Maine : Safety by City
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- Carrabassett Valley
- Presque Isle/Caribou
- South Portland
Biddeford, Maine, could easily have become a rundown town with remnants of a once booming mill economy.
Through urban planning and community dedication, it’s not a city giving Portland a run for its tourism dollars.
Many tourists might shy away from Maine in the winter with harsh weather and bitter temperatures, but make no mistake about it – this is a four-season state with an abundance of activities to do from the coast to the mountains to the highlands.
Biddeford and its sister city of Saco (“Sack-oh”) are about 20 miles south of Portland on the coast.
While parts of the surrounding York County spread into forested areas, the main places to visit at along the shoreline or the Saco River.
The first human footsteps in what would become Biddeford happened in 1616, leaving a wealth of history and preserved natural areas to explore, on top of urban development and revitalization.
With colonial homes and lighthouse views, you’ll get a quintessential Maine experience in this region.
Another bonus of visiting Biddeford is its proximity to New Hampshire.
You’re just an hour from Rochester, New Hampshire, where you won’t pay a sales tax on any items – ever.
Warnings & Dangers in Biddeford
OVERALL RISK: LOW
While Biddeford is one of the top five most dangerous cities in Maine, it's also important to understand that Maine is the second-safest state in the country. That means even "dangerous" cities are not really all that dangerous by typical American standards. Plus, with a wealth of things to do, you'll never be wandering into potentially dangerous areas looking for something to do.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
Biddeford Saco Old Orchard Beach Transit is the way to get around the city, nearby Saco, and Old Orchard. There are also commuter express routes to Portland. Taxis and rideshares are available but won't be quite as readily available as in other larger cities. Having your own vehicle is the best way to explore. Bonus if you have access to a boat to explore nearby Wood Island.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
This is a low risk, with just one pickpocket reported in 2021. Summers bring the most tourists, so use more caution during that time of year. Limit how much you carry around with you, and always lock your car with no personal belongings in plain sight.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
This is medium but can be elevated to high risk. The main risks are flooding, coastal surges, hurricanes, nor'easters, and severe winter weather. Some people are caught off guard by Maine's winter, but locals know how to handle large amounts of snow while still keeping businesses open.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
This is a low risk, with just seven reported in 2021, and only one of those being a highway robbery. Staying in well-lit tourist areas will lower that risk even more.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
You don't have to worry about this in Biddeford. The closest city to be considered a potential target would be Boston, which is two hours south.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
Even the FBI is warning against rental scams in Maine with nearly $500,000 lost in 2021, it's important to know common scam red flags when renting a vacation property. Never wire money to secure a reservation. Don't send money to foreign bank accounts either, no matter how good the reason is for the international owner. Ask for a real-time home tour and confirm the owner has a rental permit and good references you can verify yourself. Don't want to do all that research? Use a Biddeford travel agent to help you find local rentals; they can do the vetting for a small fee.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
Women are 10% more likely than men to be victims of a violent crime, but only a small percentage of strangers are victims. While the risk is low, three things can make your trip safer. One, using basic personal safety steps as if you were in a large city. Two, understanding the weather risks in the region seasonally. Three, understanding wilderness safety and being prepared before venturing into the wild.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
The 2021 Water Quality Report shows one violation involving turbidity, which impacts the clarity of the water. Once the violation was noted, impacted residents were immediately notified. All other testing was fully compliant with federal standards. One thing you might notice if you're there during winter is being asked to keep the faucet at a drip, so the pipes don't freeze.
Safest Places to Visit in Biddeford
VisitMaine.com is the official tourism site for the state, and there’s a section on Biddeford and Saco.
Since the two cities flank the Saco River, an attraction in Saco isn’t far away at all.
BiddefordSacoChamberofCommerce.org is another tourism site you can use cyber-safely.
Keep in mind that some beaches and attractions will only be open seasonally, which will be from late May through early September.
New attractions across the state will open, like ski resorts, when winter comes.
When people in Biddeford mention “The Pool,” they likely aren’t referring to a swimming pool.
The Pool is a tidal pool that’s near the coast and surrounded by homes and outdoor areas.
The downtown areas of Biddeford and Saco are right across the river from each other, with Factory Island in between.
Biddeford’s Mill District is the remnants of a once-thriving mill industry that has now been revamped and revitalized as an entertainment district.
You’ll find plenty of shops, breweries, and hotels in this artsy corridor with one of the most unique architectural layouts you’ll ever find.
The Biddeford History Museum is also in this area.
Saco’s Main Street is full of history, restaurants, and hotels.
You can tour the Saco Museum to learn about the region before going on a walking tour of the historic districts.
Let’s head to the coast now, with the first we find is Fortune Rock’s Beach.
This beach spans two miles along the ocean and reaches the Biddeford Pool as well.
Parking is limited here, so you might want to have a rideshare pick-up and drop-off.
At the tip of Biddeford is East Point Sanctuary.
You’ll be amazed by the views here during every season and be able to watch birds come and go while searching for fish and food (but don’t feed them anything).
Private homes surround this sanctuary, so don’t go off the marked trails.
From here, you’ll see Wood Island and its famous lighthouse on the horizon, and wish you could go there.
Well, YOU CAN, at least in July, August, and Maine Lighthouse Day in September!
The LightRunner boat will take you the mile-and-a-half to the island, and anyone over the age of 10 can climb to the top.
This is a free tour, but donations are encouraged.
Hills Beach is a potential place for you to find a vacation rental.
It’s near the mouth of the Saco River, where it joins the ocean.
You can watch boats sail in and out of the harbor.
You’ll have plenty of sailing tours at your disposal, including scenic, lobstering, fishing, and lighthouse views (beyond just Wood Island’s).
Whether you want a quick tour or a full day on the water, you have a long list of options.
Check with Broad Reach Sailing as one of the area’s preferred vendors.
Over in Saco, the Palace Playground offers beachside carnival rides, watersides, and games.
A 24,000-square-foot arcade is among the largest in New England.
Get your fortune read at one of the game booths and then relax by the water.
Fireworks are set off every Thursday night.
During winter, local parks offer cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and ice fishing.
About 90 minutes west, you can visit Gunstock Ski Resort, with slopes for all experience levels, night skiing, and snow tubing.
Places to Avoid in Biddeford
Biddeford has a bad reputation among some long-time Maine residents since it’s one of the “more dangerous” cities in the area.
Downtown revitalization is pushing out some of the crime that used to haunt this area.
Just outside of downtown, you’ll find some sketchy neighborhoods.
In an ironic twist, Bacon Street and the surrounding blocks are among the more crime-ridden, but that’s also where the police station is located.
Even though Kennebunkport, another big tourism city, is just 20 minutes away, Biddeford isn’t as affluent.
It’s more of a working-class town.
If you really want to get specific about crime, staying in Saco is slightly safer than staying in Biddeford.
However, take that with the reminder that Biddeford is a more dangerous city in a very safe state.
That means it doesn’t take much crime to get a notorious ranking.
Avoiding visiting here without understanding the seasonal risks.
Know how the tides work, what storm surge is, when to drive in snow or when to stay put.
You should also understand what a nor’easter is and why it’s a much bigger deal than a regular winter storm.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Biddeford
- Biddeford and Saco each have their own police department, but calling 911 will get you to the proper 911 call center. Saco does have a police app available for download. Biddeford police offer an email notification each day with the daily patrol notes.
- Biddeford Police offer what I consider one of the best annual reports I’ve seen. You get safety information plus context of crime data. It helps understand how many strangers (aka tourist) are victims of crimes and even good traffic information. It’s worth the 10-minute read if you have time.
- This region has a lot of private homes near public places. Stay within all parks and trails as you wander. Don’t go onto private property or else you could get a visit from the police and a trespassing citation.
- Street parking in Biddeford is free with time limits. If you want to park in a garage, you’ll need to get a parking permit through Premium Parking’s website. You’ll pay through the app, but you must have your car information to enter for tracking.
- York County averages 15 winter storms each season. There’s a good chance there will be snow on the ground for winter visitors. There is less snow near the coast, but the inches can quickly pile up as you head inland.
- When its flooding, as a hurricane is approaching, or during a nor’easter, the biggest risk to areas on the shoreline is storm surge. Never underestimate the storm surge dangers. Look at the Fort Myers 2022 Hurricane Ian experience to see how bad a storm surge can be. The emergency management plan for York County has great details about all the weather risks.
- Maine requires a fishing license for saltwater and freshwater. Starting your search at the MOSES Hunting and Fishing Licenses website through the Department of Inland Fishers and Wildlife. Non-residents have their own categories of licenses, but not all non-resident licenses are available in each city. It’s smart to purchase it online before you go.
- For those going into the Maine wilderness for the first time, there are recreational safety courses available online for hunting, snowmobiling, and basic survival skills. Review the documents there to get a head start on a fun wilderness adventure.
- While Maine has many black bears, there’s a much lower risk of seeing them near the shoreline or in Southern Maine, where Biddeford is located. If you plan on heading to the mountains, you should study black bear safety, starting with the key phrase “If it’s brown, lie down. If it’s black, fight back.”
- You can help keep Maine safe by reporting any illegal activity you see or learn about during your visit. Poaching is reported to the Operation Game Thief hotline at 1-800-253-7887. Each police department and sheriff’s office has online forms where you can report criminal activity anonymously.
So... How Safe Is Biddeford Really?
Most searches for Biddeford, Maine safety will start with comments about how it’s run down, crime-ridden, and drug-infested.
There is a history of crime here that surpasses most Maine cities and some Maine lifelong residents won’t get go of the stereotype.
But is the stereotype true?
Once upon a time, yes.
When the city was just full of closed mill building, there was more criminal activity.
The revitalization has stamped out some of the issues, but also invited in more thieves and petty crimes.
Here’s information straight from the 2021 Biddeford Annual Police Report, “Historically, 30% to 40% of the MDEA York County arrests and drug seizures occurred in Biddeford.
During 2021, this shifted to other communities.
Only 9% of the MDEA York County arrests occurred in Biddeford.
As would be expected, drug seizures in Biddeford also showed a marked decline.”
Between 2020 and 2021, here are some crime perspectives:
- Simple Assault, Drug/Narcotics, and driving under the influence (OUI) increased.
- Property damage, Larceny/Theft, and Disorderly Conduct increased.
- The majority of crime levels were at or below pre-pandemic crime levels.
Add to that information that nearly 60 people were arrested multiple times, accounting for 20% of the total crimes.
Just 18% of crimes happened against strangers.
20% of all thefts were car burglaries, and just one robbery was on a public street or sidewalk.
Up to 40% of arrests involved someone being under the influence or drugs or alcohol, so avoid situations where that might be happening around you.
Overall, Biddeford and Maine are avoiding the increase in violent crime plaguing many American cities.
We have a robust list of safety articles for different Maine cities and regions to help you plan your trip to the state known as “Vacationland.”
How Does Biddeford Compare?
|New York City||67|
|Niagara Falls (Canada)||87|
|Buenos Aires (Argentina)||60|
The U.S. State Department issues all visas for international guests. You can use the department's website for guidance, but be sure to read it thoroughly because applying for the wrong type of visa will result in a denial, and need to start the process over again.
Across America, you can only use the U.S. Dollar (UDS) as currency. You'll get better value if you exchange currency before you arrive since your bank will charge lower fees than some businesses stateside. If you have currency left over before you leave, many U.S. banks will buy it back for a small fee.
Winters can be brutally cold, so don't let the beautiful beach fool you. Layer up with insulated attire and all the weather accessories to cover your head, ears, and hands. Bring snow boots and thick socks. Spring and fall can still be cold by traditional standards, and it can snow into May. Summers are warm but can have cool nights and mornings.
The Portland International Jetport is 20 minutes from Biddeford. Boston Logan International Airport is about an hour south.
Travel insurance is important when you're visiting a place with such a long, snowy winter to avoid losing money on flight delays or cancelations. Hurricanes can also cause travel problems.
Biddeford Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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Maine - Safety by City