Louisiana : Safety by City
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- Lake Charles
- New Iberia
- New Orleans
Chalmette, Louisiana, has more history than some entire states.
Visitors might only know it from the historic Chalmette Battlefield, open for tours via a steamboat ride, but we’re going to take a deeper dive into this city southeast of New Orleans on the east side of the Mississippi River.
This residential, industrial, and wilderness area is the seat of St. Bernard Parish.
Does that name ring a bell?
The parish (which is the same as a county in other states) was by far the hardest hit during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The entire city was underwater, and it’s just south of the Ninth Ward, which also took the brunt of the monster storm.
The industrial side of the city might make some visitors nervous, as there have been EPA violations and air quality concerns for years.
I’d like to be able to tell you all those concerns have been addressed, but there are still lingering issues.
If you have sensitivities to reduced air quality or pollutants, this probably isn’t the parish for you.
Chalmette and nearby riverfront communities are major ports for the New Orleans region, especially ships too large to make it under the Crescent City Connection bridge.
This is one of the more populated communities before you head into the weaving roads and waterways of the Louisiana coast.
You can get to the southernmost point of Louisiana by car from here, but it will take two hours.
The city’s population is growing, but it’s more of a rebirth than an expansion since Hurricane Katrina caused thousands of people to flee to safety and then find a new place to live.
All but six of nearly 300,000 homes in this Parish were underwater in that storm.
There is no city police department or government.
St. Bernard Parish oversees those aspects of life in Chalmette.
This is a working-class town, with many residents working at the factory or port facilities.
Poverty reached nearly 25% in 2020.
Warnings & Dangers in Chalmette
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk here due to a mixed bag of elements. You have air quality risks, severe weather potential, water on all sides of the city leading to the elevated flooding risk, and poverty-driven crimes. At the same time, Louisiana and New Orleans are facing a staggering increase in homicides and other violent crimes.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
You can use taxis, rideshares, the local bus system, ferries, or car rentals to get around. The safest options would be car rentals, ferries, or taxis/rideshares.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
Thefts have been reduced by two-thirds since 2018, with no pickpockets or purse snatching reports in 2021. You should always use caution, especially when riding public transportation, and limit what you carry with you. While statistically, the risk is low, you should avoid creating a crime of opportunity.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk here with a high risk if a hurricane is heading toward the New Orleans area. This is one of the most vulnerable cities in the already vulnerable region. You don't even have major interstates to get out of Chalmette, and you only have one safe direction to go when a storm is approaching. The St. Bernard Parish Emergency Management website offers safety advice for all the severe weather risks.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
Most of the robberies that happen in this parish are business robberies but don't let that give you a false sense of safety. Even from the time I write this to the time you read this, there was likely an increase in violent robberies in the region. On the flip side, St. Bernard Parish has seen crime drop significantly since 2018.
TERRORISM RISK : MEDIUM
The entire New Orleans area should be treated as a medium risk. While Chalmette wouldn't be a direct target, the port and industrial area could be. With the risk comes higher security standards, but every tip of suspicious activity helps. You can call 1-800-434-8007 if you notice anything out of the ordinary.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
Chalmette's most recent scam involves someone posting a fake and outrageous cry for help, hoping to get people to reach out and offer help. This can lead to requests for money or sharing of personal information that could be used in identity theft. It's important to treat all personal posts with suspicion and let the police know if you need to confirm information from an unknown person.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
While there are a handful of places to visit here, like the historic battlefield, there's little else to do in the city, and walking around the industrial or neighborhood areas at night can be risky. You'll also want to study Louisiana wilderness safety information and don't go into the swamp or bayous alone. Statistically, men are much more likely to be victims of violent crime than women in St. Bernard Parish.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2021 Water Quality Report shows no violations and full compliance with all water standards. The New Orleans area can deal with water quality issues after a flood or due to aging pipes. If you have any concerns about tap water, let it run for 30 seconds to two minutes to see if it clears up. If it doesn't, call the water authority at (504)271-1681.
Safest Places to Visit in Chalmette
VisitStBernard.com and LouisianaTravel.com are two official websites of local tourism authorities.
When you use these sites, you know you’ve got a safe cyber connection to respected and safe attractions.
You can download a free visitor’s guide on the website without offering personal information or requesting a hard copy, but you’ll need to share your name, address, and phone number.
The top place to see here is the Chalmette Battlefield and National Cemetery.
This is the site of the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812.
You can either drive to this location or take a tour boat from the New Orleans waterfront.
I’ve taken the steamboat tour to the battlefield, and you do learn a lot about the Mississippi River and history along the way.
It’s not the most scenic ride, but it’s sure interesting.
There’s a charming 1830s home as the focal point of the battlefield, but you’ll have to stay outside to get the history lessons along the way.
The visitor’s center offers videos and interactive exhibits where you can learn more (and enjoy the A/C if you’re there on a hot day).
Chalmette National Cemetery is a pretty emotional experience with more than 14,000 graves of American troops.
For those who want to enjoy the fun of Bourbon Street with the thrill of a swamp tour, head for the New Orleans Pedal Barge.
You get to tour the region with the power of pedaling, but the engine can also help if you want to relax a bit more.
The tours last about two hours.
Duvalle’s Cajun Charters is a Chalmette-based fishing tour company.
Whether a novice or expert, you can get all the help you need from the local guides, and they’ll help you find the best waters and use the best techniques for saltwater, freshwater, and brackish water.
Old Arabi is just three miles away, bringing a colorful and cultural day trip.
The city was named one of the Prettiest Painted Places in the country, and it’s no surprise when you see the bold colors that envelop the neighborhood.
This is also where the St. Bernard Parish Visitor’s Center is located, so it’s worth the trip for that reason too.
Places to Avoid in Chalmette
The reality is you need to have good situational awareness wherever you are in the New Orleans area.
Chalmette has parts that look pretty nice, or at least pretty new.
That’s because the city was underwater in 2005, and if people wanted to return home, they had to build a new home.
I wouldn’t go driving or walking through the neighborhoods.
Stick to the main roads.
This is a region where if you are looking for trouble (drugs, prostitutes, a fight), you will find it and immediately regret your decision.
Mind your own business and stay in places designed for tourists.
The 9th Ward can be dangerous, and it’s right next door.
Avoid being out at night in this area, especially the industrial areas or riverfront.
There are some parks you’ll see on the map that might look fun to explore, but then you realize you’ll need a boat to get to them.
Do not try navigating your own boat unless you are a skilled driver in swamps and bayous.
Pay the extra money for a tour or charter, so someone else can safely get you there and back.
There are a lot of waterways where you can get lost here.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Chalmette
- Since the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff’s Office covers law enforcement here but doesn’t offer crime statistics just for Chalmette, you might want to call the sheriff’s office before your visit. The public information number is (504)278-7614. The headquarters is also located in Chalmette at 2 Courthouse Square if you want to stop by when you arrive.
- If you see or suspect drug activity, call the Drug Activity Hotline at (504)271-3673. The ongoing drug crisis in this area could use as much help as possible, and sometimes friends and family are too intimidated to ask for help.
- Use a website or app like IQ Air to check daily air quality. You’ll be able to see the health risks and particulates in the air. The toxin Benzene has been reported in the air of Chalmette, and it can cause breathing issues and headaches with long-term exposure causing a risk of cancer. The industrial managers insist the gas emissions meet federal and state laws, even if the levels far surpass the guidelines of the Environmental Protection Agency.
- If you are going on a fishing charter, you’ll need to get your own fishing license ahead of time. Boat captains won’t let you on the boat if you don’t have a license. You can get it at any sporting goods store or purchase it ahead of time through the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Be sure you get a saltwater/freshwater combo license because you’ll likely be fishing in both types of water.
- There are alligators in this region, and the wildlife website can also help with advice on how to get used to being around the animals. Alligators are rarely aggressive toward humans, but that’s assuming you don’t bait them or feed them. Try to avoid the waterlines near sunrise and sunset, as that’s when they are most active.
- Don’t go in the Mississippi River. It’s dirty and full of debris with a very strong current. In early 2022, three children went into the water and didn’t survive. At any point in the country, the Mississippi River is just not safe enough for swimming, and the industrial waste here in the water makes it even more dangerous.
- Le Pass is the app for the public transportation system in New Orleans and Jefferson Parish. This will cover buses and ferries too. You’ll need different tickets for each method of transportation, but they are all available in this app.
- You can sign up for emergency notifications through the St. Bernard Parish Emergency Management website through a program called Everbridge. You’ll need the weather alerts because storms here can form quickly and be dangerous, even outside the Hurricane Season.
- Crawfish is a popular dish throughout New Orleans, but it’s also known as Crawdads or Crayfish. When you hear someone tell you to “twist off the head and suck the juice,” that’s Crawfish advice. Don’t be shy to ask how to eat the delicacy if you’ve never tried it.
- The Chalmette Battlefield is at Jean Lafitte National Historical Park. That park has six locations throughout Louisiana, so you can’t just enter the park’s name into your GPS. The address is 8606 West St. Bernard Highway, and the phone number is (504)281-0510.
So... How Safe Is Chalmette Really?
Aside from the battlefield and park amenities I mentioned above, Chalmette isn’t one of the main tourist centers of New Orleans.
It’s a residential and industrial area, which might not reflect the charm and history you envision for your trip.
While the crime rates in St. Bernard Parish are lower than in New Orleans, there will always be crime risks anywhere in the New Orleans area.
St. Bernard Parish has seen a decrease in crime since 2018.
For example, sexual assaults are six times lower than they were that year.
You should use the standard precautions when you park here, like locking your car door and leaving personal items out of plain sight in the vehicle.
If you’re looking for a place to stay outside downtown New Orleans, you might want to consider a place like Metairie, which has more attractions and amenities.
Chalmette’s industrial waste and gas emissions aren’t going to put your health at immediate risk, but it’s just not a pleasant way to spend a trip knowing you’re inhaling a toxic gas you can’t see or smell.
How Does Chalmette Compare?
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- Visas - You'll need a U.S. Travel or Work Visa through the U.S. State Department. Start that process as soon as you know you'll be traveling since it can take several months. Once you're in Chalmette, you don't need your Visa to go between the different cities or into neighboring states.
- Currency - The U.S. Dollar is the only currency you can use here. Don't use public ATMs; go into a bank if you need to exchange currency. You'll get better value for your money if you exchange currency before you leave your home country.
- Weather - You'll want layers of clothing in winter since the temperatures can fluctuate, but you won't ever have to deal with snow or ice. The real concern is the hot and muggy weather here, so bring extra shirts and undergarments since you'll be sweating a lot.
- Airports - The New Orleans airport is 20 miles from Chalmette. It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to get there, depending on traffic.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance offers peace of mind that's worth the investment. You can also include supplemental insurance for health coverage. You should know the hurricane cancelation policy for any part of your travel.
Chalmette Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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