Is Harlingen Safe? Crime Rates & Safety Report

Updated On June 16, 2024
Harlingen, United States
Safety Index:
* Based on Research & Crime Data

Harlingen, Texas, is a vibrant city located in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas.

Positioned near the intersection of Interstate 2 and U.S. Route 77, Harlingen offers convenient access to both Brownsville and McAllen, as well as the Gulf of Mexico.

Harlingen’s history is deeply intertwined with the development of the Rio Grande Valley.

Founded by Lon C. Hill in 1904, the city was named after a town in the Netherlands.

The arrival of the railroad in 1904 spurred rapid growth, transforming Harlingen into a key agricultural and transportation hub.

During World War II, the establishment of the Harlingen Army Airfield, later known as Harlingen Air Force Base, brought significant military presence and economic growth to the area.

Although the base closed in 1962, its impact on the city’s infrastructure and community spirit remains evident.

Harlingen’s appeal lies in its blend of small-town charm and modern amenities.

It boasts a lower cost of living compared to other cities in the Rio Grande Valley, making it an attractive destination for families, retirees, and young professionals.

The city is known for its lush parks, such as the Hugh Ramsey Nature Park, and a thriving arts scene, highlighted by the Harlingen Performing Arts Theatre.

It’s also a golfer’s paradise, with amazing courses and 266 sunny days a year.

Moreover, Harlingen hosts a variety of annual events like the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival.

Its strategic location also makes it a gateway to the rich cultural experiences of South Texas and Northern Mexico.

In comparison to other nearby cities, Harlingen offers a unique blend of affordability, cultural richness, and natural beauty, making it an ideal place to stay for those who want a more laid-back South Texas experience and aren’t into nightlife or partying for spring break.

Warnings & Dangers in Harlingen

Overall Risk


There's a low risk in Harlingen, but it's definitely a place that is best visited during daylight hours unless you're at a local event.

Transport & Taxis Risk


It's a little unclear if the Valley Metro service is still running, which could be a local transportation option. Check before you make plans. Taxis and rideshares will be available, but a rental car is the best way to explore the Rio Grande Valley.

Pickpockets Risk


About seven pickpockets or purse snatchings happen each year, which is statistically a low risk but higher than in some other cities I've researched nearby. Limit what you carry and leave valuables at home. You don't want to create a crime of opportunity.

Natural Disasters Risk


So many risks here put this at a medium risk factor. There's tropical weather that can be destructive, especially during the hurricane season between June and November. Severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, flash flooding, and strong straight-line winds can cause damage. Excessive heat is a huge concern from late spring through early fall.

Mugging Risk


About one robbery a week happens on average, and 35% of those are highway robberies. This is a medium risk and one category you should take seriously. With gang and cartel members in this community, there's a ruthlessness about the way crimes are committed. Keep the risk low by staying in popular areas during the daytime.

Terrorism Risk


International terrorism here comes in the form of drugs and guns illegally coming into the country, so the risk is medium. You might not even notice the activity, but if you see something suspicious, call the police and get out of that area.

Scams Risk


Check local law enforcement social media sites for the latest scams. The local Better Business Bureau office and the state Attorney General’s office will have common scam tactics and protection advice. Most scams I've seen reported in Harlingen are garden variety, but I also see a lot of scam reports in my line of work. Learning the habits of scammers can help you keep this at a low risk.

Women Travelers Risk


Statistically, women are 10% less likely to be victims of a violent crime in Harlingen. I would put this at a medium risk, however, especially if you're visiting during spring break. That's only to protect yourself from strangers approaching you or carelessly making decisions like driving into an unknown area by yourself. You might face more catcalling or perceived aggressive flirting from those around you if there are cultural differences. I once had a man in nearby Brownsville hellbent on cutting off a piece of my blonde hair for money. (I repeatedly said no, of course.)

Tap Water Risk


The U.S. has strict standards for tap water per the Safe Water Drinking Act. Communities are required to provide a Water Quality Report (Consumer Confidence Report) once a year by July 1.

Safest Places to Visit in Harlingen

The city’s tourism website is

In your research, you’ll see RGV mentioned a lot.

That stands for the Rio Grande Valley.

Most of the hotels will be on the interstate or highways surrounding Harlingen, which is a safer part of the community anyway.

Harlingen Arts & Heritage Museum offers a glimpse into the history and culture of Harlingen and the surrounding region.

It includes exhibits on local history, art, and a collection of restored historical buildings.

Look for events on Facebook @harlingenmuseum.

The Iwo Jima Memorial & Museum features a replica of the famous Marine Corps War Memorial statue depicting the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima.

The museum provides a wealth of information on World War II and the Battle of Iwo Jima.

Downtown Harlingen features unique shops, restaurants, and murals in a vibrant area with a mix of old and new.

Look for the latest events and festivals on Facebook @downtownharlingen.

Golf is a popular activity here, with at least four public golf courses to explore.

The National Golf Foundation claims that Harlingen has more playable golfing days than any other city in America.

Explore the outdoors at several nearby options, including the Harlingen Thicket, Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, and Hugh Ramsey Nature Park.

This area is ideal for unique fauna, flora, and birds.

You’re also less than an hour from the beautiful beaches of South Padre Island.

Places to Avoid in Harlingen

Harlingen is a city that is evolving, with new projects and construction underway in various districts.

The west side is growing faster, and some of the downtown areas habitually known to be more dangerous aren’t necessarily going to be that way in the next few years.

That doesn’t mean there won’t be dangerous neighborhoods.

To a certain extent, you can eyeball that and know when you’re in a less-than-desirable place.

However, it’s especially important to review the road layout in Harlingen before you go.

Some main roads are one-way.

Many streets that go east/west have a gap in the middle where the road would otherwise cross the arroyo or railroad tracks.

Knowing the unique layout will help you avoid getting lost or turned around in potentially dangerous neighborhoods.

Also, if you’re looking for a spring break city, Harlingen isn’t it.

This is more of a sleepy bedroom community that shuts down after dark.

It’s not a place to go looking for something to do after dark, anyway.

Brownsville or South Padre would be better spring break options.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Harlingen

  1. Harlingen has a local police department. You can follow them on Facebook @harlingenpolice. For specific safety questions, call (956) 216-5400.
  2. Sign up for Reverse 911 emergency alerts from local law enforcement. The messages will be sent via text message, phone call, or email, depending on your preference. They will cover everything from severe weather alerts to evacuation orders to public safety threats.
  3. If you’re visiting between June and November, check the evacuation map and know your closest escape route in the event a hurricane is heading that way. You don’t want to be stuck in a place about to have a hurricane bear down.
  4. If you witness drug activity, gun crimes, or suspicious activity that doesn’t warrant a call to 911, please call Crime Stoppers at 956-425-8477. You can leave an anonymous report of what you saw. Public tips are one of the most critical pieces of information law enforcement can get to help crack down on crime.
  5. The closest town in Mexico, Matamoros, is in Tamaulipas state. That is currently ranked as a “Do Not Travel” suggestion from the U.S. State Department due to crime and kidnapping. Nobody is going to stop you from visiting, but the travel advisories help you make an educated decision about if you want to cross the border.
  6. If you do visit Mexico, be sure you know the rules for getting back into the U.S. It’s a lot easier to cross into Mexico than it is to get back into the U.S. Review the rules on the Border Patrol and Customs website, noting the documentation you need and what you can/can’t bring across the border with you.
  7. Spring break runs through March and early April, with police cracking down on underage drinking, driving under the influence, and other alcohol-fueled crimes. Be prepared for road stops, checkpoints, and a strong police presence.
  8. Use the Texas Beach Watch website to check water quality conditions at area beaches. This includes concerns about bacteria and other pollutants that can make the water unsafe for swimming. There is a potentially harmful bacterium called Vibrio vulnificus that naturally occurs in water. Review the risks before you go swimming, as this isn’t one of the tested bacteria.
  9. Harlingen’s excessive heat can be a lot for those not used to it. The city gets less rainfall than more American cities, meaning there’s little respite from the searing heat. It can lead to heat stroke and heat exhaustion if you’re not topping off fluids, staying cool, and resting frequently.
  10. There’s a wildlife risk in Harlingen, and you should review safety steps before you go. For example, venomous snakes live here and even like to hide in dunes at the beach. Then there are the hog-like javelinas that roam the streets. Alligators and bobcats have been spotted. For the most part, if you leave the animals alone, they won’t bother you. Unless they are being aggressive, local police won’t remove them.

So... How Safe Is Harlingen Really?

Harlingen has the potential to be a dangerous city – with proximity to the border and gangs, drug dealers, and cartels all moving in and around the city.

Then add in that one in four people live in poverty, and it seems a sure sign there’s an ongoing risk.

Yet, the presence of those risks brings an arsenal of law enforcement on local, state, and federal levels, keeping Harlingen from being one of the most dangerous cities in America.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Violent crime rates here are 20% lower than the state average and 26% lower than the national average.

In addition, just 17% of violent crimes happen among strangers, and almost half (49%) happen in private homes.

If you’re not involved with guns, drugs, or gangs, your safety factor is exponentially greater.

There’s an average of 12 drug crimes a week, according to 2023 crime statistics.

Some of those are major busts, with multiple agencies taking down part of the kingpins of the opioid crisis in America.

Now, turning to thefts, that’s a concerning area.

The rate is 53% higher than the national average as of 2023.

An average of 30 thefts a week are reported.

About one-third of those are related to shoplifting.

Another 22% are car burglaries and accessory thefts.

With 15 cars a week being stolen, it’s a staunch reminder to lock your car, keep the keys with you, and leave personal items out of plain sight.

Once a car is stolen, there’s not a good chance of getting it back.

Even in 2024, a rash of car thefts had law enforcement concerned.

“First we started seeing that they were targeting a lot of the GMC Sierra and Chevy Silverado pick-up trucks because they’re very convenient for the international criminal organizations down in Mexico,” Public Information Officer Abril Luna from the Brownsville Police Department said.

“These trucks are fast, they are very convenient to transport narcotics, weapons, so they’re just very appealing to them.”

Keep in mind the crime data we have is from the local level and doesn’t include additional busts made by Border Patrol or Texas Rangers.

If you need to be in Harlingen, you shouldn’t have reservations about doing so.

However, if you’re looking to enjoy the beauty of South Texas, I’d strongly recommend staying on South Padre Island instead.

How Does Harlingen Compare?

CitySafety Index
Las Vegas62
Sydney (Australia)80
Santiago de Chile (Chile)71
Vienna (Austria)88
Hong Kong (China)70
Manama (Bahrain)54
Tianjin (China)67

Useful Information



All international visitors need either a visa defining the purpose of the trip (tourist, work, school, etc.) or a visa waiver. Start the process using the Visa Wizard module on the U.S. State Department website. You’ll quickly find out which one you need. Also, keep in mind that your passport must be valid for at least six months after our trip, or you’ll need to apply for a new one.



Only the U.S. Dollar (USD) is accepted in the United States. International airports usually have a currency exchange desk on site, while regional airports won’t. Any bank where you're a member will offer the lowest fees, and some places like currency exchange desks and ATMs might charge exorbitant fees. For those using credit cards, check to see if there’s a foreign transaction fee before you start racking up charges.



Harlingen goes from warm and humid to hot and humid throughout the year without much else. Highs will get nearly triple digits in the summer, with sweltering humidity that pushes the "feel like" heat index well into triple digits. Even the "cold" winter still gets into the upper 60s and 70s for daytime highs - it's no surprise that nearby South Padre Island is a spring break destination.



Valley International Airport offers commercial services out of Harlingen to Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and Minneapolis. Considering that Houston is more than five hours by car, this is a great way to limit time on the road if you'd like.

Travel Insurance

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Harlingen Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan 15° C
Feb 17° C
Mar 21° C
Apr 24° C
May 27° C
Jun 29° C
Jul 30° C
Aug 30° C
Sep 28° C
Oct 24° C
Nov 20° C
Dec 17° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec

Texas - Safety by City

CitySafety Index
Corpus Christi71
Del Rio68
Dell City81
El Paso77
Fort Davis80
Fort Worth77
Grand Prairie72
New Braunfels83
Port Aransas83
San Angelo83
San Antonio53
South Padre Island70
Wichita Falls68

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