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Jonesboro, Arkansas is perched atop a geological formation known as “Crowley’s Ridge.”
You’ll only notice the rolling hills of the area, but geology buffs might get a kick out of learning more about the geological history at Forrest L. Wood Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center.
This town of nearly 80,000 people is the hub for surrounding smaller cities in northwest Arkansas, the Missouri bootheel, and far eastern Tennessee.
You get a little bit of city and a little bit of country in this Arkansas oasis.
It’s also a golfer’s delight with several public and private options.
Arkansas State University brings a youthful college vibe to this city with plenty of nightlife and campus excitement.
You might hear locals refer to this area as Region 8, which stems from a popular local television station, KAIT 8, which brands itself with that tag line.
The accessibility of Jonesboro to major cities like Memphis and Little Rock makes it a good weekend getaway.
Warnings & Dangers in Jonesboro
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
It's intimidating and confusing to do a general search of the overall safety risk in Jonesboro. Different websites post conflicting information. Here's the reality based on FBI numbers. Jonesboro has a medium overall risk. Crimes against people and property were up more than 13% from 2019-2020. Rape numbers were down. And motor vehicle theft skyrocketed 43%.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
There's a low risk of danger of getting around Jonesboro in taxis, rideshares, or public transportation. Taxis are required to be licensed by the city, rideshare services have safety requirements to pass before a driver is allowed to offer rides, and the public bus system called JETS offers rides during daytime hours every day except Sunday.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM
This is medium risk. Both burglaries and larcenies were down 3% between 2019 and 2020. In fact, burglary hasn't been at its current level since 2013.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk of natural disasters in Jonesboro. You might recall seeing the news about the EF-3 tornado that went through this town in March of 2020 hitting a local mall. Jonesboro has a history of violent storms that can whip up during severe weather seasons during the spring and fall. In the winter, a snowstorm or ice storm is possible, but not guaranteed each year. The city is very good at alerting residents and visitors if severe weather is possible or imminent.
MUGGING RISK : MEDIUM
This is medium risk. Looking again at the lower burglary and larceny numbers, it's a relief that those crimes are trending down, but aggravated assault is up 19%, so it's wise for would-be mugging victims to not fight back. A person's wallet or purse isn't worth their life.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's a low risk for terrorism in Jonesboro with no hard targets nearby. The University of Arkansas in Fayetteville has a terrorism research center that helps the state and the nation learn about terrorism and how to prevent it. In 2009, a terrorist was shooting at the Little Rock military recruiting center where two people were killed by Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad. It was a tragic, but isolated, event.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has a list of 8 scams going through the Jonesboro community, but there's a low risk of falling for one if you are a savvy consumer. For example, one tells you not to plant mystery seeds from China. Given that the community is full of hospitality and genuinely nice people, they also look out for each other and can spot a scam a mile away.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM
Given the higher crime rates in this city, there's a medium risk for women travelers. There's a seven in 1000 chance of being a victim of a violent crime and 38 in 1000 of being a victim of a property crime. Of the top 100 cities in Arkansas, Jonesboro is in the bottom half of the safe city ranking at 64.
TAP WATER RISK : MEDIUM
Tap water has a medium safety risk given the 2020 report by Jonesboro City Water & Light said, in part, "Based on the various criteria of the assessment, our water sources have been determined to have a low to medium susceptibility to contamination." However, none of the testing done in the 2020 report was in violation of local, state, or federal requirements.
Safest Places to Visit in Jonesboro
The area around Arkansas State University is a safe place to visit.
Between university police patrolling and sending out crime alerts on top of the Jonesboro police force, there’s a low risk of being a victim of a crime in this area.
Emergency phones and university police escorts are available 24 hours on campus.
The downtown area has boutiques and antique shopping along with some local eateries and art displays.
The big draw to this area is Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center.
Log cabins fill this forested area with several lakes on the property.
There’s no entrance fee to the park, but renting a log cabin, a campsite, or water recreation vehicles and permits does come with a cost.
Turtle Creek Mall is popular for those wanting a more traditional American mall visit.
Jonesboro is also known as a “City of Churches” and there’s a place of worship for all religions.
The First Baptist Church and First Methodist Church are two stunning and safe places to visit with a history dating back to the 1910s.
There are some entertainment venues and basic activities like bowling and laser tag, but most people come to Jonesboro for either the university or to get away from all that kind of “city life” stuff.
Placess to Avoid in Jonesboro
Crime maps show the area just north and east of Jonesboro are the most dangerous.
It’s a city of families and close-knit neighborhoods, so the average tourist wouldn’t be wandering in those areas anyway unless they had kin there.
It’s best to always be vigilant and don’t let the laid-back style of the city knock down your guard.
Lock the door to your car if you drive there.
The Jonesboro Police Department employs 169 sworn officers, which makes one officer for every 437 people.
Just in case you need to call the police while you are there, store this number in your phone now—(870) 935-5657 is the non-emergency number.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Jonesboro
- Check the weather daily for severe storm potential. The storms here can get downright dangerous, as we saw in March 2020, most recently. Be aware of green skies, large hail, and a dark-low lying cloud known as a “wall cloud.” Ask at your hotel what the safety plan is in case of a tornado.
- Winter can bring ice storms to northwest Arkansas and it’s a crippling weather event. In 2009, up to 3 inches of ice coated the roads and 17 people died statewide. These storms can knock out power, leaving people in the dark and cold and roads can be impassible. It’s wide to avoid this area if an ice storm is coming unless you can hunker down for the long haul.
- Watch out for bicyclists or be extra cautious if you ride one. The Jonesboro Police Department is working to improve the likeability of the city. If you witness or become involved in an accident with a cyclist, there’s a form you can fill out on the department’s website.
- Get ready to talk. Jonesboro is a mix of hometown neighbors and newly transplanted families who love the high job rate and low cost of living. It’s a friendly, talkative town. Just be careful to not give too much information in case the person has ill intentions. It’s a long shot, but it’s worth considering in this smaller town.
- Jonesboro is in a dry county, and that’s got nothing to do with the weather. That means you can’t buy alcohol at the store and restaurants need a special permit to offer it. Nearly half of the counties in Arkansas are dry, and some are “moist” meaning the cities within the counties can define their laws.
- Say the state name right. It’s the law. It’s Ar-kan-saw. Don’t say it like Kansas and don’t sound the “s” at the end. There’s no penalty or fine for saying it wrong, but it will make you stick out as a tourist.
- Keep an eye out for crime. Crimegrade.org reports there is a crime every 2 hours and 12 minutes in Jonesboro. While FBI data shows a decrease in thefts, which are most likely to impact a tourist, there is a rise in aggravated assault. If you are the victim of a crime, contact the police immediately.
- Even the small town of Jonesboro isn’t immune to the growing sex trafficking problem nationwide. The Jonesboro Police Chief added a Homeland Security Investigations employee to the ranks to combat this problem. Girls as young as 12 years old can be lured into this dangerous crime.
- Watch out for one-way streets in the downtown area. Jonesboro has several main streets that just go one direction downtown. The parking can get confusing, as the downtown organization admits on its website, “Don’t let the scattered placement of the parking lots deter you from visiting the downtown area; it’s extremely walkable!” The fact that it comes with that warning means you should plot out the parking ahead of time.
- There are big criminal cases connected to Jonesboro, like the infamous West Memphis 3 murders and the 1998 middle school shooting. Despite the current fascination with true crime nationwide, it’s best not to ask locals about these stories unless they bring it up first. These were events that hurt the close-knit community and it’s not entertainment —it’s personal here.
So... How Safe Is Jonesboro Really?
Jonesboro, Arkansas, is called everything from one of the safest cities in America to one of the most dangerous you can find.
Here’s the reality straight from crime numbers.
In the past decade, the population of Jonesboro has grown nearly 20%.
With more residents, comes more crime just as a fact of nature.
The biggest increase in crime from 2019-2020 was Crimes Against Persons up 14%, a number that was driven by a 19% increase in aggravated assault.
A good chunk of the assault crimes could be related to drug activity in the city, which isn’t an attack on a tourist.
Crimes Against Property went up 17%, fueled by rising motor vehicle theft numbers.
DUI’s, drug arrests, and weapon law violations were up 14% due to an active increase in police presence and tenacity.
Police Chief Rick Elliott takes an aggressive approach to bring criminals to justice, as he stated in his 2020 address in the annual crime report.
He said, “Despite the challenges (of COVID), we were still able to achieve some of our top goals for 2020, including increasing the number of gang-related charges stemming from violent crimes, and a 36% increase in arrests for impaired driving.”
How Does Jonesboro Compare?
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- Visas - Arkansas has no specific visa requirements outside of what is needed to enter the United States. The Passport Center for the state is in Hot Springs, which is three hours west, but the U.S. Post office locations can handle some basic passport services.
- Currency - The U.S. Dollar is the currency in Jonesboro. It might be smart to bring some well-hidden cash in case you run into parks and recreation areas that don't take credit or debit cards. Most credit cards and Venmo or PayPal are accepted at the main city businesses.
- Weather - You'll need a trusted weather app for your visit here. Winter temperatures average highs in the upper 40's and lows at or below freezing. The summers can get up to 90°(F) on average and it's very humid in Arkansas during this time of year. Pack light, loose clothing, and maybe a towel to wipe the sweat as you visit the outdoor activities. The big weather concern is severe weather, which can happen year-round, but mostly in the spring. Tornadoes and severe thunderstorms are likely during these times of the year, but everyone stays informed when storm potential exists.
- Airports - Jonesboro Municipal Airport is just three miles from the city center, but there are just three flights a day to and from St. Louis. Little Rock's airport is 2 hours and 130 miles away. Memphis is a little more than an hour's drive and just 80 miles away. Memphis is generally the first choice for travelers since it's closer.
- Travel Insurance - Ensuring your travel plans to Jonesboro is a good idea, as severe weather in the area and across the mid-South region can impact flights and cause delays.
Jonesboro Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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