Missouri : Safety by City
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Hannibal, Missouri, is a charming and historic small town along the banks of the Mississippi River, about 100 miles north of St. Louis.
Hannibal is best known as the boyhood home of the famous author Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain.
As you walk through the streets of Hannibal, you can feel the history and culture that inspired Twain’s writing and visit several museums, parks, and even a lighthouse that bears his name.
Hannibal’s historic downtown area is also a must-see.
You can stroll along Main Street and browse the unique shops, galleries, and restaurants.
You might even spot a statue of Tom and Huck, paying tribute to Twain’s famous characters.
If you enjoy outdoor activities, Hannibal won’t disappoint.
Riverboats still meander down the mighty Mississippi for tourists.
You can perch high about the river bluffs and see the sight that inspired Mark Twain to write about Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn or go deep in the cave where legend has it that Jesse James and his crew of outlaws left behind treasures.
Hannibal also holds some true-crime mysteries.
The Lost Boys of Hannibal dates back to 1967 when three boys disappeared, assumed to have gotten trapped in the labyrinth of caves.
A popular documentary called Relentless was released in 2022, tracking the story of a 21-year-old woman who also vanished, and every clue that seems to reveal new information leads to more confusion and investigation chaos.
Hannibal is a small town with a big influence on literary and economic history, and it’s worth a visit for all the right reasons.
Warnings & Dangers in Hannibal
OVERALL RISK: LOW
Hannibal isn't as safe as a town with so much tourism juice could be, but it's certainly not too dangerous to visit. The risk is low, but you need to accept certain realities that it's not as pristine and developed as you might expect. It has that historic grit to it, with some derelict parts of town, but in some ways, it adds to the mystique.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
With a public transportation system, there's really no way to see all the sights without your own car or paying hefty fares on taxis or rideshares. I took a detour through Hannibal in 2020 to explore the town, as I have great childhood memories there, and it's easy to drive, but there are places where the roads are pretty torn up, so stick to the speed limit.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
The risk is low here for pickpockets, but the theft rate is twice the national average. Nearly 40% of that is due to shoplifting, so there are thieves *around you. Just use the standard cautions to protect your purse or wallet to keep the risk low.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
That Mississippi River will bring an ongoing flood risk, and this part of the country gets everything from tornado-producing storms in warm weather to blizzards in the winter. The medium risk can be lowered by just staying weather aware each day before heading out to explore.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
The city hasn't had more than 11 robberies in a year since 2011, and 2022 saw just six robberies. Two-thirds of robberies were at either a business or a home, lowering the risk even more.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
There's a low risk here with no real reason a terror group would target Hannibal. The historic value alone isn't a big enough target, and the crowds here never get too large. Bigger concerns would be drug or gun crimes of a domestic nature.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
Most scams here target residents. 2022 data shows that 24% of fraud happened in public places. The largest category (47%) was in homes. You can check with the police department at the state attorney general to see common scams trending before your visit.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
As a solo female traveler, I wandered around this city from downtown to a trip to the uncrowded river bluff park. There are some places that *feel more sketchy than they probably are. Even as I was taking in the bluff view, a new car pulled up and sat there for 15 minutes. To be safe, I pulled away and circled back around when the car was gone since I didn't have good mobile service there and nobody else was around. Smart safety steps like that keep the risk low.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
I always get a little nervous when the often-polluted Mississippi River is a water source, but the utility company in Hannibal shows no violations and full compliance in the 2021 Water Quality Report. Any issues during the year will be reported through emergency alerts or city social media sites.
Safest Places to Visit in Hannibal
Hannibal is enough of a tourist destination to have a robust tourism website, and you’ll find that at VisitHannibal.com.
The 2023 Visitor’s Guide was posted by the early part of the year, suggesting new visitor guides should come out annually.
Big events throughout the year include Tom Sawyer Days, held around the 4th of July, and the Folklife Festival, held each October.
Explore downtown Hannibal and walk the street to see different shops and restaurants.
You can also explore the town square or walk the riverfront right along the downtown streets.
Nearly 30 murals line the side of brick buildings, enough to fill up your Instagram stories for the day.
Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum is a great first stop on the history of Samuel Clemens and his literary legends.
Pair that with a trip to the Huck Finn Freedom Center, celebrating the life and success of African Americans in this region.
The Mark Twain Cave Complex is open year-round and takes you deep beneath the earth in Missouri’s oldest cave show.
The hour-long tours walk you through a 52°(F) cave, and you learn about the natural wonder of cave systems and the legends of Mark Twain’s writings.
You’ll hear some ghost stories along the way.
Search for treasures at Cave Hollow as you sluice through the water and rocks looking for that shiny spot of gold.
The Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse is a 15-foot-tall white structure located on top of Cardiff Hill in Hannibal, Missouri.
The lighthouse was built in 1933 in memory of the famous author Mark Twain and provides stunning views of the Mississippi River and the town below.
The lighthouse is atop 244 steps.
Take your time.
The Rockcliffe Mansion shows the elegance of the Gilded Age where a wealthy family lived.
While this is a bed & breakfast inn, you don’t have to be staying here to go on the tour.
Hannibal is also the birthplace of “Sinkable” Molly Brown of Titanic fame and there’s a home and museum where you can learn more about her life story than the moments on the Titanic.
The Hannibal History Museum is another great stop, exploring beyond the notable names and through the Native American, pioneers, and settlers that helped support the city through all phases of its development.
You can also walk along the Mississippi River Trail or head to Riverview Park and see the river from the bluffs.
There are several historical marks along both trails.
One heads up – at Riverview Park all lanes are one-way, but it’s not always 100% clear which way the road is.
Luckily, I was there when it wasn’t crowded, but it can turn you around a bit.
Riverboat cruises are available in Hannibal, from scenic afternoon tours to dinner cruises with stunning sunset views.
Check with the vendor before you book as low Mississippi River levels have been causing river traffic troubles as of late 2022.
Cruise ships are also available to tour long stretches of the Mississippi River, with Hannibal as one of the key stops.
Joe England, a performer on one of the ships, said this about Hannibal to a local news station, “I particularly love coming to Hannibal, it’s such a wonderfully diverse place.
There are lots of things to see, there are lots of businesses to go into.
Lots of different ice creams and perfumes, soaps, and all sorts of things.
You can get just about everything.”
Places to Avoid in Hannibal
The benefit and drawback of Hannibal is that it’s not big enough to have bad parts of town.
Even when the police department started adding security cameras downtown, the police chief noted there are no definitive hot spots for crime.
It’s really a case of watch your back.
I chose to just “drive around,” as I am known to do, and it’s pretty clear when you’re on a street where you don’t belong.
Even the downtown main roads can go from charming and quaint to boarded up and creepy really quickly.
As a safety step, I chose to visit in the daytime.
I can see how the night streets might make it feel a little more sinister, but if you want to explore there are ghost tours where you’ll have safety in numbers.
Avoid touching, swimming, or wading in the Mississippi River.
It’s a muddy river with a swift current that carries a lot of debris.
If you want to swim, visit Mark Twain Lake about 45 minutes east.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Hannibal
- Hannibal has its own police department. The department’s page is one of the more helpful I’ve seen for people who just want to get safety information. There’s a list of recent crimes, a preview of the Facebook page (@HannibalMOPD), and helpful links right on the main page.
- Sign up for CodeRED emergency notifications to stay on top of the weather and other safety or civil issues. The alerts are free, and you can easily unsubscribe when you leave.
- You can submit crime tips by calling (573)221-0987 or stop by the police station at 777 Broadway. You don’t have to leave your contact information if you don’t want to.
- Hannibal installed red light cameras along US 61 due to the excessive number of red light runners, sometimes nearly one per hour. More than 26,000 cars go through that road daily. If you are caught running a red light, a ticket will be mailed to you. Yes, they can track rental cars. The cost is $130.
- HPD has a community services division, which is a great touchstone if you have specific safety questions. You can reach the officer in charge by calling (573)221-0987, ext. 304.
- You’ll need a fishing license from the Missouri Department of Conservation to fish in any lakes or rivers. Check with the reciprocity agreements with Illinois if you plan on crossing state lines to fish during your visit.
- When spending anytime outdoors in Hannibal from early spring through late fall, be aware of ticks and mosquitoes. Use bug repellant with DEET and always do a full body scan for ticks after an adventure. Check the delicate areas, as ticks are particularly fond of those. If you don’t remove a tick, it will eventually swell up to the size of a marble, filled with your blood.
- Many of the caves are not handicapped accessible and those with mobility issues or fear of confined/dark spaces might be a little creeped out in the cave. There are bats inside, but they generally don’t mess with people. Some other caves in the region are closed in the winter to allow the bats to hibernate.
- There’s a saying in this part of the country that if you don’t like the weather you can just wait a few minutes and it will change. I’m reviewing the February 2022 emergency management posts and laughing because you can see that in action. From a winter storm warning to a severe thunderstorm risk and back again, those happened within days of each other. Always stay weather aware and if you’ll be camping bring a battery-powered weather radio with you.
- Due to the natural layout of the region on the bluffs of the river, there are some steep hills and hairpin turn on the road here. It’s important to pay attention all the time, but especially if there is any kind of winter weather. Some of those hills will become ice rinks with just a light glaze of sleet.
So... How Safe Is Hannibal Really?
The safety of Hannibal is different for a tourist vs. a resident.
It’s definitely a town where you can find trouble if you go looking for it.
Drug use, overdoses, and crimes are the biggest pressure point in 2023 – a problem that impacts many American cities.
You can learn more about the Heroin Enforcement Education Treatment (HEET) Initiative on the police department’s website.
The city is also growing, leaving the department with another ongoing challenge of short staffing while maximizing the use of an officer’s time.
The police chief said one of the biggest calls for the downtown area involves welfare checks, like a person passed out on the street.
That’s one reason the surveillance cameras are being installed.
“I think finding funding for such a project should be a priority as there has been substantial growth and development in the downtown area over the last few years, and we need an effective way to monitor the area,” Hannibal Police Chief Jacob Nacke said.
“As staffing becomes more of an issue, police surveillance systems could become a valuable tool providing information to our officers and allowing them to cover more area.”
Hannibal is a town that’s trying to revitalize while still holding onto a history that can’t be paralleled.
It’s a great spot – enough to make me take a side trip from St. Louis to Omaha, and common sense and basic safety go a long way.
Lock your car, keep personal items safely in your room, and don’t go looking for trouble.
How Does Hannibal Compare?
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A passport that is not within six months of expiring is required for all international visitors. They'll also need a visa or visa waiver from the U.S. State Department. Review the Customs and Border Patrol website for specific rules about what you can and can't bring into or out of the country.
The U.S. Dollar is the only accepted currency in America. Since Hannibal is a small town, it's wise to exchange your currency before you arrive or at the airport.
This is a four-season city, but within those seasons, the temperatures can fluctuate. Bring a good mix of long and short sleeves, pants and shorts, and comfortable walking shoes from spring through fall. Winter will be cold and require heavy outerwear at times.
Unfortunately, there are no commercial airports located in Hannibal, MO. The nearest commercial airports are the Quincy Regional Airport (UIN), 30 minutes north in Illinois, and the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport (STL) is approximately an hour and a half away by car.
Travel insurance will offer peace of mind for the air travel and road trip required to get to Hannibal, plus protect you in the event of an emergency or severe weather event.
Hannibal Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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Missouri - Safety by City