Missouri : Safety by City
- Blue Springs
- Cape Girardeau
- Creve Coeur
- Jefferson City
- Kansas City
- Lee’s Summit
- Maryland Heights
- New Madrid
- Poplar Bluff
- St. Charles
- St. Joseph
- St. Louis
- Ste. Genevieve
Cape Girardeau is a charming city located in the southeastern part of Missouri, but you can just call it the “Cape” or “The Cape” because everyone else does.
The name is French, pronounced “Ghir-are-doe,” and you’ll find those influences in the dozens of historic sites along the Mississippi River.
Paired with a trip to Ste. Genevieve, an hour north, there’s an international experience nestled into this nook of southeast Missouri.
Cape Girardeau is a fantastic destination for nature lovers.
You can enjoy the scenic beauty of the Mississippi River by taking a riverboat ride or a bike ride along the riverfront trail.
The city is also home to several parks, including the Cape LaCroix Recreation Trail and the Cape County Park.
Something might feel familiar as you walk around this city, and that’s because the hit movie Gone Girl with Ben Affleck was filmed here.
Watch the movie (again) before you visit, then take the scenic driving tour to visit the most filmed locations.
Cape Girardeau has a vibrant arts scene, and you can experience the city’s creative side by attending a show at the River Campus, a performing arts venue that hosts a variety of productions throughout the year.
You can also explore the many galleries and art studios in the city.
This is also a lesser-known wine country, with options from river bluffs to rolling hills secluded from major highways and cities.
You can also get the excitement of a Las Vegas at the riverfront Century Casino.
Warnings & Dangers in Cape Girardeau
OVERALL RISK: LOW
I'd say Cape is teetering on the edge of low and medium risk, but that's mostly a statistical designation. If you're practicing standard safety steps and staying in the entertainment districts, parks, and river attractions, it's a low risk.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
Cape Girardeau Transit Authority (CTA) provides public transportation, but don't expect it to be a robust system in a town of 40,000 people. Taxis and rideshares are available, but a rental car will be the best way to explore.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
Over the past five years, the city averaged eight pickpockets a year. That's a low risk but watch your car. There's a higher risk that it will be broken into if you leave it unlocked or keep valuables in plain sight.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: LOW
The weather risks here run throughout the year and can be extreme—tornadoes, blizzards, flooding, and extreme temperatures. All risks come with plenty of warning, but you don't want to risk being caught outside in a severe storm, especially in spring when tornado season starts.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
We'll dive into this topic more later on, but the risk is low, and that's not something I could've said a decade ago. You should still watch your back, but that's sage advice in any city.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
This city isn't an international terror target, but random acts of domestic terrorism can happen anywhere. The Homeland Security Department issues Terrorism Advisory Bulletins a few times a year. Sign up for those to get the latest risks and concerns before your visit.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
The majority of fraud cases in 2022 involved credit card or ATM fraud. Protect your PIN and keep your receipts. You can search the police department's Facebook page for the latest scam reports, but most of them focus on residents.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
Women should use caution here, especially in the nightlife area. As a college town, there's a good amount of nightlife, which comes with its own risks. Just don't walk around at night alone, and you should be fine, as long as you're not wearing expensive jewelry or flaunting your new Apple Watch or Google Pixel Camera.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
The 2021 Water Quality Report shows no violations and full compliance. That report is helpful for learning about overall water quality, but it won't detail issues like the September 2022 water main break that forced a boil order for the entire city. Use social media sites for the city and police department to see if there's a risk during your visit. The boil orders are usually done out of an abundance of caution after low water pressure or a leak.
Safest Places to Visit in Cape Girardeau
VisitCape.com is the official tourism site for the city, showing just how much the town refers to itself without the “Girardeau.”
I grew up nearby, and it’s amazing how many people pronounced the city wrong.
You can download a free travel guide without having to give personal information, and there’s a supplemental newsletter you can opt into if you give your email address.
Cape offers several tourist attractions you don’t even have to leave your car to enjoy!
- Gone Girl Driving Tour
- Rush Limbaugh Hometown Tour
- Civil War Driving Tour
- African America History in Cape Tour
- Architecture Driving Tour
Downtown Cape has a rich arts scene, with plenty of galleries to visit.
The flagship art stop is the Art Gallery at the Crisp Museum.
Look for the outdoor sculpture exhibit and the murals along the Mississippi River floodwall too.
Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center is a great place to learn about the local flora and fauna.
There are trails to hike, exhibits to explore, and plenty of opportunities to see wildlife up close.
The Trail of Tears State Park is just 12 miles north of Cape, where you can learn the solemn story of forced Native American migration to Oklahoma.
The views are stunning, but the story is sad.
An interpretive center has artifacts and educational stops, while Lake Boutin offers some of the best fishing in the region.
Another nature stop with history is at Bollinger Mill State Historic Site.
A covered bridge, historic buildings, an old grist mill, and hiking trails offer a unique experience about centuries of expansion in this region.
Head to the riverfront, whether you want to spend time at the casino, soak in the view at the Cape Rock Scenic overlook, or see *riverboats.
*Riverboat tours generally run from St. Louis to Memphis, with a stop in Cape.
River levels, weather, and staffing play a big part in if the tours are held.
Check the tourism site for updates regularly if this is something you want to do.
Places to Avoid in Cape Girardeau
Anywhere south of William Street will take you into a higher crime area but also a lower tourist area, so you likely won’t go there anyway unless you’re visiting loved ones.
No hotels are located in this part of town.
Actually, the places we’ve seen, mentioned above are in the safer parts of town, but that shouldn’t cause you to let your guard down.
Don’t swim in the Mississippi River, as it’s a swift river filled with mud and debris.
The water quality is always poor, and it can be stinky.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Cape Girardeau
- Cape Girardeau Police Department does a great job of updating its social media platforms, using the handle @CapePolice.
- Use the interactive Community Crime Map to search for recent crime trends. The map is updated daily and offers the flexibility to search your own safety concerns. For example, you can search for robberies within a mile of your hotel or car break-ins 1/2 mile from downtown.
- Download the app CapePD Tips to be able to send information about suspicious activity or crimes. This isn’t to be used instead of 911, but say you notice graffiti on a wall. You can use the app to snap a pic quickly, tag the location, and go on with your day.
- The police department posts an annual report summarizing the successes and challenges of the previous year. This is a wealth of information to get an overview from a legitimate source, and there is a lot of outdated information in search engines based on old crime data.
- Any fishing here requires a license from the Missouri Department of Conservation. You can purchase that online and check the seasonal and species limits while you’re there.
- The tourism website has an updated blog, which is a helpful way to find safe and specific events during your visit. Too many cities have “blogs” that are updated just a few times a year, but the charm of a city like Cape is the spirit of community at events like Farmer’s Markets and holidays.
- Outdoor lovers and family groups will love the Play Cape! guide available from the city Parks & Rec Department. This will cover events and activities at all the parks and community centers for the season.
- Spring visitors should expect a lot of road construction. The winters have fluctuating temperatures, so the freeze/thaw cycle can make some pretty gnarly potholes. You can check the city’s website for updated construction activity.
- Cape Girardeau is in the New Madrid Seismic Zone, meaning a major earthquake could do damage here. If you read our article “How Safe is New Madrid for Travel?”, you’ll learn about the great earthquake in the 1800s that devastated this region. That might prompt you to visit the emergency management department for the county, which is a smart idea anyway.
- Many people will ask, “Is Cape Girardeau the South or Midwest?” Technically, it’s the Midwest, but it does have a Southern influence. The lines get blurred in southeast Missouri, where it borders some Southern states. Southerners will not accept Missouri as a Southern state, and Missourians will insist it’s Midwestern, but outside will lump it in with the south. Overall, you’ll get a mix of the best of both worlds. For what it’s worth, I grew up in Missouri and dated a guy from Tennessee. Whenever we’d get into a fight, he’d call me a Yankee.
So... How Safe Is Cape Girardeau Really?
As a data journalist, I review trends and patterns and look for anomalies.
When it comes to your safety, I’ll dig deeper and redo my math when I see something that seems off base.
I had to do that with the Cape Girardeau crime data from 2022, and I’m not the only one.
“I saw some of those numbers, and I went to our crime analyst and asked him to make sure they were right,” Cape Girardeau Police Chief Wes Blair said.
Robberies in 2022 were down 90% compared to 2013.
“Those are the kind of crimes that scare and terrorize the community most—someone comes up to you with a gun or knife and knocks you down to steal something.
To drop that much is amazing,” Chief Blair added in an interview with the Southeast Missourian.
Violent crime has been steady over the past decade, with a few peaks and valleys, but is still 45% higher than the national average.
It is moving in the right direction, and over the past five years, just 16% of violent crimes were against strangers.
Theft is the biggest risk, with 19% of thefts being related to car break-ins or car accessory thefts.
However, most cities see that percentage closer to 30% or higher.
The Cape is a place where you likely won’t find trouble if you don’t go looking for it, and situational awareness mixed with personal safety practices will go a long way.
How Does Cape Girardeau Compare?
|New York City||67|
|Niagara Falls (Canada)||87|
|Buenos Aires (Argentina)||60|
Any international traveler anywhere in the U.S. needs a passport that isn't within six months of expiring. A visa or visa waiver is required. Use the State Department website to start the process with their handy Visa Wizard module. Don't delay because some of the processes are delayed weeks or months.
Only the U.S. Dollar can be used in America, and the lowest exchange fees will be found at your home bank. Try to use credit cards for purchases and avoid cash for the best fraud protection. Let your bank know you'll be traveling and set spending alerts to get notified of suspicious activity.
A robust mix of all four seasons happens here, so pack plenty of layers. Summers will be hot and humid. You'll want clothing you can sweat in without leaving stains and breathable fabrics to make it easier to walk around. Comfortable walking shoes are important. Bug spray and sunscreen should be packed as well. Winter will be cold, so bring a coat, but you might get lucky with a mild spell.
Cape Girardeau Regional Airport has direct flights to and from Nashville, but if you want a larger airport you'll need to drive two hours to St. Louis or three hours to Memphis.
Travel insurance just makes sense when traveling to a region prone to severe weather that can cause long delays or flight cancelations. Being a smaller city, Cape could be one of the first routes to be canceled.
Cape Girardeau Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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Missouri - Safety by City