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Fort Smith is a historically important town on the border of Arkansas and Oklahoma.
The town was established in the 1830s on the Arkansas River and was significant in the settling of the west.
It was a launching point for those going west and was important to the Trail of Tears when Indians were moved to Oklahoma.
Fort Smith is home to seven museums, including a barbershop museum and a trolley museum.
The city’s visitor’s bureau is in a famous brothel from the 1800s and is the only brothel on the national register of historical places.
Today Forth Smith has a vibrant arts scene with about 90,000 residents.
It is the largest city in western Arkansas and is a regional center for business and agriculture as well as a gateway to the Ozark Mountains National Forest.
Across the Arkansas River in Van Buren, another historic city.
There are a lot of natural areas to explore as well, with the Arkansas River running by the town, and a lot of wilderness areas.
Warnings & Dangers in Fort Smith
OVERALL RISK : LOW
Fort Smith has the lowest crime rate in the state, both for property crime and violent crime. Even so, the crime rate is well above the national average. Crime stats are a bit skewed when the population is relatively low, as it is in Fort Smith. One survey found 81 percent felt safe in their homes, and only four percent felt unsafe.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
Taxis are available from the airport into town and throughout the city. There is also a bus system that is connected to a statewide bus network. There are very few reports of crime related to these services.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
There are very few incidents involving pickpockets in Forth Smith. There are not a lot of crowded areas, which is where pickpockets like to operate.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Tornadoes are relatively common and dangerous in the spring. There have been some very destructive ones in the area. Flooding from the Arkansas River has also been an issue at times. Ice storms in winter can bring travel to a halt.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
The violent crime rate is above the national average, but that crime happens mostly in specific areas. The downtown area, where all the attractions are, has very little of this type of crime.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
Fort Smith is a small city in a rural area. This is not an area where terrorists are likely to strike. The threat of domestic terrorism from extremist groups is a concern, but so far there have been no incidents.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
Scams targeting tourists are rare in Forth Smith. Most scams are aimed at residents, particularly the elderly, as there are attempts at identity theft. Most scams in the area happen online or over the phone.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
There are some crimes against women in certain areas, mostly at night. In general, women are in no more danger than men when it comes to safety in Fort Smith. The downtown area is safe even at night for the most part. There was a larger than normal number of rapes last year according to police statistics.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The tap water is provided by the city and meets all federal and state standards. The water comes from two watersheds and is stored in Lake Forth Smith. There are almost no issues concerning water in Fort Smith.
Safest Places to Visit in Fort Smith
The historic downtown area is 22 blocks of older buildings along the river where the town was first settled.
There are historical monuments, and seven museums relating to the history of the area.
All of these areas are very safe, and often not crowded.
There are several historic homes from the early to mid-1800s, such as the Clayton House, where there are many historical displays.
Some very old buildings and parts of the original fort from the early 1800s are at the Fort Smith National Historic site.
There are recreations of the site itself, as well as daily performances of historical events.
The River Valley Artisan Market is an area between the old town and the river where local artists of all kinds sell their art.
The riverfront has a large park for recreation.
There are trails, picnic tables, pavilions, and other items.
This area is very safe as well.
The Saint Scholastica Monastery is an active cloister of Franciscan Nuns.
The buildings are old and have interesting architecture.
The grounds are open all the time and worth a visit.
The building is open for tours occasionally.
Placess to Avoid in Fort Smith
The historical areas are very safe from a violent crime perspective, but the city has a high rate of property crime.
You have a one in 17 chance of being a burglary victim in Fort Smith.
Car thefts are also a problem in the city.
There is a lot more crime along the eastern edge than anywhere else in Fort Smith.
People who live there consider the southeast section to be the safest.
The crime rate is a little higher than average in the historical areas, even though most people consider those areas safe.
There are not as many people living there, so a few crimes make the crime rate seem worse than it is.
During the day those areas are safe, but at night there is a danger for people who are out alone.
The overall crime rate is 55 per 1,000 residents, which is significantly above the national average of 38.
The violent crime rate is 11.57, well below the national average, but the property crime rate of 55 is above.
The west side of town is an area to avoid.
It has the highest crime rate and there are no tourist attractions in this area.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Fort Smith
- Lock your car. Property crime is more of a danger than violent crime in Fort Smith. Criminals look for unlocked cars to steal items from. Avoid being an easy target by keeping your car locked at all times.
- Your car information. Car theft is also an issue in Fort Smith. Don’t leave your keys in the car. Keep car information, such as registration and VINs, in your wallet or some other safe place on your person. If your car is stolen, this information will help the police find your car.
- Don’t flash the cash. Keep your money out of sight. Don’t count your money in public and try to avoid letting anyone see your cash. Wearing a money belt is a good idea. Don’t keep your money in your wallet, and don’t let anyone see where you keep it.
- Keep a low profile. Avoid drawing attention to yourself by not wearing expensive-looking clothing or jewelry. Keep electronics out of sight. Criminals look for victims, and if you blend in and don’t look wealthy, they won’t pay as much attention to you.
- Stay hydrated. The summer sun is very hot in Fort Smith, and you can get dried out before you realize it. Keep water with you and drink a lot of it. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which tend to dehydrate people.
- The little critters. Wear bug spray if you are going to be outside a lot, especially in the later hours of the day. Mosquitos are a major issue in this part of the country. There are also fire ants that can hurt when they bite you.
- Keep your stuff close. Be careful with your property, such as phones or other electronic devices. Property crime is an issue here, and people grab something that they think has been left behind. Leaving something somewhere even for a few minutes will often result in it disappearing.
- Avoid bad areas. Most of Fort Smith is safe, but there are some bad areas. The western edge has the highest crime rate. There are no attractions in these areas, and no reason to go there. Stay on the beaten path in the tourist areas to remain safe.
- Watch the weather. Storms can come up fast in this part of the country. Especially in the spring, there is a danger of tornadoes, so pay attention to the weather report and heed any warnings given. Winter can be cold but is more predictable from a weather standpoint.
- Follow your instincts. If a situation feels off, get out of the situation as fast as you can. You might be wrong, but it is better to be wrong and safe than right and sorry. Even in safe situations, there are red flags at times, and they should not be ignored.
So... How Safe Is Fort Smith Really?
Fort Smith is a little hard to describe from a safety standpoint.
During the day, the historical areas and the riverfront are very safe.
At night they are not quite as safe.
The western side is the most dangerous with the most violent crime.
Property crime is a bigger danger in this city, and that is true even in tourist areas.
The overall crime rate of 55 per 1000 people is well above the national average, but the violent crime rate of 11.5 is far below the national average of 38.
It is the property crime rate that makes it much higher.
You have a one in 17 chance of being a property crime victim in Fort Smith.
Even though the violent crime rate is not all that high in Fort Smith, it is still twice the rate for the rest of the state.
There were a lot of rapes, however, with 96 reported in 2020.
That is almost three times the national average and well above the state average.
The city was also well above the national average for assaults.
Property crime, such as theft, was also more than twice the national average.
It is interesting that while the crime rate is relatively high, Fort Smith is often rated as one of the best places to live in the Midwest.
The cost of living is low, schools are ranked highly, and there is not a tremendous amount of poverty.
This may indicate that it is safe for the most part in some areas that are not as safe.
How Does Fort Smith Compare?
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- Visas - With no port of entry, you will enter Arkansas, and Fort Smith, from another location. A visa is required to enter the United States, but not to enter Fort Smith. Keep your visa safe, but you will not need it in Fort Smith.
- Currency - The standard currency is the dollar, and that is the only currency accepted by businesses. Credit cards from any country are accepted and the exchange of currency is part of the transaction. You may exchange currency at any bank.
- Weather - Summers are very hot and muggy. Wear light clothing and stay hydrated. Winters are fairly mild but can get cold at times. Snow is rare. There are occasional tornadoes in the spring.
- Airports - Fort Smith has a regional airport just south of town. It has flights to several major cities. Flights to international airports like Dallas or Chicago are available. There is taxi service into town from the airport.
- Travel Insurance - Life happens even when you are on vacation. Having some insurance will keep you protected, and will give you peace of mind while you are visiting places like Fort Smith.
Fort Smith Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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