Alabama : Safety by City
- Gulf Shores
- Muscle Shoals
- Phenix City
Huntsville, Alabama, is known as “The Rocket City” for its rich history in the space program.
It’s nestled in northern Alabama and while the city itself boasts a wide range of places to visit, the entire DMA Nielsen Market expands across all of northern Alabama to include the Shoals area and Sand Mountain region.
The city is home to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center and brings in students from across the globe for “Space Camp” every year.
If you’re just looking at the space stuff, you are missing out.
There is so much military history at Redstone Arsenal, musical history in the Shoals, and natural beauty throughout Sand Mountain as the hills start an eastward buildup toward the Appalachian Mountains.
In a population battle that has been long brewing across Alabama, the 2020 census showed Huntsville is now the largest city in the state.
The secret is out – this is a thriving business community, tourist corridor, and technology industry focal point that offers a good quality of life on top of it all.
Warnings & Dangers in Huntsville
OVERALL RISK: MEDIUM
Overall, the Huntsville area is a medium risk for danger, though many pockets of the area outside of Madison County, where Huntsville is located, would be considered low risk.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
A ride in Huntsville is easy to come by and there's low risk when you call a cab. There's a required business license by the city of Huntsville for any business that offers rides in taxis, rideshare, or limousine. The city also has rideshare opportunities for business travelers in the CommuteSmart rideshare and Enterprise Rideshare. Traveling federal employees can get $260 a month toward the commuting cost through the Transit Benefit Program.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: MEDIUM
There's a medium risk of pickpocketing in Huntsville. Nearly 5,000 thefts were reported in the city in 2020. More than 40% of those cases were solved, and that's more than twice the solve rate compared to national numbers. Many pickpocket crimes in Huntsville could be those of opportunity. People might look up at the amazing Redstone Rocket and not keep a close eye on their belongings.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
Huntsville brings a medium risk of natural disasters, but in April it might jump into the high category. While not in the traditional "tornado alley", northern Alabama is a hot spot for tornado activity. Just ask any local about the April 27, 2011 storm and they'll remember with vivid clarity where they were that day. Winter averages two days of snowfall in the northern Alabama corridor.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
There's a low risk of mugging in Huntsville barring an accidental wander into a rough neighborhood. Huntsville Police reported 213 robberies in 2020 and nearly 60% of those were solved. Visually, it's easy to tell in Huntsville when you are in a good neighborhood vs. a sketchy one.
TERRORISM RISK: MEDIUM
The terrorism risk in Huntsville is medium, mostly due to two potential targets – The U.S. Space and Rocket Center and Redstone Arsenal. Both are government-run operations. One holds historical information and artifacts of the U.S. Space Program and the other is a land full of top-secret information and the design of ballistic missiles. Redstone Arsenal is home to the Missile Defense Agency and the Missing and Space Intelligence Center. Between the two potential targets, they are working to pave the way to Mars with the Space Launch System.
SCAMS RISK: MEDIUM
The risk of a scam here is at a medium level. The grade is not to say there are a lot of scams here, but more that people in the Huntsville area are nice, trusting people who want to help. Law enforcement regularly sends out a list of scams to residents and the media. The scams ebb and flow throughout the year.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: MEDIUM
There's a medium risk for women traveling solo. This is the south, so people will naturally be friendly if you are out alone, but be on guard for anyone who approaches. Just because it's a nice town doesn't mean there aren't bad people trying to take advantage of tourists. Be especially careful when using the biking or running trails alone, as it's easy to zone out and not be aware of the surroundings.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
Drinking from the tap in Huntsville is a low risk. Huntsville Utilities oversees the quality of the water. In the past 4 years, there have been no violations of the Safe Water Drinking Act. The only eyebrow-raising concern comes from the Redstone Arsenal area where in the past 6 years there has been at least one report of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) leaking into the water, but PFAS comes from a variety of sources and some levels can be common in any drinking water.
Safest Places to Visit in Huntsville
Huntsville brings southern charm with a modern twist and a salute to the past.
There’s so much to do and you can safely do it all.
More than three million people visit Hunstville and the surrounding area each year.
The U.S. Space & Rocket Center welcomes 650,000 visitors each year.
Just keep your belongings close as you marvel at the world of space history and the future.
Downtown Huntsville went through a transformation a few years back, and it’s evident at every turn.
As the entertainment district of Huntsville, it draws crowds to restaurants and shows.
Big Spring Park is the Central Park of Huntsville and it’s right in the middle of it all.
42 community watch organizations keep an eye on crime in this hotspot.
There’s also a “safe shop” consortium that makes sure high-traffic shopping days are watched closely for crimes.
Bridge Street Town Center is the shopping Mecca of this community with food, stores, and entertainment.
Security monitors the mall and the West Precinct of the Huntsville Police Department patrols regularly.
Places to Avoid in Huntsville
A viral video related to a crime in Huntsville came out a few years ago.
You might remember the “Hide your kids, hide your wife” interview.
This came from the Lincoln Park area of Huntsville, which is one area to avoid while visiting and there isn’t a tourist reason to go there anyway.
The North Precinct of the Huntsville Police Department reported the most robberies and burglaries in 2020.
This area is filled with colleges, an industrial park, and the construction of several big companies, such as a Facebook data center.
Nearly 70 community watch organizations are working to make northern Huntsville safer.
This location is outside the big tourism corridor of the city.
Downtown Huntsville does have homeless camps.
While law enforcement works to clean up the camps, the population of homeless is growing with the population.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Huntsville
- Keep your purse and wallet under close watch. It’s easy in Huntsville to be awe-inspired by the attractions, and if you don’t have a strong grip on your belongings you risk a would-be thief taking advantage of that.
- Have a weather app downloaded before you visit Huntsville. While spring is the most common time for tornadoes, there is still the possibility of severe weather popping up year-round. November is the second most likely tornado time of year. You need to keep a close eye on the skies as you work through your tourism “to do” list.
- Check the road conditions through the Alabama Department of Transportation. Northern Alabama is one of the fastest-growing communities in the country. With expansion comes construction that leads to road closures or delays.
- The Tennessee River offers a lot of fun in the water, but don’t go swimming. The current of the river is fast. Parts of the region have rocky banks that can lead to injuries. Water lovers should check out DeSoto State Park, where the Little River turns into a brilliant waterfall at DeSoto Falls.
- When hiking or jogging one of the 50 miles of trails in and around Huntsville, try to go with a partner. Be aware of your surroundings with every twist and turn of northern Alabama beauty. Check-in on social media or text with a buddy to let them know you are going into new territory and set a time for a check-in when you plan to be done.
- Lock your car doors when you go sightseeing. Alabama is full of such trusting people, it’s not uncommon to leave car doors unlocked. The Madison County area has had several rashes of car breakings due to doors being unlocked in the past few years.
- Get exact distances when traveling outside of county lines. Someone might tell you to go see the beloved FAME Studios “Over there in the shoals”, meaning Muscle Shoals, Alabama, which is almost a 90-minute drive. In Alabama, people are used to driving longer distances since it’s a combination of city living and rural life, while you might think “The Shoals” are just across town.
- Pack for versatility. You might do a lot of walking one day, so you’ll need good shoes, but if you’re going hiking you’ll need boots to protect your ankles. Temperatures are relatively mild throughout the year, but a cold or hot spell can happen any time of year. Pack accordingly.
- Slow down. The south is full of slow walkers who savor every moment. If you’re speed walking down a tourist corridor, you might get some weird looks. The pace is different here, even in the largest city in Alabama.
- Learn some of the dialects of the South so you don’t stick out as a tourist. For example:
- If you order tea, it’s going to be sweet tea unless you specifically say otherwise (and you might get a weird look if you don’t want sweet tea in the south).
- If someone tells you to eat at a “Meat and Three”, that’s a restaurant that serves a variety of foods and you pick one meat and three sides.
- If you order barbecue and it comes with a white sauce, that’s not an error. It just means you are at Big Bob Gibson’s Bar-B-Q enjoying the sauce that’s a staple of northern Alabama.
- If someone says “Bless her heart”, they aren’t about to offer a compliment. As in, “Bless her heart, she just walks so fast.”
So... How Safe Is Huntsville Really?
Huntsville is a city dedicated to growing technology, missile defense, and space exploration.
It cannot afford to be crime-ridden as it grows and breaks the mold of what one would assume an Alabama city is like.
Huntsville is ranked as the third best place to live by U.S. World and News Report.
The aggressive project led by the organization Downtown Huntsville has cleaned up many trouble spots to make it a walkable, enjoyable experience whether you are taking in a show or just going for a stroll.
It doesn’t mean you should let your guard down, but it is a whole different downtown than it was 10 years ago.
In Madison County, which is where Huntsville is located, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) shows assault is on the rise while robbery has been on the decline since 2016.
Around 30 homicides happen each year in Madison County.
Huntsville’s crime rate is lower than the national average and lower than other cities of similar size.
How Does Huntsville Compare?
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|Niagara Falls (Canada)||87|
|Buenos Aires (Argentina)||60|
For those flying internationally, you'll need a visa or passport at the airport to get through the Huntsville Port of Entry. Other than that, no requirements exist to travel within the northern Alabama region. A non-immigrant visa that applies to tourists, students, and international business travelers will cost $160. There is a waiver for U.S. government employees traveling for business, and Huntsville does do a lot of government work.
All currency is in U.S. dollars here. Be prepared for some cash-only mom-and-pop shops or farmers selling produce on the side of the road. Venmo is an easy way to pay for items without having to bring a slew of credit and debit cards. There is a currency exchange at the Huntsville airport, and you'll be shocked at the cryptocurrency options in this southern town. That's partially driven by the country's second-largest tech park - Cumming Research Park.
Huntsville is one of those cities where, if you don't like the weather, wait a day – it will change. Spring brings a risk of storms, so pack rain gear. Winters range from the mid-50s to the low 30s, so you will need to pack a coat. Snowfall is rare but can happen. Summer highs can reach into the 90s, and it's a humid climate, so get ready to sweat.
Huntsville International Airport is 20 miles from the city core. In the past year, it has served nearly 320,000 passengers. It's not uncommon for people to fly to Nashville or Birmingham and drive to Huntsville. Those airports are bigger and offer more flight options and fewer connections.
Winter storms can cripple the generally mild region and in summer severe weather can quickly knock out power and communication. Travel insurance is beneficial to anyone who wants to visit such a beautiful area that does have its weather demons.
Huntsville Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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Alabama - Safety by City