Is Aiken Safe? Crime Rates & Safety Report

Updated On March 25, 2024
Aiken, United States
Safety Index:
57
* Based on Research & Crime Data

Aiken, South Carolina, is near the Georgia border with Augusta on the western edge of the state.

It’s in a region known as the Central Savannah River Area (CSRA).

While some cities are known for one big thing, Aiken is known for several things.

It was once a winter retreat for the elite in the Northeast and an escape from the summer heat on the coast.

That was enhanced when the railroad came to town, the first connecting rail between Charleston and Georgia.

Those wealthy visitors infused a love of horses into the region, a tradition that holds today as Aiken remains a prominent location for thoroughbred enthusiasts, with a thriving equestrian community and a rich heritage of the sport.

The Aiken Triple Crown, a series of equestrian events, draws visitors from near and far to experience the excitement of horse racing and polo in March.

The city then feeds off golf fever in nearby Augusta, where the Masters Tournament is held every April.

Despite the affluent history and diverse activities, Aiken is becoming a hotbed of crime within the city and the county.

You don’t need to shy away from Aiken, but you definitely need to finish reading this article.

Warnings & Dangers in Aiken

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK: MEDIUM

There's a medium risk in Aiken due to high crime rates in the city, county, and region. The problem has been escalating for several years, but there are still worthwhile things to do in Aiken. You just need to be more vigilant about where you go.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW

Look up the Best Friend Express and see if that free shuttle service would meet your needs. Taxis and rideshares will be available, but most of the city is walkable, and a rental car would be the ideal way to get around anyway.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK: MEDIUM

About seven pickpockets or purse snatchings happen each year looking back at five years of crime data. It's not a lot, but more than most communities I've researched in South Carolina. In addition, the theft rate is more than twice as high as the national average. Treat this as a medium risk.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM

This is another medium risk for severe weather risks throughout the year, with a heightened concern for hurricane impacts (after moving inland) from June through November. On the flip side, rare cold spells can cause pipes to burst, and high winds can knock down power lines. You just need to stay weather-aware while you visit Aiken.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK: MEDIUM

The robbery rate is higher than the national average, but only a handful are highway robberies (12%). That doesn't give much comfort, however, since robberies at stores too often impact customers as well. Treat this as a medium risk.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK: LOW

The real terrorism here comes from the gang community, not international hate groups. As a small town, terrorism is not a big concern, but events like the Masters Tournament could be a potential target - but also come with a serious increase in security.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK: MEDIUM

This is another medium risk, as scams are plentiful in this community, sometimes as part of an organized crime ring by gangs. Check out the city and county websites and social media pages to see trending scams and scam safety.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW

Women should use the same extra caution as anyone else but limit the size of their purses and how much they carry with them. Don't leave the attractions or historic districts, and never walk around at night alone.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK: LOW

The 2023 Water Quality Report shows passing grades across the board, meaning there's a low risk when it comes to drinking the water or using it for bathing. If you're staying in an older building, let the tap water run for a minute before using it. This will clear out any debris in the aging pipes.

Safest Places to Visit in Aiken

VisitAikenSC.com is the tourism website for the city.

You can download a visitor’s guide online without having to give personal information.

If you are adding this as a visit to Augusta, Georgia, check out visitaugusta.com.

The Aiken County Historical Museum is a great place to start, where some of the most elite families of the 19th Century fill the history books.

Admission and parking are free, and several locations on the grounds make this an easy few hours or half-day to explore.

The next stop might be the Aiken Visitors Center and Train Museum, where you can pick up maps, brochures, and insider tips from knowledgeable staff.

The museum section offers insights into Aiken’s railroad history and its impact on the development of the town.

You’ll learn more about the historical spots throughout the downtown district, mixed in with modern shops and dining options.

Eat to your heart’s content because you can burn calories by visiting the 2,100-acre Hitchcock Woods next to downtown.

The Center for African American History, Arts, and Culture is a vital institution dedicated to preserving and celebrating the rich heritage of African Americans.

Learn about Aiken’s deep connection to the world of horse racing through exhibits highlighting legendary racehorses, trainers, and jockeys at the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and Museum.

Don’t miss the chance to see retired racehorses at the adjacent Aiken Training Track.

You can also book horseback riding tours on the many equestrian trails around the city.

Other tour options include ghost stories, the arboretum trail, and trolley tours.

You can also plan a private tour to your preferred locations through Tailored Tours of Aiken.

Places to Avoid in Aiken

Crosland Park is a name that comes up time and time again in feedback and in new stories, so the northern section of the town should be avoided.

“Some hotspots pop up around downtown around the Whiskey/Pine Log corridor, the Lowe’s Home Depot/Target area, and then Richland Avenue corridor,” Lt. Jennifer Hayes told a local television station, “Some on the north side here around Hampton Avenue and in Crossland Park, as well.”

In the next section, I will tell you how to find a more recent crime data map, which should be helpful for finding places to avoid closer to your trip.

Also, avoid Aiken during the first week in April unless you’re coming here for the Masters Tournament in August.

The entire area is packed with people and prices for everything will increase.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Aiken

  1. Aiken does have a police department. You can follow them on Facebook @aikendps. Call (803) 642-7620 or email adps_social@cityofaikensc.gov with specific safety questions.
  2. The police department has an interactive crime map on its website. You can only search back 30 days, and it’s not as intuitive of a search function as I’ve seen with other departments, but it’s something to spend a few hours looking at before your visit. You’ll be able to see the higher crime areas.
  3. Sign up for CodeRED emergency alerts through the Aiken County website. You will get severe weather and public safety text messages, emails, or phone calls, depending on your preference.
  4. Do not leave anything with your personal information lying around, such as the rental car paperwork being put in your glove box. Thieves have been going through mailboxes and vehicles, looking for information to sell on the dark web.
  5. Aiken has some very dark neighborhoods, and more so than in other cities, you simply can’t go into dark areas at night. The city is working to install more streetlights, but stick to well-lit areas no matter what.
  6. If you see or suspect criminal activity that isn’t urgent, you can report your information anonymously by calling 803-642-7620 or emailing CrimeAlerts@cityofaikensc.gov. This isn’t a community where a lot of people will report illegal activity, so you can really help make a difference.
  7. Do not let anyone borrow your mobile phone, even for a few seconds. Several scams involve people faking an emergency and begging to make a phone call, yet they end up in your bank account or payment apps sending themselves money.
  8. Get bug spray with DEET and wear it religiously when you’re outside. Mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk but can still swarm during other times of the day. They need water to thrive, so stay away from water sources.
  9. South Carolina is known for having bad roads littered with potholes. You can check the latest construction work on roadways through the city’s website. They provide a schedule and map of each area.  This can help you plan a route around construction.
  10. I’d recommend you look closely at a map of downtown Aiken and see the one-way pattern of streets mixed with two-way streets that doesn’t make a lot of sense to a newcomer. One of the biggest complaints residents have is visitors who can’t figure out the road direction and end up driving the wrong way or causing traffic backups to turn around.

So... How Safe Is Aiken Really?

Aiken (city) isn’t very safe, and neither is the county nor the entire Central Savannah River Area (CSRA).

Headlines over the past few years tell a grim story:

  • 10 injured in outbreak of shootings across Aiken County
  • Remembering the victims: Here’s who’s been killed in CSRA slaying surge
  • Aiken shooting kills 1 as deadly crime wave spills across the river
  • S.C. authorities ‘extremely concerned’ by a spike in violent crime

These headlines go back to at least 2021, and even with a 60 criminal bust and ongoing enforcement actions like surveillance cameras and public funds, an end is not in sight.

Even over Christmas weekend, 2023, two people were shot and killed – one of those was in Aiken.

South Carolina, already known for having some of the highest crime rates in the nation, still sees Aiken with 26% higher violent crime rates.

The rate is also 50% higher than the national average.

Gang activity is believed to be the driving force behind much of the crime here.

The only silver lining is that just 9% of violent crimes over the past five years have been against strangers, while 54% of all crimes happen in private homes.

Sheriff Michael Hunt said, “There’s no doubt that this senseless violence is the result of gang members who have no regard for the sanctity of life.”

“They’ve tried to break windows in my house.

They will steal things out of the yard that don’t make no sense.

They just don’t care.

They have nothing better to do,” a concerned resident shared with a local television station in 2023.

The theft rate is 117% higher than the national average, with 45% of that being shoplifting.

While stealing items from a store doesn’t seem like a huge threat, in one instance, the shoplifter pushed a woman trying to stop him so hard that the woman died at a hospital later that night.

Nearly one-third of all thefts are related to car break-ins or accessory thefts.

The problem only gets worse in Augusta and the other counties that make up the CSRA.

It’s not just the crime that makes this city risky to visit.

It’s also the fact that the people committing the crimes (as the sheriff said) don’t care who gets caught in the crossfire.

In some evaluations, Aiken is among the top 15 most dangerous American cities.

If you are visiting Aiken, use big-city, relentless attention to safety details, and don’t get in the middle of any argument happening.

Try to travel only during the daytime and only to places you know to be safe.

How Does Aiken Compare?

CitySafety Index
Aiken57
Orlando64
Las Vegas62
San Francisco61
Philadelphia60
Houston59
Atlanta58
Manama (Bahrain)54
Tianjin (China)67
Brussels (Belgium)60
Shanghai (China)66
Belize City (Belize)37
La Paz (Bolivia)52

Useful Information

Visas

Visas

International visitors need to check with the U.S. State Department website to see if they need a visa or can get a much more efficient visa waiver (VWP). The VWP allows tourism or business guests to stay in the U.S. for up to 90 days without a visa. A valid passport is also required, regardless of the type of visa.

Currency

Currency

You can only use the US Dollar here, and I'd carry as little cash as necessary in this city. Use credit cards for purchases, let your bank know you'll be traveling and ask if you can set purchase limits so that charges will be declined in the event of a theft.

Weather

Weather

You'll get mild winters and nice fall and spring here, but the summers will be incredibly hot and humid. Bring a jacket for winter, but you likely won't need gloves or a thick coat. Bug spray is necessary when the temperature is about 40°F.

Airports

Airports

Augusta Regional Airport is about 30 minutes away from Aiken. I landed once at Augusta and was 95% convinced I was landing in someone's backyard - it was just a very small airport. The larger Atlanta airport is three hours away. Columbia, South Carolina's airport is about an hour northeast.

Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is a smart investment to mitigate the financial risks of medical emergencies, trip cancelations, lost baggage, and other unforeseen events.

Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Aiken Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan 8° C
Feb 10° C
Mar 14° C
Apr 18° C
May 22° C
Jun 26° C
Jul 28° C
Aug 27° C
Sep 24° C
Oct 18° C
Nov 13° C
Dec 9° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
141721263033343330252116
Low
°C
1261014192120171152
High
°F
576370798691939186777061
Low
°F
343643505766706863524136

South Carolina - Safety by City

CitySafety Index
Aiken57
Beaufort67
Charleston70
Clemson76
Columbia68
Folly Beach68
Fort Mill78
Gaffney68
Greenville81
Hilton Head Island79
Isle of Palms81
Manning47
Mauldin77
Mount Pleasant78
Myrtle Beach65
North Augusta70
Orangeburg62
Pawleys Island82
Rock Hill63
Spartanburg48
St. Helena Island78
Sullivan’s Island80
Summerville78
Travelers Rest77
Walterboro68
West Columbia65

Where to Next?

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