the three little bigs and the three bears.
There’s a good chance your favorite childhood book is brought to life here.
Download the GooseChase app to help you along the route.
The National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature is another place for storytelling as an art form, with visitors of any age being able to explore the tales told here.
There are workshops and performances regularly, so check the schedule.
Next, get your boots and spurs ready for a trip to Frontier Texas!
This is a museum that brings history to you in holographic form.
The reenactments feel so real you’ll think real buffalos are stampeding toward you.
The history here is rugged and macabre at some point, like human scalps on display.
Review the different exhibits ahead of time if you are worried about the kids seeing something like that.
The Winery at Willow Creek has built a brand that is for beginning to expert levels of wine lovers.
There’s no pretentious sommelier judging your choices.
Just helpful Texans trying to help you find the best wine for your palette.
20 minutes north of town is Phantom Hill, and you’ll see the west Texas sky like the pioneer who wrote, “that God ever intended man to occupy such a barren waste.”
The story behind this fort is etched in mystery, misery, and mistakes that made it one of the best tourist attractions on this side of Dallas.
The Abilene Zoo brings more than 1,000 animals within close proximity to tourists and offers a beautiful garden.
You can feed the giraffes or pay a little extra for a behind-the-scenes experience.
There are traditional malls and souvenir shops here, but the antique shopping is among the best in the state.
You’ll find stores scattered around downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods.
You’ll find a variety of restaurants in between, whether you want a Texas steak or some good old Texas barbecue.
For nightlife, explore the South Abilene Downtown area (aka SoDA) for a variety of microbreweries and line dancing options or just kick back and listen to live music.
Places to Avoid in Abilene
While there are no dangerous parts of town to avoid, the area around downtown and east of Grape Street have higher crime rates.
As with any town you are unfamiliar with, stay in the tourist areas and main streets without cutting through neighborhoods just to be safe.
You’ll read a lot in research about how “boring” Abilene is.
You might even find “Keep Abilene Boring” t-shirts for sale.
The reverse-psychology branding is meant to showcase that there are a lot of things to do here if you take the time to explore and meet people.
Keep in mind, there’s a difference between “boring” levels when visiting a city versus living there.
There’s a large military presence within the community as Dyess Air Force Base regularly brings in newly stationed airmen and their families.
You likely won’t be the only “new” person in the area when you visit, and you’ll be able to meet people who have spent a lifetime here.
Just don’t write it off as “boring” until you see what’s really there.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Abilene
- The Abilene Police Department (APD) has live crime mapping on its website, so you can review the area where your hotel is before you visit. You can search for various factors like dates, types of crimes, and specific neighborhoods.
- APD also has posted the 2021 Annual Report on its website, so you can see the struggles and success of the year and learn about safety programs. A new report is posted after the end of each calendar year.
- If you have any information about a crime that happened, you can report it anonymously to Crime Stoppers by calling (325) 676-8477 (TIPS). If you have information that leads to an arrest, you could get a $1000 reward.
- High school football is a big deal in West Texas, and traffic around the fields on a Friday night is going to be very busy. It’s worth stopping by a game just to experience the culture. Just be patient in traffic or avoid the areas if you don’t want to deal with the crowds.
- With Dyess Air Force Base so close by, you might hear explosions or jet noise throughout the day. The Air Force will alert the city, and the city will let citizens know on social media to expect loud noises. It might be jarring, or even triggering, for some people to hear these loud noises. Just stay informed so you know when it’s happening.
- You can’t afford to miss weather emergency alerts here, so sign up for text notifications through the CodeRED service. This is especially important in the spring through fall, when tornadoes are most likely.
- The city uses a service called See. Click. Fix. to let people report safety issues in the city, like broken street lights or potholes. It’s an easy form to fill out on the website and you can upload pictures for other people to see.
- Before you head to Fort Phantom Hill, you should know there are plenty of ghost stories that surround the historical site and the lake. In fact, the Lady of the Lake is said to make the headlights of passing cars flicker as drivers pass by. If you are one to get easily spooked, you should know this ahead of time. You can read the ghost stories on the Fort Phantom Hill website.
- If you are going to use CityLink to get around town, look into buying a pass for a day or for a week. A one-day pass is $3 and a week-long pass is $15. Otherwise, you’ll pay $1.50 for each route.
- West Texas is a hunter’s paradise, but there are a lot of rules you have to follow and training you are required to do before you can get a non-resident license. The prices go from $28 up to $315, so review the Texas Department of Parks & Wildlife (TPWD) to get the most updated information. New rules are in effect for 2022-2023.
So... How Safe Is Abilene Really?
From the 2021 Annual Report, overall crimes were down 10% in the city from 2019, while violent crime was up 30%.
This is a trend happening across American cities, so while it’s unfortunate, it is also normal.
Property crime was down 16%.
Since 2015, overall crime has been down 46%.
A lot of people in Texas have guns, so don’t get worried if you see people with guns in public.
As long as they aren’t using the weapon in a threatening manner, it’s perfectly legal and, for this part of the country, quite normal.
With 34% of thefts being related to car break-ins, you’ll need to keep cars locked with the windows rolled up (yes, even on hot days), and remove all personal items from the vehicle.
The risks here are nothing that basic personal safety can’t overcome.
While no city is guaranteed to be safe for tourists, you can improve your chances greatly by just using common sense and staying aware of your surroundings.
The city of Abilene doesn’t have public storm shelters available for when tornado warnings are issued, so you’ll need to plan ahead to find your safe spot.
Every hotel should have one and if you’re renting a home, ask the landlord where the shelter is located.
Sometimes it’s outside of the house and underground, while other times it might be attached to an indoor closet.
How Does Abilene Compare?
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- Visas - Whether you are crossing the border or flying into town, you'll need a U.S. Travel Visa to get through Customs. A passport is required as well, and make sure it's not within six months of expiring.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here and don't carry too much cash around with you. Using a credit card for purchases is the smartest way to protect against fraud anyway. You should exchange currency before your trip to get the best value for USD.
- Weather - A few years ago I would've said "it rarely, if ever, snows in West Texas," but a 2021 snow storm seized the Lone Star State. You should always prepare with layers of clothing so you can have good options, but most of the year you'll be okay in jeans and a t-shirt with a light jacket being an added bonus. Bring hiking boots or steel-toed shoes that cover your ankles. There are rattlesnakes in the wilderness and you'll need to have as much protection as possible.
- Airports - Abilene Regional Airport is the best option and it's right on the southeast side of the city. If you want a large airport, you'll drive two and a half hours east to get to DFW.
- Travel Insurance - You should get travel insurance for your flight and rental car, just to protect against any weather or road delays. Hunters might want to look into a policy as well, just for the utmost safety while visiting a new region.
Abilene Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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