Georgia : Safety by City
- East Columbus
- East Point
- Johns Creek
- Peachtree City
- Peachtree Corners
- Sandy Springs
- South Fulton
- Tybee Island
- Warner Robins
Athens, Georgia, is right in the heart of college football heaven and comes complete with small-town Southern charm and the major city of Atlanta less than 90 minutes away.
The city is named after the Greek city of Athens, both in its proper name and nickname.
Known as “The Classic City” for Athens, Greece being a classical learning experience, Athens, Georgia followed suit.
Athens also has its own Panathenaic Stadium of sorts where the Georgia Bulldogs play (only here it’s called Sanford Stadium).
Even without the impressive university of the University of Georgia (UGA), Athens as a city could hold its own.
Tour options range from the historical to the haunted, while attractions take you indoors, outdoors, and on the water
Athens has several distinct neighborhoods, including:
- Downtown: Just across the street from the University of Georgia and filled with vintage, vibrancy, and variety. Day or night, this place is always busy.
- Normaltown: This stylish and eclectic neighborhood is definitely not “normal.” Let your own personal style shine when visiting this district.
- Five Points: A more elegant and charming district with a calmer mood while showcasing 1920s architectural flair.
- Cobbham: When you envision sippin’ sweet tea on a front porch with a breeze blowing through the trees, that’s Cobbham. Eat your way through international cuisine in this chill neighborhood.
- Boulevard: The artsy side of the city with coffee shops so good you’ll forget about Starbucks.
You had better believe the music scene here is hot, as global band sensations R.E.M and the B-52s put this city on the musical map.
Just outside the city, you can explore a national forest or the Savannah River, making Athens a great place to be at the center of everything, yet a world all its own.
Athens is generally referred to formally as Athens-Clark County.
It’s a mixed city/country government and public safety program here.
All data provided in this article summarized the Athens-Clark County region, as that’s how the Census and law enforcement agencies provide information.
Warnings & Dangers in Athens
OVERALL RISK: MEDIUM
Athens just barely has a medium risk, and while the crime numbers support that, there's some context to those numbers that put it at the low end of medium risk. We'll talk about the best safety steps for a tourist, but there's also a lot to do here in safe spaces.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
ACC Transit is the public bus system that runs fixed routes on weekdays and on-demand rides on weekend nights. The bus is free to everyone. You can also get taxis and rideshares. Rental cars are also available. There's low risk with any option, but use extra caution during the game day crowds.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: MEDIUM
A medium-risk here with an average of a dozen pickpockets or purse snatchings reported each year. Again, those game day crowds can make all businesses crowded and streets filled with more people looking for a crime of opportunity. Carrying only the bare necessities and leaving valuables at home is going a long way here.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
Georgia gets a mixed bag of weather, with tornadoes during severe thunderstorms not only possible but probable during certain times of the year. Flash flooding and winter storms are a risk too. While those winter storms are less common, they can be crippling in this region that isn't used to winter weather. Remnants of hurricanes can also snake up the state and drop large amounts of rain at a time.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
Robbery rates have held steady, but are on a downward trend for the past five years. The rate is still above the national average, but it's nowhere near the risk you might experience in certain parts of the Atlanta area. A good awareness of your surroundings and common sense can make this a low risk.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
The only people who want to attack the Bulldogs would be the Crimson Tide of Alabama. There's a low risk here, but going into Atlanta would raise that risk level.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
A dark web bust of fraudulent activity was recently busted in Athens, and there are the typical spoofing or phishing scams. There aren't any direct tourist-related scams, but be aware of any deal that appears too good to be true, especially on game day weekends.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
The sexual assault rate is higher than the national average, but not by a lot. It's a college town, so that means there will be a party vibe. Women are slightly more likely to be crime victims, with 55% of violent crimes in 2020 happening against women. Use the buddy system and don't drink beyond your ability to make smart decisions. You can make this a low risk, but you have to use all the basic safety steps you know. It's easy to let your guard down in such a fun and sociable place.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
The 2021 Water Quality Report shows one violation that was fixed by November 2, 2021. The report also details what was done to fix the problem. The utility promises that "Every hour of every day, certified water treatment operators perform tests throughout the treatment process."
Safest Places to Visit in Athens
Touring UGA is a fun way to spend a morning or afternoon.
You can take a guided or self-guided tour, even if you are just a visitor.
There are more elaborate tours for alumni or prospective students.
While you’re there, check out the Georgia Museum of Art.
Tours are free, but you do need reservations.
Athens is home to 17 historic districts, so you have half a dozen options for which tour you’d like to take.
Again, you can take a guided tour or explore on your own using a free map.
For those who like haunted tours, there are a handful of those available as well, mostly throughout October.
Guided music tours are also available.
Make sure your mobile device is charged because every neighborhood has incredible murals on the walls of the city.
You could fill your Instagram feed with a wide variety of depictions and free-form art gracing the sidewalks.
The State Botanical Garden of Georgia is a perfect place to stop and smell the roses, or azaleas, or fruit trees.
Landscapes from different continents fill the walkways and there’s a Children’s Garden with unique sensory and interactive exhibits for the little ones.
The Sandy Creek Nature Center sits on 225 acres and has a mini-zoo at the visitor’s center.
Historic buildings and wildlife observation areas make this a great way to decompress after a crowded and noisy football game.
I never want to spoil the story behind unique tourist attractions, but be sure to ask about “The Tree That Owns Itself.”
While, yes, it’s just a tree, it’s also an independent entity protected by law and has a great story behind it dating back to 1890.
Places to Avoid in Athens
The highest crime rates are on the east side of the city, but this is genuinely a city where there’s no reason to be in dangerous areas.
Rarely will you accidentally stumble into a bad part of town.
All of the attractions and university events will keep you in safe places with plenty of police presence.
As with any town, walking around at night alone – especially if you’ve been drinking – is risky.
Athens does have a 25% poverty rate, which could lead to more panhandlers, petty crimes, and other crimes driven by desperation.
Game days, again, require extra vigilance because a lot of people come to town with the money, prepared to drink and cheer their way to oblivion.
Nearly 60% of violent crimes happen in private homes, so it’s smart to avoid any house parties.
Those can be quite common on college campuses.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Athens
- Look for the transparency hub on the Athens- Clark County Police Department’s website. You can review crime statistics, traffic/accident data, use-of-force reports, and complaint history. The department is very open with successes and challenges, which can help you learn more about crime trends close to your visit.
- Fridays have the highest number of car accidents, and Sundays have the lowest. Since 2018, 3,450 accidents have happened on Fridays. October is the month with the highest number of car accidents. Even with small-town traffic, game day crowds can make it feel like a big city. Just be patient, respectful, and understanding that people from different states are driving in one place. Getting mad or in an accident isn’t going to get you home any faster.
- The ACC Government website has an “Alerts” section where you can hand-pick the types of alerts you want to get. For example, right now there’s a missing 21-year-old woman. While that’s not a safety risk for you if it was your daughter, wouldn’t you want as many people as possible keeping an eye out? Even if you don’t want to get all of the alerts, the Emergency and Road Alert section will help get you the most urgent information.
- For those drinking on weekend evenings, the ACC Transit offers those on-demand rides we talked about. You order the ride through the Uber app. You can also call (706) 613-3434. Planning ahead will avoid any temptation to drink and drive.
- 41% of all thefts were related to car break-ins in 2020. Always lock the car with the windows rolled up. Put all personal items in the trunk or keep them at the hotel. Game days and crowded university parking lots can be a treasure trove for thieves, especially since some Southern people feel safe in a small town and leave cars unlocked.
- If storms are in the forecast, plan a day of activities indoors. The storms here can turn dangerous quickly, and tornado safety knowledge is imperative. If you hear thunder, that means lightning is in the area and you should go inside. Wait until 30 minutes after the thunder ends before going outdoors.
- When enjoying the outdoor areas of this part of Georgia, plan ahead for bugs. You’ll need bug spray and, ideally, a citrus-scented perfume or cologne. Wear hiking boots and tall socks that cover your ankles. Do a full body scan for ticks when you come back from the outdoors.
- UGA has its own police force and a list of crime prevention and safety tips on its website. If you are touring the campus or visiting a friend, it’s smart to review this list. Don’t try to enter a building on campus with a proper card or you could set off alarms and be detained by campus police.
- If you are renting a car, don’t leave the registration paperwork in the vehicle. Even putting it in the glovebox can be an easy way for a thief to learn more about you. I know I have a bad habit of doing this, and I really need to avoid it for future trips.
- Athens has downtown parking available on the street and in parking garages. For game days, you can expect to pay around $40 for parking. Reserve a spot in advance by calling (706)613-7978. You can also choose to rideshare to the game and back. Downtown is also very walkable and bikeable if you don’t want to deal with traffic on the roads.
So... How Safe Is Athens Really?
Athens is a city with above-average crime rates.
Violent crime is 30% higher than the national average.
Theft rates are 27% higher, but keep in mind that 41% of thefts are related to car break-ins.
The crime problems aren’t just running amok.
Police recently teamed up in a multi-jurisdiction crackdown called “Operation Washout Classic City.”
Nearly 50 arrests took 13 gang members off the streets and helped fight the drug problem that plagues U.S. cities.
“The Athens-Clarke County community will not tolerate violent crime and criminal street gangs.
The Athens-Clarke County Police Department is committed to protecting the citizens of Athens-Clarke County and Operation Washout Classic City is an example of what we can achieve when federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies work collaboratively, with a unified goal of removing violent, repeat offenders from our community,” said ACCPD Interim Chief of Police Jerry Saulters.
That proves that even with the ongoing crime in the city, police will take unprecedented steps to fight it.
Here’s how the risks break down in Athens as of 2020:
- Violent Crime: 1 in 179
- Robbery: 1 in 1,063
- Theft: 1 in 45
Only 8% of violent crimes happened against strangers, which significantly lowers the risk of a random violent attack.
Don’t let that information cause you to be careless.
Research indicates, and many social forums back up, that using basic common sense, trusting your gut instincts, and following safety precautions goes a long way in this charming Southern college town.
How Does Athens Compare?
|Siem Reap (Cambodia)||63|
|Phnom Penh (Cambodia)||61|
|Niagara Falls (Canada)||87|
|Buenos Aires (Argentina)||60|
A U.S. Travel or Work Visa is required to get into the United States. A visa doesn't guarantee you access, so be compliant as you go through Customs where Homeland Security and Border Patrol will talk to you. You can store your visa away when you arrive as you won't need it again until you go home. Your passport will be needed as identification if you want to go into a bar. The drinking age is 21 years old here.
You can only use the U.S. Dollar and don't carry a lot of it around with you. Credit cards are widely accepted.
Sweatshirts, t-shirts, jeans, and tennis shoes are common staples in this section of the South. You might need a winter coat or warm jacket, but it won't be required at all times. A rain jacket is going to be helpful, and in summer bring bug spray and sunscreen.
The best option is to fly to Atlanta and drive to Athens. It's about a 90-minute commute. In two hours, you can also get to Greenville/Spartanburg airport in South Carolina, or Ashville, North Carolina's airport.
You'll want travel insurance that includes protection in the air and on the road. Make sure you know how severe weather delays or accidents are covered.
Athens Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
|Temperature / Month||Jan||Feb||Mar||Apr||May||Jun||Jul||Aug||Sep||Oct||Nov||Dec|
Georgia - Safety by City