Oklahoma : Safety by City
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- Oklahoma City
Lawton, Oklahoma, is a blend of history and modernity nestled in the foothills of the Wichita Mountains.
Its origins trace back to the late 19th century, flourishing with the establishment of Fort Sill in 1869, named after General Joshua Sill, a Union general killed in the Civil War.
This military installation has been a focal point of Lawton’s identity, offering a glimpse into its rich past.
At Fort Sill, visitors can explore the US Army Field Artillery Museum, showcasing the evolution of artillery and the brave soldiers who served.
Beyond the fort, Lawton has several interesting museums.
Here you can learn about the Comanche Nation, which is the largest federally recognized tribe in Oklahoma.
It’s also headquartered in Lawton.
You might not be too impressed to know that Lucille Fay LeSueur lived here in her early years, but when you find out that’s the real name of Hollywood legend Joan Crawford, it becomes a little more intriguing.
Her agent thought her last name sounded too much like the word “sewer”, so a contest was held to change it.
Lawton, with its blend of history, natural beauty, and cultural offerings, promises an enriching experience for travelers seeking a captivating slice of Oklahoma’s heartland.
Warnings & Dangers in Lawton
OVERALL RISK: MEDIUM
There's a medium risk in Lawton based on high crime rates and an overall lack of things to do for more than a day or so.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
LATS is Lawton Area Transit System, and that's the public transportation system here. I'd recommend checking the schedules and routes before you decide to rely on this. Taxis and rideshares should be available, but not as much as you'd find in larger cities. Rental cars are available at the airport. There's a low risk with any option, but with high crime rates, you still need to use constant personal safety steps.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
More than 62 pickpockets or purse snatchings were reported in 2022. That seemed very high to me, so I was able to find out that number was particularly high due to a prolific pickpocket at a local store. In the previous three years, anywhere from 2-5 were reported. The risk is low, but the 2022 trend shows just how easily the numbers can increase without proper personal safety steps.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
This is a medium risk due to the ongoing risk of severe weather and winter weather throughout the year. Spring is known as "tornado season," which is fueled by cold and warm air in the atmosphere. You can't be safe enough when it comes to severe thunderstorms and tornadoes here. Winter can bring ice storms and the occasional snowstorm or blizzard. Wildlife and heavy winds can cause problems from road closures to air quality issues.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
The robbery risk is surprisingly low here, and has decreased substantially in the past seven years. You should still use extra caution, especially when you're out at night, but this isn't one of the biggest crime concerns in Lawton.
TERRORISM RISK: MEDIUM
The presence of Fort Sill raises the risk to medium, but that also comes with an abundance of security. The best way you can help is to report any suspicious activity you see.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
Scams here target residents. You can read the Better Business Bureau website or social media sites for the city/police to see what scams are trending. You're much more likely to be panhandled by a homeless person, but you are never obligated to give them money. It's much more helpful to donate to a homeless shelter if you feel inclined.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: MEDIUM
Statistically, women are about eight percent more likely to be the victim of a violent crime. You'll be much less at risk if you're just visiting the tourist areas and museums. The same medium risk applies to women as it does for all tourists.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
The 2022 Water Quality Report shows full compliance and no violations according to federal and state standards. The city does have an alert section on its website where water safety issues lasting longer than eight hours will be posted. The risk is low, but it always helps to stay informed.
Safest Places to Visit in Lawton
The Lawton Fort Still Chamber of Commerce is the official tourism bureau for this region, and their website has a great list of options to explore while you’re in town.
You can download a visitor’s guide without having to give personal information, which I always believe is ideal.
It keeps you from getting spammed.
Visit the Fort Sill National Historic Landmark and Museum.
The museum details the history of the fort, which has been in continuous operation since 1869.
Explore the museum’s exhibits, which cover everything from the Apache Wars to the Buffalo Soldiers.
You can also take a walking tour of the historic post.
The U.S. Field Artillery Museum is also on site.
Pay your respects to Geronimo, the Apache leader who was imprisoned at Fort Sill in the late 1800s.
Geronimo’s grave is located in the Fort Sill Apache Indian Cemetery.
A background check and FS Form 118a are required to be considered for entry onto the Fort Sill property.
Discover the history and culture of this unique region at the Museum of the Great Plains.
The museum’s exhibits cover everything from the Paleo-Indians to the Dust Bowl.
You can also learn about the Comanche and Kiowa tribes, who were the original inhabitants of the area.
Head about 20 miles to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.
You have 60,000 acres to explore with different ecosystems like mixed grass prairies, granite hills, and plenty of water features.
The refuge is also home to The Holy City, one of the top tourist attractions in this part of the state.
Take a walk through this unique religious complex, which features replicas of biblical sites from around the world.
The Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center introduces you to the original inhabitants of the Southern Plains.
The museum’s exhibits cover everything from Comanche history and culture to their present-day life.
Try your luck at the Apache Casino Hotel.
Slots and table games are available, with restaurants and bars for a night out on the town.
Places to Avoid in Lawton
Get a hotel as far west as you can in Lawton, as most of the dangerous neighborhoods are in the central part of the city.
The northwest and northeast sections can also be sketchy.
These neighborhoods have historically had higher rates of violent crime, property crime, and drug-related offenses.
It is important to note that there are always safe pockets within even the most troubled neighborhoods.
With a gang presence and even Mexican cartel members here, you just don’t want to risk being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Driving down the main roads should be fine, but you don’t want to walk in this area.
The reality is, however, that you won’t likely end up in these neighborhoods visiting the tourist attractions.
They are in largely residential areas with limited things that would draw visitors in.
If a neighborhood looks rundown and blighted, you shouldn’t be there.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Lawton
- Lawton has its own police department. You can follow them on Facebook @LawtonPD. To contact them with specific safety questions, email email@example.com or call (580)581-3270.
- Register for a Nixle account to get emergency notifications from the city of Lawton and Comanche County. It’s important you stay aware of severe weather risks and public safety issues. The service is free, and you can unsubscribe when you leave.
- Anytime you see the word “Turnpike” on the name of an Oklahoma road, that means it’s a toll road. I-44 goes right through Lawton, and it’s a turnpike. All the information you need is on the Pike Pass website.
- Lawton has a lot of issues with speeding and road rage. It’s important when you’re driving to stick to the speed limit and don’t get involved in road rage, even if it is the other driver’s fault. If you accidentally cut someone off, it’s common etiquette to wave your hand to express “sorry!”
- You can’t buy alcohol or cigarettes if you’re under 21 in Lawton, and police have done several stings against businesses that aren’t following the rules. If you want to gamble, the legal gambling age at the Oklahoma casinos is 18 – but always double-check that. Each casino has a choice to make the gambling age 21.
- Anglers need a fishing license from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. You can purchase that online and be sure to get an out-of-state license. You should have a digital copy of that on your mobile device at all times while fishing.
- The city offers a program called iHelp Lawton Citizen Portal. Here, people can report issues like potholes, fallen tree branches, graffiti, or blight. I found it helpful to review since you can see all the previous reports. For example, one marked a few broken wood sections on a bridge in a park. You can also submit your own reports as a guest. It just takes a few minutes and could be helpful to someone else.
- Before you visit the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, please review wildlife safety, such as what to do if you see a bison. Even the elk can be aggressive during the rut. You should always give wildlife at least 25 yards, and it’s illegal to harass any animal. That includes making a noise, so they look at you.
- Understand the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning. Always ask your hotel clerk where the safe room is for tornadoes. Even if you’re not afraid of the storm, you should never go stand outside to watch a tornado. And, as an old saying goes, if you do see a tornado, and it looks like it’s not moving, it means it’s coming toward you.
- You should also know about wildfire safety and red flag warnings, as the winds of Oklahoma can kick up a small fire into an inferno quickly.
So... How Safe Is Lawton Really?
Lawton has a double whammy of problems.
First, the crime rates are high – more than double the national and state averages.
Second, there’s not a lot to do here if you’re looking to stay a while.
As a military town, Lawton’s economy lies in Fort Sill’s success and struggles without it.
While a lack of jobs and affordable housing are driving people out of their homes into homeless camps, few solutions are coming in to help revitalize the economy.
One in five people in Lawton lives at or below the poverty level.
Lawton also became a hotbed for drug activity, with drug busts tied to Mexican cartels.
About 20% of violent crimes happen against strangers, and 64% of all violent crimes are in private homes.
2022 saw the highest homicide rate since at least 2000, and that’s with overall violent crime being down 24% from the all-time high in 2009.
Yet, somehow, in this mix, robberies are down 75% since 2015 and are now 25% lower than the national average.
Even theft rates are 38% below the national average.
At the same time, very little context is provided by local police about why crime rates are so high or why there are disparities in the different categories.
It’s not inherently dangerous to visit Lawton, but it might be a little depressing if you’re just looking for a place to visit in Oklahoma.
Even Tulsa, with a crime rate of 10% higher, still offers more things to do in safe places.
For those who need to visit here for family, personal, or work-related reasons, use common sense and avoid the areas of town we discussed.
Try to limit walking around and always lock your vehicle.
Don’t go looking for trouble because Lawton has it.
How Does Lawton Compare?
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International travelers must secure a visa or visa waiver to gain entry into the country. The U.S. State Department website provides detailed information on your eligibility for a visa waiver. You can also use the Visa Wizard module on their site to determine the required visa.
Only the U.S. Dollar can be used in America. You can generally get cash at an ATM or inside a bank where you are a member. However, it's wise to use a credit card for as many purchases as possible. Oklahoma's airports don't offer foreign currency exchange services.
Plan for the season because Oklahoma gets a definitive version of each. Spring and fall might require layers as new weather patterns sweep through - a light jacket should be fine. Bug spray is needed in the warmer months. Dress casually and bring comfortable walking shoes.
Lawton has its own airport less than four miles from downtown. Flights are available seven days a week, but they only go to Dallas/Fort Worth. Oklahoma City's airport is much larger (Will Rogers World Airport), and it's just an hour up the interstate.
Anytime you take a trip where weather could potentially interfere with flights or driving, we highly recommend getting travel insurance. Don't forget to look into health insurance if you aren't already covered – no free healthcare is available in America. Also, double-check the insurance on your rental car to make sure you're covered in the event of an accident, breakdown, or roadside assistance.
Lawton Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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Oklahoma - Safety by City