Maryland : Safety by City
- Ellicott City
- Germantown & Gaithersburg
- Ocean City
- Silver Spring
Laurel, Maryland, sits halfway between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore along the Patuxent River.
It is at the far northern edge of Prince George’s County.
Geographically, the names can be confusing.
The city of Laurel does not include the unincorporated communities of North Laurel, West Laurel, and South Laurel.
The name Laurel comes from the Laurel trees and shrubs in this region when it was founded.
The city sits tucked away from the busy I-95 corridor and is home to less than 30,000 people, but there are several good reasons to take this scenic route.
Laurel is home to a Dinosaur Park that is an active paleontological location with fossils dating back more than 115 million years.
Nearby, the nation’s security is partially in the hands of the National Security Administration and Fort Meade.
I think if the Men In Black were a real thing, this would be the place where they were located.
Laurel made the 9/11 report since five of the hijackers stayed in this quaint town before their unthinkable attack on America.
Historic Main Street brings the charm of a bygone era without the crowds of the current era.
You can enjoy a break from the fast-paced cities and just explore small-town Maryland and its significant contributions to the nation’s history.
Warnings & Dangers in Laurel
OVERALL RISK: LOW
Laurel's police department hasn't issued official crime data since 2020 but does release sporadic monthly crime reports. While the city appears to have a low risk based on the crime data provided, it's outdated data and situated between two rather dangerous large cities. Use caution, but nothing I can find suggests a surge in violent crime here.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
Metro Bus system in Washington has routes through this county. RTA of Central Maryland serves this county and surrounding counties. MARC is a commuter train that goes to Baltimore and Washington. Taxis and rideshares will be easy to find, and having a rental car is always a great way to explore at your own pace.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
The risk is low without large crowds clogging up the streets, but there are a handful of recent reports of stolen wallets or purses. Use the same caution as you would anywhere, but you don't need a death grip on your belongings.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
Laurel can get severe weather and had a tornado cause serious damage in 2001. Flooding is a concern, and winter storms are likely. All the emergency management information and advice are clearly laid out on the Preparedness Resources section of the city's website.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
Many robberies in 2022 involved businesses, banks, or armored trucks. One theft involved gunmen stealing a puppy and two dogs at gunpoint. While the risk is low that a tourist would get robbed, remember to avoid wearing flashy jewelry or expensive bags. If you do need to do an internet transaction, use one of the safe transaction zones provided by the police department.
TERRORISM RISK: MEDIUM
There's a medium risk with the NSA and military base nearby, but there is also a lot of additional security that will be visible, and plenty you'll never see from plain-clothed law enforcement officers. You'll also be among a vigilant group of workers and soldiers, which helps notice suspicious activities.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
None of the reported scams is out of the ordinary, and many focus on locals. Visitors should use extra caution when renting a home, as rental scams are popular nationwide. Two ways to sort out a scammer include asking for a Facetime walkthrough of the property where you can also see the landlord and being asked to wire money to secure the reservation. When in doubt, use a local travel agency to help you find a legit place to stay.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
Nothing in the crime data or recent reports suggests there is a higher risk for women. You do want to travel with a friend if you can, especially at night. Don't walk around after dark; if you enjoy the wilderness areas, let someone know where you are going and when you plan to be back.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
The water utility here boasts 100 years of fully compliant water testing, and the 2021 Water Quality Report backs that up. Remember, the water quality reports are just for tap water. If you want to review the river water quality, that would be through the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
Safest Places to Visit in Laurel
There is no official tourism site for Laurel. ExperiencePrinceGeorges.com is the travel site for the county, but it’s a large area that wraps around the eastern side of Washington, D.C.
Your best bet is to use the city’s website to find attractions and local events.
The Laurel Historical Society has organized a self-guided walking tour in the historic district.
There are nearly 60 places to see, and they are all in pretty close quarters on the northern side of the city (not in North Laurel).
One of the most popular is the Phelps House, built in 1888 and still holding onto that era’s charm.
The Laurel Museum is a great way to learn the town’s history before exploring the other sites.
Dinosaur Park is a must-see, but you won’t be allowed near the fossil site if you aren’t there for one of the public access events.
You can still use the park and playground to have fun.
Public events are held on the first and third Saturday of each month.
Laurel’s House of Horror is a haunted house and escape room combo that is open seasonally and for special events.
It’s in the Towne Center shopping center, where there are retail stores and restaurants too.
The famous Laurel Park horse track is just north of there, where you can enter for free and bet if you want.
There are races almost every other day of the year, on average.
The Patuxent River is dammed up just northwest of the city, leaving several recreation areas along the river that expands into more of a lake.
This is part of the drinking water for the city, so there will be restrictions on what you can and can’t do in the water and during certain times of the year, but it’s a great way to explore the great outdoors of Maryland.
On the other side of the city, explore the Patuxent Research Refuge for hiking and wildlife viewing.
Ask for free tickets to the Kids Discovery Center to entertain the little ones with nature-themed activities.
For example, in the fall, there was a workshop about the wild turkey and why it doesn’t look like the thanksgiving turkey (for more than the obvious reasons).
Places to Avoid in Laurel
Laurel doesn’t have dangerous neighborhoods or shady sections of town, but you should stay in the main areas and on the main roads or highways to get around.
The entertainment and shopping areas will have a higher risk of theft, but no more so than in any other city.
Don’t try to get into the Dinosaur Park fossil area; if you are there for a public event, you won’t be allowed to dig by yourself.
If you find a fossil, don’t take it.
Ask for permission to keep it, but there’s no guarantee they’ll say yes.
All fossils will be examined by park staff before you leave.
Call before you go to confirm the event isn’t canceled due to the weather.
The number is (301)627-1286.
The National Security Administration isn’t something you need to go hunting for, channeling your inner spy.
It’s right off the highway, but you won’t be allowed into the work areas or on the base at Fort Meade unless you have a valid reason to be there and approval.
You can visit the National Cryptologic Museum (a museum about how to break codes) and see some of the best spy games in history.
Don’t make jokes about bombs, terrorism, guns, or violence.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Laurel
- Since Laurel Police don’t offer updated crime information or crime mapping technology, you can email them at email@example.com or call (301)498-0092.
- If you notice suspicious or criminal activity that isn’t urgent, you can call the tip line at (310)498-7645. You might call for things like vandalism, graffiti, or car break-ins. You’ll be leaving a message on a machine, so there’s no rush – leave a detailed message, and you aren’t required to leave a name. You can also email LPDtips@laurel.md.us
- Red Light Cameras are at the main intersections in Laurel, and even if you are in a rental car, they will still send a fine if you run a red light. You can turn right on red IF you come to a complete stop first and there isn’t a “NO TURN ON RED” sign posted.
- Anglers need a fishing license from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Get the non-resident license, and be sure to keep it with you at all times on the water. Hunters have a lot more training and requirements before getting a license.
- Sign up for emergency alerts through the city or Prince George’s County website. You’ll need severe weather information and any other major criminal or civil alerts that happen during your visit. Laurel City OEM has a Facebook page with daily weather and safety information.
- MD 511 is the transportation department’s website to help you get around Maryland. An interactive map lets you see accidents, construction zones, and real-time traffic reports. You can also see live cameras along the way. The “Incidents” section will list the most current delays and road issues.
- The SmarTrip app will help you navigate public transportation in this region. You can buy tickets and track trains or buses through the app. Having this contactless payment method is much safer for several reasons. If you have an Android device, you can buy a ticket without downloading the app, but you won’t get all the live-tracking benefits.
- Laureltv.org is a channel dedicated to the city’s events and programs. It’s smart to review a few episodes to see what’s new in the city and learn about local events happening.
- Winter visitors who rent a car will likely need to get some supplies before hitting the road. Grab an ice scraper, flashlight, and red rag to use as a caution sign in case of a breakdown. Carry a gallon of water for every person in the car just to be safe.
- If you are heading to or from the big cities nearby, leave as early in the morning as possible or wait until after 10:00 am to avoid heavy traffic. A 30-minute drive can easily be doubled if you drive at the wrong time. Keep this in mind when heading to or from the airport of your choice as well.
So... How Safe Is Laurel Really?
The only thing I can say for certain is that you won’t run into a dinosaur in this region any longer.
After that, the Laurel Police Department makes it very hard to give you a firm answer.
Violent crime rates from 2020 and four years prior show the violent crime rate is lower than the national average.
Theft rates were a bit higher, but that’s a broad category.
I’ve done enough research on American cities to know that anywhere from 25% to 50% of thefts are related to car burglaries or auto part thefts.
I also know that 50% of those burglaries usually occur because a car was left running or unlocked.
Lock your car, roll up the windows, and bring all personal items inside.
You’ll enjoy a much lower crime rate here than in Baltimore or Washington, D.C., so don’t get a false sense of safety when you travel.
We have explored many Maryland and D.C. area cities to help you plan your trip through the safest spaces possible.
Keep an eye on the monthly crime statistics that are reported sporadically on the department’s website, as it gives you a much better look at crime trends than I can offer from the outdated 2020 data.
How Does Laurel Compare?
|Belize City (Belize)
|La Paz (Bolivia)
You'll need a U.S. Visa to get through Customs at the airport. The U.S. State Department handles that process and has FAQs and a Visa Wizard module to get you started in the right direction. Plan for three months of processing.
The U.S. Dollar is the only currency accepted here, and avoid using public ATMs if you want to exchange currency. Don't carry large amounts of cash with you, and purchase as much as you can on a credit card, so you can check your transactions daily.
All four seasons mean full winter gear from November through March, and then layers of clothing in spring and fall for those fluctuating temperatures times of the year. Summer will be hot and humid; you'll need bug spray and sunscreen. Bring good walking shoes since there are many places to explore on foot.
You have your pick of BWI in Baltimore, Regan National in Washington, and Dulles just outside Washington, and they are all about the same distance away. My only advice is that Regan National airport has a sharp turn on departing flights to get out of White House airspace, so it can be a tummy-turner of a takeoff if you are uneasy while flying.
Travel insurance goes into effect as soon as you purchase it, so get it with your airplane tickets. This will ensure you get reimbursed for last-minute cancelations. Check your policy for what protection you get in case of severe, winter, or tropical weather.
Laurel Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
|Temperature / Month
Maryland - Safety by City
|Germantown & Gaithersburg