Mississippi : Safety by City
- Holly Springs
- New Albany
- Pass Christian
Lights, Camera, Canton! The central Mississippi small town of Canton is known for its big part in many Hollywood movies, including the John Grisham favorite A Time to Kill.
The city of 13,000 people lies just 30 minutes north of Jackson, the state capital.
While that’s a short distance it’s a whole different world between the high crime rates of the capital and the quaint streets of Canton.
Canton has a rich history that dates back to the early 1800s when it was founded as a trading post.
The city played an important role in the Civil War, serving as a Confederate stronghold and a site of several battles.
Today, Canton is known for its charming downtown area, which features historic buildings, boutique shops, and a variety of restaurants.
One of the most popular attractions is the Madison County Courthouse, which was built in 1855 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
It’s also a movie star in its own right.
Canton is also home to several annual events, like the Canton Flea Market, which takes place twice a year and features over 1,000 vendors selling antiques, crafts, and other goods.
Another popular event is the Canton Hot Air Balloon Festival, which takes place each October and features hot air balloon rides, live music, and food vendors.
Canton is home to several parks and nature preserves, including the Natchez Trace Parkway and the Ross Barnett Reservoir.
The Reservoir, which is located just south of Canton, is a popular spot for boating, fishing, and hiking.
Warnings & Dangers in Canton
OVERALL RISK: MEDIUM
There's a medium risk based on the police department's lack of transparency with crime data, the proximity to the dangerous city of Jackson, and the media reports of not just crimes but crime prevention tactics being used.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
No public transportation systems run through Canton, and taxis and rideshares will be your only option if you don't have a rental car.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
The risk is low, with a theft rate near the national average, but you should still use standard precautions, especially when visiting during an event or festival when crowds are larger.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
You should treat each season with a medium risk since severe weather can happen anytime. Tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, and flash flooding are all major risks. Winter weather is rare, but even temperatures dipping near freezing can cause water pipes to burst and the power grid to be overloaded.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
The only data we could find from 2021 was from a local newspaper report of four robberies in 2020. That's not a risk itself, but with violent crime rising in Canton, it's always smart to stay aware of your surroundings and limit any flashy valuables or mobile devices.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
This is a low-risk category, as the city is small and remote, offering no hard target for a potential terrorist group. In the South, hate crimes or acts of domestic terrorism could randomly happen. You'll find the latest risks in America through the Homeland Security Department's Terrorism Advisory Bulletin.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
The common utility and residential scams happen here, so by all reports, there is no risk for tourists. However, the poverty rate is more than 30%, which could lead to panhandling or creative scammers coming up with new fraudulent activities. Check the Better Business Bureau regional website before you go.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
The biggest risk for women would be a "wrong place at the wrong time" situation. Many violent crimes happen in private homes, so stay in public places and don't go home or to private events with people you just met. Your lowest risk will be found during the daytime when more people are out
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
The 2021 Water Quality Report has compliance across the board, with no violations or health concerns. Don't let that be enough for your trip. Stormwater, flooding, and other issues can lead to water main breaks that impact water quality. The city will issue warnings when this happens, usually as a precautionary measure.
Safest Places to Visit in Canton
City of Canton, MS, and Canton Tourism are two websites that help plan a trip to this Southern City.
However, Visit Canton is a website for Canton, Ohio.
For nearby cities, explore capitalareatourism.com.
The Welcome Center is on the west end of the Town Square, and you’ll find brochures and ticket options for the different museums and attractions.
Most tour purchases go through this office.
I say this half laughing and half joking, but the website literally does not list the address of the museums and attractions, so you have to call the welcome center.
There is a downloadable walking tour of Canton brochure, which starts at the Trolio Hotel (also without an address, but I managed to find that one – 137 N. Union Street), and the brochure guides you down streets with written instructions but no map.
The museums include:
- History Museum: Covering Canton and Madison County.
- Multicultural Museum: Honoring the lives of African-Americans and the Civil Rights Movement in Canton.
- Freedom House Canton: The home that was a Freedom Home for the Civil Rights Movement and served as a home base for marches and equality efforts.
- Movie Museums: Tributes to the movies shot in the city and some mementos from the films.
- Old Madison County Jail: Exactly what it sounds like, built in 1870.
The massive Canton Flea Market Arts & Crafts Show is held twice a year, in May and October.
Each event is just one day.
The tourism site does have a brochure available with a lot of information, but again, no address.
I was able to find that it spreads through the courthouse square and onto Union Street and Center Street.
Since there’s some important information missing from the website, you can get specific information about the tour, attraction, or event you want to attend by calling 1-800-844-3369 or emailing email@example.com.
Canton has also been listed as one of the best Christmas towns in the country and the top location in Mississippi.
The event runs from Thanksgiving weekend through December 23, with many different activities throughout that time.
Places to Avoid in Canton
Most of what a visitor wants to see is in or near Town Square, so you’ll feel safe in that part of the community.
Without crime data or detailed information, it’s hard to nail down if there are dangerous neighborhoods here.
You should always stick to the main roads and stay out of the neighborhoods.
The main group of hotels off I-55 on the west side of the city are two miles from the courthouse, so you should avoid walking that stretch of roadway at night.
Grab a taxi or drive your car, just to be safe.
For those who do choose to walk the two miles during the day, not every part of the road has a sidewalk, so you’ll need to use the bicycle lane or walk on the grassy part along the road.
If you aren’t coming for the flea market but your travel overlaps, be prepared for large crowds, limited parking, and most of that Town Square space taken up by vendors.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Canton
- Canton does have its own police department with a Facebook page @cantonmspolicedepartment. While neither the website nor the social media page is robust, you can get (very) basic contact information.
- The city has a website section titled “Important Updates,” which is a great starting point to see what’s happening closer to your visit. The only hiccup is that the posts don’t always have dates. For example, a news release about a mandatory curfew isn’t dated to tell you when it begins or ends. I think by now you’re picking up on the fact that Canton organizations and government offices want you to call instead of using social media, texts, or apps.
- You should get the CodeRED app from the county to get emergency weather notifications as storms develop. For those not familiar with severe weather, usually, an advisory is issued, then a watch, followed by a warning (when needed). A warning is the most serious, meaning an imminent weather threat is happening. If you hear tornado sirens or see a tornado warning, seek shelter immediately.
- For those who scoff at the idea that a hurricane could impact a city in Central Mississippi, take a look at the Hurricane Ida section of the city’s website. This information is outdated, but it’s saved there as a template for future storms. You can see just how much the Gulf of Mexico storm impacted the state and Canton.
- If you’re visiting during winter and the temperatures drop, there will be a plea to conserve energy as much as possible. You’ll want to heed this warning since overloading the power grid can lead to rolling blackouts. You can save energy by wearing more layers and keeping the thermostat low, avoiding dishwasher or laundry facilities during peak hours, and not using blow dryers or curling irons.
- Mississippi requires anglers to have a fishing license from the state Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks. In this part of the state, you’ll only need a freshwater license. If you plan to visit the coast, get a saltwater license as well.
- Wear bug spray and/or citrus-scented perfumes and colognes to keep the mosquitoes away. In the humid South, the bugs can really ruin a fun day, especially if you aren’t used to them.
- “When thunder roads, head indoors.” That weather safety saying reminds you that if you can hear thunder, you are close enough to get hit by lightning. Don’t seek shelter under one of the magnanimous trees, as you can still be hurt if that tree gets hit by lighting.
- Use 511 MS to check road conditions before you head into or out of Canton. The app and website offer robust options like checking for construction, real-time traffic updates, or storm damage.
- The pace of life in small-town Mississippi is very slow. For those visiting from a big city, it can be painfully slow to have a conversation or walk down the street. If you try to speed people up, they’ll say, “Bless Your Heart,” and that’s not a good thing.
So... How Safe Is Canton Really?
I really had to do some digging into newspaper articles to find any semblance of updated crime data.
Keep in mind the information provided doesn’t fit the standard format.
That means the amount of information offered was issued under complete police department control.
According to the local newspaper, violent crime increased by 31% from 2020 to 2021.
That puts the average crime rate at 667 crimes per 100,000 people when the national average is 396 crimes per 100,000 people.
Driving under the influence increased by nearly 80%in 2021, likely due to more people on the road after the lockdowns of the pandemic.
“We did see an increase in DUI arrests in 2021.
In 2020, most establishments were closed, and people consumed alcohol at home; therefore, DUI arrests were low,” said Canton Police Community Outreach Officer Pacer Cordry.
“In 2021 the bars and restaurants opened back up, and DUI arrests returned to the usual percentage.”
Shoplifting reports were up 55% in 2021, which is a trend I’ve seen across Mississippi.
While a shoplifting case isn’t a threat to a tourist itself, it does indicate that people capable of theft and deceit are around you.
“The rise in shoplifting may be due to the pandemic.
The loss of jobs and individuals feeling desperate may have led them to make poor decisions to steal,” Cordry said.
Forced burglaries, however, were down by 24%, which Cordry attributed to more people being at home during the pandemic.
Canton isn’t the only Mississippi city that didn’t report crime statistics, and Byram Police Chief Luke Thompson offers this possible reason why.
“Am I surprised?
Some agencies are struggling with manpower issues, and, you know, their crime problem is of such a priority, where an administrative function like statistical reporting is just not a priority for any number of reasons,” Thompson said.
“I think it’s a matter of getting in front of agencies, you know, explaining to our municipal leaders to our county supervisors, to our legislators and saying, hey, you know, this one, this is a mandate, to the information that we collect is incredibly important.”
You should review our article “How Safe Is Jackson for Travel?” before you even think about spending time there.
The crime rate is quite concerning, with no end in sight.
It’s one of the only cities we’ve given a High Risk to in all of our updated reporting.
How Does Canton Compare?
|New York City
|Niagara Falls (Canada)
|Buenos Aires (Argentina)
International guests won't get through Customs or Border Patrol without a passport and visa. You should start the visa process early due to backlogs, but check if you're from a country eligible for a visa waiver.
The U.S. Dollar is the only currency accepted. It's unlikely you'll find a place to exchange currency, and even less likely you'll find an address for it (I'm a little salty about the lack of museum addresses). But seriously, exchanging currency at the airport or at home will get you lower fees and an easy processing time.
You should bring layers because the weather can be temperamental here. Some people joke you can get 2–3 seasons in one day. Wear comfortable walking shoes since there's a lot of ground to cover. Bring a jacket in the winter, but you won't need full winter outerwear. Don't forget the bug spray.
Canton, Mississippi, is serviced by several airports within a reasonable driving distance, including the Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport, about 40 minutes away, and the Golden Triangle Regional Airport, more than two hours to the northeast.
Travel insurance and rental car insurance are important to protect against weather delays and damage, and you should consider supplemental insurance if you don't have coverage in America since out-of-pocket costs can get pricey.
Canton Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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Mississippi - Safety by City