Is Beaufort Safe? Crime Rates & Safety Report

Updated On March 25, 2024
Beaufort, United States
Safety Index:
67
* Based on Research & Crime Data

Welcome to the “Queen of the Carolina Sea Islands” in Beaufort, South Carolina.

Stepping into Beaufort feels like entering a living museum.

Charm drips as much as Spanish moss from the trees in this community of more than 13,000.

The idyllic downtown blends modern flair with Antebellum historic homes and water views of the Beaufort River on three sides.

The Woods Memorial Bridge is another piece of history, but it also is a movie star – being the bridge Forrest Gump ran across during his “I just felt like running” adventure.

One of the best parts of this Southern section of coastal abundance is the cultural blends.

You get the idyllic beauty of the South, with an important history of the Gullah/Geechee culture dating back to the early days of slavery and the pristine beaches of the Carolina coastline.

As a Nicholas Sparks fan, I was excited to learn more about Beaufort.

However, that’s Beaufort, NORTH CAROLINA.

The main thing you can take from that is this – South Carolina’s Beaufort is pronounced “beyw-fert” with the same sound as the word “beautiful” in the first syllable.

In North Carolina, the name is spelled the same but pronounced “Bohw-fert,” (as in bow and arrow).

Warnings & Dangers in Beaufort

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK: LOW

Beaufort has a low risk but a wobbly crime rate that can push toward medium in some respects. Stick to the areas we're talking about in this article, and you'll likely not see that side of the city.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW

Check out the routes of the Palmetto Breeze, which goes throughout the Lowcountry. You might find some great options even though the city is walkable. It will connect you to nearby communities. Taxis and rideshares are an option, but they might not be as available as you're used to. A rental car would provide the most flexibility.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK: MEDIUM

About 3-4 pickpockets or purse snatchings a year are reported, which isn't a huge concern, but the overall theft rate is enough to bump this to a medium risk. Standard safety steps will alleviate most risks.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM

You need to pay close attention to the weather, especially from June through November when the hurricane season is underway. Flooding, storm surge, and severe thunderstorms are also risks year-round. This is a medium risk, especially since so many things to do here are based outdoors.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK: LOW

Robbery rates were two to five times higher a decade ago. Thirteen robberies were reported in 2023, with six in 2022. Most are robberies of stores or homes, but use extra caution at night.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK: LOW

This is a low risk, as it's a small town in a series of small coastal towns. You can check the overall terrorism concerns through the Homeland Security Department's Terrorism Advisory Bulletin.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK: LOW

I would strongly recommend doing a Google News search for scams in Beaufort and checking the local law enforcement websites and social media pages. It seemed at every corner of my research there was some kind of new scam, including one where thieves waited for people outside a bank and followed them - hoping to break into their cars at the next stop and steal the cash they just got from the bank.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW

Nothing in the crime data or news reports suggests women are at any greater risk. Just use standard safety steps, knowing this isn't the safest of small towns, but it's also nowhere near the most dangerous.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK: LOW

The risk is low with no violations reported in the latest water quality report. Flooding and tropical weather can cause water quality issues that lead to boil orders, but that would be overly communicated if it happened during your visit.

Safest Places to Visit in Beaufort

When researching Beaufort activities, always confirm you’re looking at the South Carolina town, as North Carolina has a Beaufort as well.

The two cities are 380 miles apart.

The tourism websites aren’t that different, but you’re looking for beaufortsc.org.

You can also look up the Beaufort South Carolina Chamber of Commerce.

Beaufort’s downtown is also a historic district, but several different sections cater to different attractions.

Bay Street wraps around the waterfront with charming shops and restaurants – the most likely section of the city.

Just northeast of there, Old Point is the place to explore to see those stunning Antebellum homes of a bygone era.

Several historical stops are here, with water views facing Lady Island.

Other tree-lined streets with various eras of homes await in the Bluff, Old Commons, and along Bladen Street.

Tour companies by boat, carriage, or bus are also available to scope out the scenery.

In the middle of it all is Beaufort National Cemetery, which dates back to the Civil War era.

The meticulously maintained grounds provide a peaceful setting for reflection.

To enjoy the river views, hang out at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park.

The park features walking paths, picnic areas, and a playground.

Look for the swing by the water near Bay Street and Hamar Street.

Located in the historic Arsenal building, the Beaufort Historical Museum showcases history and culture through exhibits, artifacts, and multimedia displays.

You can also pick up self-guided historical walking maps here.

At the Kazoo Factory, explore the museum and take a factory tour.

Visitors can learn how kazoos are made and even create their own custom musical instruments.

Check out our article on St Helena Island for things to do there, including the Penn Center, which is housed in one of the country’s first schools for freed slaves.

It’s one of the most important African American history and culture museums in the United States.

Places to Avoid in Beaufort

Since Beaufort isn’t that big, it’s hard to say there’s one part of town more dangerous than another.

In addition, crime rates fluctuate hard here from year to year, so the hot spot could change from when I’m writing this to your visit.

Considering how much tourism plays into the economy, sticking to the historic areas, downtown district, and amenities will be the safest play.

Avoid going through various neighborhoods if you don’t have a reason to be there.

Two of the Walmarts in the area have seen spikes in crime over the past few years, but that’s also a nationwide trend.

I don’t think you should avoid the store, but definitely go during the daytime and stay aware of your surroundings.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Beaufort

  1. Beaufort has a local police department. You can follow them on Facebook @Beaufortpolice to get updated crime information. Feel free to email them at SocialPD@cityofbeaufort.org or call (843) 322-7900 with specific safety questions.
  2. Beaufort County has an emergency alerts system that you can register for through the Everbridge app. They also share information through Facebook, NextDoor, X (Twitter), and the online Storm Center. You need to stay aware of weather risks here.
  3. At the same time, sign up for Notify Me alerts through the city of Beaufort. The county alerts might tell you that a storm is approaching, while the city alerts might remind you that the bridge is closed due to high winds from that storm.
  4. If you’re visiting during the hurricane season, please keep an eye on the National Hurricane Center website and social media pages. Also, learn about your evacuation zones through the county website.
  5. Another way to get alerts about local crimes, traffic incidents, or other public safety hazards is through Nixle. This is a free program that will display police activity in a quick summary with an address. As a journalist, I use Nixle often to track down a news story, but it’s available to everyone.
  6. All anglers are required to have a fishing license from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. You can purchase that online or at local outfitters. In this part of the state, you’ll want a saltwater fishing license. That will cover shelling and clamming.
  7. Woods Memorial Bridge in Beaufort has been plagued with problems over the past few years. I’d strongly recommend always having a backup route to cross over to the islands.
  8. The Lowcountry of South Carolina is alligator country. Anytime you see a lake or a pond, you should assume alligators are there. In the spring, they’ll frequently be seen sunning themselves on the banks. Don’t ever feed or approach an alligator. Stay away from the edge of the waters, and don’t walk small pets along the banks, either.
  9. Coyotes are known to roam South Carolina and have a particularly unsettling presence in the waterfront areas. While most will want nothing to do with a human, if they have been fed or acclimated to humans, they won’t fear you. Back away from coyotes, but don’t run, and if they start to approach, make a lot of noise.
  10. Before heading to any beach, check the SC Department of Health website for the beach’s water quality status. Algae blooms or other toxins can make the beaches dangerous for swimming.

So... How Safe Is Beaufort Really?

Beaufort’s crime rate is a little all over the place, leading to one snapshot potentially causing a wrong impression, both for better and worse.

For example, in 2022, Beaufort’s violent crime rate was below the state and national average by up to 33%.

In 2023, it was above the national average by 6%.

Considering that South Carolina has a higher crime rate than the national average, Beaufort falls a comfortable 11% lower than that.

Then you look at homicides in 2023 – 5 in a year.

It is a lot for a town of 14,000 people.

In fact, it’s more than five times higher than the national average.

Yet between 2020 and 2022, just one homicide was reported.

The one thing I like least about the violent crime rate here is that more than 75% of them happen outside private homes in 2022.

One-quarter were in parking garages or parking lots.

About 26% were against strangers in the past five years, which provides a little bit of comfort for visitors.

At the same time, 41% of those crimes happened in homes over the past five years.

Theft is out there, ranking 81% higher than the national average.

That’s fueled by 40% shoplifting and another 25% being car break-ins or accessory thefts.

Only about one car theft happens a month, but you really need to lock your car doors here.

In a larger snapshot, Beaufort County officials admit violent crime is a growing problem.

The biggest roadblock is community members who have information but won’t speak up.

“It’s amazing how so many people could be in the yard or in the home itself and that 20 to 50 shots were fired… No one knows why.

No one knows who.

No one knows anything,” Sheriff P.J. Tanner said.

“It’s so important to get that information early on.

That way, we can actively go and start tracking what that information would lead us to.

Right then and there.”

To add more head-scratching, the connecting community of Port Royale is listed as one of the safest cities in the state.

The bottom line is this – Beaufort isn’t an inherently dangerous city, but it’s nowhere near the safe, small-town Southern community you’d expect.

Common sense and situational awareness will go a long way.

Plus, there are plenty of safe places to visit away from the underbelly of the community.

How Does Beaufort Compare?

CitySafety Index
Beaufort67
Las Vegas62
San Francisco61
Philadelphia60
Houston59
Atlanta58
St. Louis58
Brussels (Belgium)60
Shanghai (China)66
Belize City (Belize)37
La Paz (Bolivia)52
Sao Paulo (Brazil)45
Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)43

Useful Information

Visas

Visas

International travelers need a visa or visa waiver combined with a passport that isn't within six months of expiring. You can find the information to get started on the U.S. State Department website.

Currency

Currency

Only the US Dollar is accepted in the United States. Normally, I'd tell you to use credit cards for everything, but some of the island communities might only accept cash at certain places, like seafood shacks. Get cash from your home bank or use an ATM before you get to Beaufort.

Weather

Weather

You're gonna get great weather here... for spring and fall. Winters lean to the mild side of cold-ish (well, cold for the Carolinas at times), and summers are hot and humid. Dress casually in fabrics that can handle a lot of sweat, and bring a jacket or hoodie for evenings. You'll want water shoes and/or boat shoes, plus bug spray by the gallon.

Airports

Airports

Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport is about an hour away. Charleston is about 90 minutes in the other direction.

Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is crucial for international visitors exploring South Carolina's coast, providing peace of mind against unforeseen emergencies like medical issues or trip interruptions. Also, know if you get deposits or refunds if a hurricane impacts your trip.

Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Beaufort Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan 10° C
Feb 12° C
Mar 15° C
Apr 19° C
May 23° C
Jun 26° C
Jul 28° C
Aug 28° C
Sep 25° C
Oct 20° C
Nov 16° C
Dec 11° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
151721252831333229252116
Low
°C
56913182123232115106
High
°F
596370778288919084777061
Low
°F
414348556470737370595043

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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