Is Brownsville Safe? Crime Rates & Safety Report

Updated On June 18, 2024
Brownsville, United States
Safety Index:
68
* Based on Research & Crime Data

Brownsville, Texas, located at the southernmost tip of the state near the Gulf of Mexico and the U.S.-Mexico border, is the largest city in the Rio Grande Valley and is known for its rich history, cultural diversity, and natural beauty.

Founded in 1848 by Charles Stillman, Brownsville played a significant role in the U.S.-Mexican War and the Civil War, with several historical sites commemorating these events.

The city’s economy has traditionally been driven by international trade, agriculture, and manufacturing, but it has diversified in recent years to include healthcare, education, and tourism.

In this diverse community, you might see the deadly rattlesnake of a rocket launch!

Plus, Brownsville is just a short drive to the beautiful beaches of South Padre Island.

Spring break brings thousands of people to South Texas, and Brownsville is the closest entry point to the Mexican town of Matamoros.

Though before you start planning that across-the-border trip, keep reading.

However, the party keeps going in Brownsville long after the spring break crowds are gone.

This colorful community hosts vibrant celebrations of culture and heritage throughout the year.

Whether you want to sample gulf shrimp, taste a white-hot jalapeño, or dance during Charro Days, there’s always something fun to do in Brownsville.

You might have heard about border town issues in recent years, but there’s a lot of information you don’t know about places like Brownsville.

We’re here to set the record straight!

Warnings & Dangers in Brownsville

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK: LOW

There's a low risk in Brownsville, which is more to say there's an average risk. However, there are a lot of things to do in this city of 185,000 people, so plenty of safe spaces are waiting.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW

The Brownsville Metro has more than a dozen stops on a fixed-route bus system. You can check the schedule on the city's website to see if that fits your needs. Rental cars are widely available, and taxis or rideshares will be easy to find, too.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK: MEDIUM

About 25 pickpockets or purse snatching happen each year, looking back at five years of crime data. Consider that a medium risk and use extra caution, especially considering there's little chance you'll get a wallet or purse back once it disappears into Mexico.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM

The risk is medium due to hurricanes, tropical storms, severe thunderstorms, extreme heat, flooding, and wildfires. Stay weather-aware and never plan outside activities without checking the forecast and having a way to get emergency alerts.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK: LOW

Robbery rates are 25% lower than the national average. About one in three is classified as highway robberies. You can keep this risk low by only carrying what you need and not flaunting valuables or cash. Plus, stay in well-lit, secure areas after dark.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK: LOW

The border challenges make this a medium risk, as drugs, guns, human trafficking, and other illegal activities reach an international level between Brownsville and Matamoros. Always report any suspicious activity and never intervene if you see trouble brewing.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK: LOW

Check local law enforcement social media sites for the latest scams. The local Better Business Bureau office and the state Attorney General’s office will have common scam tactics and protection advice.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW

Statistically, women have a lower risk of being the victim of a violent crime. However, you need street smarts here and should never walk around alone. Use extra caution after dark and don't go to private homes or house parties if you don't know the people who live there. There is an article floating around out there stating Brownsville is one of the least safe cities in the USA for women. The title is a bit misleading, as it's focused more on healthcare and social issues than crime data and real-life examples.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK: LOW

The U.S. has strict standards for tap water per the Safe Water Drinking Act. Communities are required to provide a Water Quality Report (Consumer Confidence Report) once a year by July 1. The 2023 Water Quality Report for Brownsville shows no violations and full compliance.

Safest Places to Visit in Brownsville

The tourism website for Brownsville is visitbtx.com.

BTX is the shortened way to say Brownsville, just FYI.

Search social media for related posts by looking for #visitbtx.

You can download a free tourism guide without having to enter personal information.

The Mitte Cultural District is a hub of arts and culture in Brownsville.

The district includes the Brownsville Museum of Fine Art, the Camille Lightner Playhouse, and the Children’s Museum of Brownsville.

It’s a great place to explore the city’s cultural offerings.

The Brownsville Heritage Trail is a self-guided walking tour that takes you through the historic downtown area.

The trail features numerous landmarks and points of interest, including historical buildings, monuments, and murals.

The Gladys Porter Zoo is a must-visit for animal lovers.

Home to over 1,500 animals from around the world, the zoo is known for its diverse collection and conservation efforts.

The zoo features various exhibits, including the African Savanna, Indo-Pacific, and the South Texas Botanical Exhibit.

History enthusiasts will appreciate a visit to the Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park.

This site commemorates the first major battle of the U.S.-Mexican War in 1846.

Visitors can learn about the historical significance of the battle through exhibits, guided tours, and walking trails.

Located in a restored Southern Pacific Railroad Depot, the Historic Brownsville Museum provides a glimpse into the city’s past.

The museum features exhibits on local history, including the Civil War, the Mexican-American War, and the development of railroads.

The Stillman House Museum, part of the Brownsville Historical Association, is one of the oldest surviving structures in the city.

The museum offers a look into the life of Charles Stillman, the founder of Brownsville, and provides insight into the early history of the area.

Art lovers should not miss the Brownsville Museum of Fine Art.

The museum showcases a variety of works, from classical to contemporary art, with a focus on local and regional artists.

It’s a great place to immerse yourself in the creative spirit of the Rio Grande Valley.

For those who enjoy outdoor activities, Resaca de la Palma State Park offers hiking, birdwatching, and nature walks.

The park is part of the World Birding Center and is known for its rich biodiversity, including numerous species of birds, butterflies, and other wildlife.

The Sabal Palm Sanctuary offers a protected area that preserves one of the last stands of native sabal palms in the U.S.

The sanctuary includes hiking trails, birdwatching opportunities, and a visitor center with educational exhibits.

You can also get to Boca Chica State Park and South Padre Island within 40 minutes.

Another reason to head to Boca Chica Beach is to see the SpaceX South Texas launch site.

Be sure to check beach closures that could happen due to launches.

You can sign up for those messages by texting BEACH to 866-513-3475.

Places to Avoid in Brownsville

Brownsville is a poor town, and it’s not a place you want to drive around haphazardly looking at homes.

The Southmost neighborhood is one of the places to avoid, as it’s one of the most poverty-stricken.

One in four people here live in poverty.

Stick to places that are designed for visitors and offer attractions, activities, or entertainment.

Use main roads and highways to get around.

Don’t take the side streets and avoid even stopping to help people who need roadside assistance.

You never know when a person is setting you up for a robbery or worse.

Most of all, avoid going to Matamoros unless you have an urgent need to visit.

The U.S. State Department lists the entire state of Tamaulipas as a DO NOT TRAVEL region due to cartel violence, kidnappings, murders, and other egregious acts.

The cartels act without punishment there, and it was Matamoros where the four Americans were kidnapped, and two of them were killed as they got in between two rival cartels accidentally.

You can read more information about that travel warning on the U.S. State Department Travel Advisory website.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Brownsville

  1. Brownsville has a local police department. You can follow them on Facebook @BROWNSVILLEPOLICEDEPARTMENT. Specific questions can be asked by email to BPD.PIO@brownsvilletx.gov or by calling (956) 548-7000.
  2. Visit the Emergency Alert Brownsville section of the city’s website to learn about how to sign up for emergency notifications. You can choose to get phone calls or text messages about incoming severe weather, tropical concerns, or public safety threats. By downloading a free app, all the information will be available to you immediately as the alerts come out.
  3. If you aren’t familiar with hurricane risks, safety steps, and evacuation processes, please visit the Texas General Land Office’s website to get all the information you need. It’s important to be aware of the tropics starting in June and running through November. Usually, a storm coming into the Texas section of the Gulf of Mexico comes with plenty of advance notice. Don’t wait until the last minute to start planning for the worst.
  4. Download the P3 Tips app to submit crime tips or report suspicious activity anonymously. You never know when even a small detail about an ongoing investigation can help catch a suspect.
  5. There are alligators in the Rio Grande Valley, and unless they are causing a nuisance, there’s nothing wildlife officials will do about it. Leave the animals alone and never try to feed them. They are mostly found in freshwater sources.
  6. Before you head to the beach, check the Texas Beach Watch website for water quality conditions. Bacteria and other dangerous elements can put certain beaches at unhealthy levels, even when wading in the water.
  7. Fishing requires a license from the Texas Department of Game and Parks. Be sure to get a non-resident license and carry it with you at all times while fishing.
  8. You’ll hear and read the word resaca a lot when researching Brownsville. If you don’t know what that is, I’m here to help. A resaca is only found in Cameron County, where Brownsville is located. The waters are freshwater or brackish and mark a point where the Rio Grande used to flow as it changed course over thousands of years. While they might look like a lake or a series of ponds, they are an ancient formation unique to this area.
  9. Those bodies of water attract a lot of birds, especially since migratory patterns go over this region. Never touch a bird, even if it’s injured. Birds carry a lot of diseases, and you can get sick from even a momentary interaction. Enjoy the views from a distance.
  10. To park in Brownsville, download the Flowbird app. You can find and pay for parking without having to go to one of the kiosks. If you choose to use the kiosks, remember to write down your license plate number, as you’ll need to provide it when you pay.

So... How Safe Is Brownsville Really?

Brownsville is a safe place to visit, with mostly average risks, as you’d expect in any city of nearly 200,000 people.

What really stands out is that Brownsville remains a safe place to visit when one of the most dangerous cities in Mexico is just across the border.

Let’s take a look at the crime statistics from 2023 and the past five years.

Brownsville’s violent crime rate in 2023 was 2% higher than the national average and 7% below the state average.

Over the past decade, crime has increased by 60% while the population has grown by 7% – that’s the biggest concern from my perspective.

Let’s hope that trend doesn’t continue for another decade.

Looking at crime data from 2018 through 2022, 17% of violent crimes happened against strangers, and 40% happened in private homes.

Don’t read that to mean strangers are tourists – it could be people looking for drugs, people who live there, or another assortment of unknown victims.

In one instance, a mechanic on his way home from work stopped to help a stalled vehicle.

As he was looking at the engine, he was attacked, robbed, and had his car stolen.

Car theft is a problem in the Rio Grande Valley and across Texas, for that matter.

Eight cars are stolen a week on average.

The most likely vehicle types to be stolen are GMC, Cadillac, Pontiac, Buick, Chevy, Ford, and Dodge.

I believe it was Harlingen police who told me that vehicles are targeted that can handle the rough roads of the Mexican desert, such as trucks and Suburbans.

Theft rates have dropped 56% over the past decade, but it’s still 17% higher than the national average.

About one-third of those are shoplifting, and another third are car break-ins and accessory thefts, like expensive catalytic converters.

All of this information sort of flies in the face of the “border crisis” being reported nationwide.

Brownsville and Matamoros have dealt with an influx of migrants, at times leading to a state of emergency.

That part is true. However, the issue with migrants causing widespread and reckless crime waves is not true.

“We really don’t have much of an issue in Brownsville,” Brownsville police Commander Robert Martinez said, adding, “As far as the way you try to label it as a war zone, no, that’s not the case here.”

Brownsville and McAllen are the two largest cities in the Rio Grande Valley and the two safest.

How Does Brownsville Compare?

CitySafety Index
Brownsville68
San Diego67
Miami55
Honolulu65
Chicago65
Dallas64
Memphis54
Belize City (Belize)37
La Paz (Bolivia)52
Sao Paulo (Brazil)45
Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)43
Sofia (Bulgaria)73
Siem Reap (Cambodia)63

Useful Information

Visas

Visas

All international visitors need either a visa defining the purpose of the trip (tourist, work, school, etc.) or a visa waiver. The process is the same whether you fly into Brownsville or cross the border. Also, keep in mind that your passport must be valid for at least six months after our trip, or you’ll need to apply for a new one.

Currency

Currency

Only the U.S. Dollar (USD) is accepted in the United States, and most places in Matamoros will accept USD as well. The official currency of Mexico is the Pesos. Plenty of currency exchange locations are in Brownsville, but you'll still get the lowest fees at your home bank.

Weather

Weather

Brownsville is warm to hot throughout the year, with even winters being a balmy 70-something degrees (F) each day. Summer highs are in the 90s, and lows don't get below the mid-70s. Plan for humidity to be thick and uncomfortable at times. Sunscreen must be worn daily to prevent sunburn.

Airports

Airports

Brownsville International Airport (BRO) is on the east side of town, with Avelo, American, and United offering flights to Houston, Dallas, Orlando, and Burbank. Harlingen International Airport is 35 miles north and is slightly larger, with added airlines of Southwest, Delta, and Sun Country.

Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance just makes sense, especially if you're considering crossing the border. You want to have coverage for flight delays, cancelations, storm evacuation, theft, emergency healthcare, and roadside assistance.

Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Brownsville Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan 16° C
Feb 18° C
Mar 21° C
Apr 24° C
May 27° C
Jun 29° C
Jul 29° C
Aug 30° C
Sep 28° C
Oct 25° C
Nov 21° C
Dec 18° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
212326293133343533302623
Low
°C
111316192224242423191512
High
°F
707379848891939591867973
Low
°F
525561667275757573665954

Texas - Safety by City

CitySafety Index
Abilene67
Amarillo65
Austin65
Beaumont51
Brownsville68
Carrollton72
Corpus Christi71
Dallas64
Del Rio68
Dell City81
Denton72
El Paso77
Fort Davis80
Fort Worth77
Fredericksburg85
Frisco84
Garland83
Granbury74
Grand Prairie72
Gruene82
Harlingen75
Houston59
Irving79
Laredo68
Lewisville80
Llano83
Lubbock38
Luckenbach77
Marathon78
Marfa80
McAllen74
McKinney84
Mesquite52
Midland78
Nacogdoches78
New Braunfels83
Plano86
Port Aransas83
Richardson81
San Angelo83
San Antonio53
Schulenburg83
Sherman73
Smithville84
South Padre Island70
Tyler70
Waco61
Waxahachie83
Weslaco68
Wichita Falls68
Wimberley81

Where to Next?

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