Alabama : Safety by City
- Gulf Shores
- Muscle Shoals
- Phenix City
Birmingham, Alabama sits in the center of the state but has been taken over as the largest city by Huntsville to the north and Montgomery to the south.
It’s known as the Magic City for its impressive growth during the early 1900s, but in recent years it has actually lost a sizable portion of its population.
B’ham, as people too lazy to write the whole word out, is a mix of Southern hospitality, a Civil Rights cornerstone, and a bustling city of industry and tourism.
You’ll hear “Roll Tide” a lot here as people are devout Alabama fans, but then there’s also “War Eagle” for Auburn fans to respond.
College football is a way of life here, and if you don’t care either way, just respond with the same phrase to the person who said it to you.
The tourism bureau here has attraction passes that cover several days and different categories and cities.
You can stick to B’ham or choose to visit Tuskeegee, Montgomery, and Selma too.
There’s also a family fun pass for those traveling as a group.
This is a religious town with Christianity dominating the landscape.
Sundays are church days, so you might find restricted hours or closed businesses on this day.
Everyone is welcome to attend church and you might even get invited to lunch afterward.
Warnings & Dangers in Birmingham
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
Birmingham neighborhoods are sort of hit-or-miss with safety, but as with most American cities, the city is facing an increase in gun crime. Because of the growing rate and high crime statistics from 2021, there's a medium risk here.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
MAX Transit is the public bus system here. Taxis and rideshares are easy to find and rental cars are available at the airport and throughout the city. There's a low risk overall, but use extra caution at bus stops and while riding the bus, as pickpocketers are known to be looking for a crime of opportunity.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk, especially during the holidays, on public transit, and in crowded areas. You should keep your purse or wallet secured somewhere out of sight on your body. A zippered purse is harder for a pickpocket to reach into.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Alabama is known for its tornadoes, and people still talk about the April 2011 series of tornados across the state. Flooding and severe thunderstorms are also possible. Occasionally there might be a snow or ice storm in the winter. Hurricanes can ride up the spine of Alabama, generally being reduced to a tropical storm before they hit. These tropical systems spawn more tornadoes and can dump large amounts of rain.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
The robbery rate is 55% higher than the national average, but generally, you won't be a robbery victim if you're only visiting tourist areas during the day.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's a lower risk here than there might be in Huntsville or Mobile, and there aren't any military bases in the immediate area. The city is home to 200,000 people, which isn't large enough to make it a target right off the bat.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
An elaborate scam involved a fake contracting company, and a recent scam involved scammers pretending to be with the local police, but none of these would impact a tourist.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
The sexual assault rate here is actually lower than the national average. There's a lot of shopping and sites to see here with fun outdoor areas to explore. If you stick to being out during daylight hours and avoid walking around alone at night, you have a low risk. After dark, the risk goes up.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
Birmingham Water Works shows full compliance in the 2022 Water Quality Report.
Safest Places to Visit in Birmingham
You can actually see an attraction on your way out of the airport.
The Southern Museum of Flight is part indoors and part outdoors, with exhibits from several different wars.
You can see Korean War Jets, artifacts from the Tuskeegee Airmen, and the helicopters of Vietnam, just to name a few.
The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute has several permanent along with traveling exhibits that walk you through the past challenges and triumphs of the civil rights movement while still keeping the dialogue going on how to have a more diverse and inclusive future.
Human Rights exhibits are here too.
Note for parents bringing young children – there are some hate crime weapons and KKK costumes here, so decide before you go what is appropriate for your children.
The Negro League Southern Museum is a way to explore America’s favorite pastime through the eyes of the African Americans who played in the distinct league for years.
The league ran from 1920 through 1951.
This is a free attraction.
The Birmingham Zoo takes you through several lands in just one location.
Visit the Alabama Wilds or explore the Trails of Africa.
You can also pay a little extra to get a one-on-one experience with a sea otter or elephant.
Check the schedule of events as some special events happen on weekends, like a live reptile feeding.
Oak Mountain State Park is just south of B’ham and includes the Alabama Wildlife Center on-site.
There are more than 50 miles of trails for mountain biking or hiking.
It’s versatile enough to include a morning of golf followed by an afternoon at the beach.
Peavine Falls is a great spot with a waterfall and wading pool to cool off on a hot summer’s day.
Just outside the park is the Oak Mountain Amphitheatre, with a great spot for summer concerts.
I saw Train there about five years ago.
The sun was setting behind the stage during the opening acts.
It was just such a magical night.
Don’t miss a chance to drive up the mountain to Vulcan Park.
The sweeping city views are just amazing, and you’ll want a picture or two of Vulcan – the god of fire and forge, to celebrate the city’s industrial roots.
Places to Avoid in Birmingham
Crime distribution maps show a very spread-out crime pattern, with one neighborhood having a lot of crime and just a few streets over there are low crime rates.
As someone who has spent a good deal of time in Birmingham and neighboring Hoover, I can’t say I’ve ever felt unsafe, but I’ve also not been outside at night aside from a concert at the amphitheater.
Historically, the west of I-65 is more dangerous than anywhere else.
There are parts of downtown that are very walkable and enjoyable, and some industrial areas (where you shouldn’t be anyway) are more sketchy.
Also, people in Birmingham are tired of talking about “how dangerous” Birmingham is.
The crime trends are increasing in many key categories based on the national problem of gun violence.
There is a nearly 25% poverty rate in Birmingham, leading to more crime as some people get pulled into a life of crime to make ends meet.
Avoid going to VisitBirmingham.com to get a list of activities to do here.
I was five minutes into my research, even though I’ve been to B’ham a dozen times in my life, and was amazed by all the things that have happened since my last visit.
Turns out, it was Birmingham in the UK.
For Birmingham, Alabama, you’ll need to visit Birminghamal.org/visit.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Birmingham
- Birmingham Police Department (BPD) has an app you can download to get a direct line to officers. You can submit crime tips, ask questions, and see social media posts. This isn’t a substitute for 911, but it’s a great tool when visiting a new city.
- BPD also has crime statistics issued each week showing the crime rates from the past year and year-to-date by the city total and the separate precincts.
- Sign up for emergency alerts through Jeffcoema.org. This will get you severe weather alerts for the various weather events that could happen here.
- Review a list of “storm-safe” places in the community. These are businesses that sign up to be designated places to go in the event of severe weather, like a tornado warning. You should also ask your hotel where the tornado shelter is located.
- Alabama has an Anti Road Rage law that prohibits cars from being in the far left lane unless passing, and you must move to the right if you haven’t passed another vehicle for the previous mile and a half of travel. The goal of this law is to limit the frustration that faster drivers get when stuck behind slower vehicles in the passing lane.
- You might be surprised to learn that Birmingham has guidance on handling tropical weather since it’s more than four hours from the coast. Hurricanes here can travel right up the center of the state. Yes, they weaken in strength as they move over land, but can spawn additional tornadoes and drop immense amounts of rain. You’ll rarely see anyone in Birmingham too worried about it. I was a few hours south in Montogmery for a trip, and I got there the day before a tropical storm was supposed to hit. Nothing was boarded up, and the nightlife was full-steam ahead. However, the vast majority of people here know what to do when a tropical storm comes, so you should too.
- ALGO Traffic (Alabama Go Traffic) is a great website to see road construction projects throughout Birmingham and all of Alabama. There is a LOT of road construction in the state, and it’s especially busy during spring and summer.
- Anglers need a non-resident fishing license here. You can purchase it online or at various locations throughout Birmingham. All the rules and requirements are listed on OutdoorAlabama.com.
- Sloss Furnaces is a National Historic District site and an industrial museum, but if you’re visiting around Halloween, it also turns into a fearful furnace haunted house.
- No, you aren’t seeing things. The Vulcan statue really isn’t wearing pants, and yes, those are his sculpted buttocks above you, about the size of a greyhound bus.
So... How Safe Is Birmingham Really?
Crime rates dropped in 2020 during the pandemic but bounced back in 2021 and continue to grow in 2022.
During the first few days of July, there were 13 homicides in the city.
2021 ended with 132 homicides in the city, a 25-year high.
The homicide rate here is nearly 10X higher than the national average.
While the police department doesn’t give data that breaks down the victims of crimes, there are plenty of gang-on-gang crimes.
The police feel handcuffed themselves with enough of a budget or community help to hold criminals accountable.
Community policing programs aim to help connect communities with officers, but when witnesses are too scared to speak up about violence, it poses an ongoing threat to this Southern community.
“Timely information, reporting, and a willingness to assist when necessary is key to reducing crime in each community,’’ Birmingham Police Chief Patrick Smith told AL.com.
“If you see something, say something.
You cannot remain silent.
We are losing lives.”
Even when tourists aren’t targeted, these murders and violent crimes happen in public places – a park, a convenience store, the middle of the road, etc.
You should use all the safety precautions you know by heart as if you were visiting the heart of Chicago.
This city is dangerous, but there are pockets of safe and enjoyable areas.
It’s best to avoid the city after dark if you haven’t done enough research to know the places to avoid based on the most recent crime data.
How Does Birmingham Compare?
- Visas - A U.S. Travel Visa will cost $160, and a Work Visa is $190. You'll need an in-person interview at the U.S. Embassy in your home country, so plan ahead.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here and avoid carrying cash. Many of the main attractions are available for purchase online, which is a smart way to avoid having to pull out your wallet.
- Weather - A mix of jeans, t-shirts, sweatshirts, and a rain jacket will get you through most of the year. Winter will require a coat, but not every day. Summers are really muggy, so bring light-colored and loose-fitting clothing. There is just no way to avoid sweating here.
- Airports - Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport is just six miles from downtown and off a major interstate. It's very easy to access, I can tell you, as I've flown out of there several times.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance, especially for any valuables you carry, is essential here. Also, ensure you know the severe weather policy for delays and cancellations.
Birmingham Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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