Is McAllen Safe? Crime Rates & Safety Report

Updated On June 17, 2024
McAllen, United States
Safety Index:
74
* Based on Research & Crime Data

McAllen, Texas, is one of the largest cities in the Rio Grande Valley near the Mexican border.

The only larger city is Brownsville, 60 miles east.

Located at the southern tip of Texas, McAllen is part of the larger metropolitan area that includes cities like Edinburg and Pharr.

Its proximity to the US-Mexico border gives McAllen a unique blend of American and Mexican influences, creating a cultural landscape that’s both rich and diverse.

The city is a gateway to the natural wonders of the Rio Grande Valley, offering a warm climate and lush landscapes that contrast with the arid regions further west.

Most people visit in winter or spring, as the summers and falls can be stifling hot.

Unlike some other cities in the Rio Grande Valley, McAllen has a more urban and cosmopolitan feel.

It’s a city where you can enjoy modern amenities while being close to nature.

The local vibe is friendly and laid-back, reflecting the city’s mix of cultures and its emphasis on community.

This is also the hometown of Catherine Hardwicke, director of films like Twilight, Thirteen, and Lords of Dogtown.

She hopes to someday make a movie of her incredible years growing up in this eclectic place.

McAllen is renowned for its vibrant arts scene, exemplified by the McAllen Performing Arts Center and numerous galleries.

The city also boasts excellent shopping and dining options, from high-end retailers at La Plaza Mall to authentic Mexican cuisine.

Its parks and nature centers, like Quinta Mazatlan, offer serene escapes within the urban environment.

If you can only stop in one Rio Grande Valley city, McAllen might just be the perfect one.

Warnings & Dangers in McAllen

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK: LOW

There's a low risk in McAllen, but that doesn't include the south of the border. That is only for the U.S. side. This vibrant community is filled with things to do for all ages.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW

Metro McAllen is the public transportation system, with rides costing just $1 and a lot of routes to get you where you want to visit. Taxis and rideshares are also available, as this is one of the larger cities in the Rio Grande Valley. Rental cars are another option. There are so many options here, and all come with a low risk.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW

About eight pickpockets or purse snatchings happen each year. In this larger city, that's a low risk, but it still requires diligence and vigilance with your belongings.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM

This is a medium risk due to excessive heat, tropical storms/hurricanes, severe thunderstorms, wildfires, and flooding, which are all potential dangers. Stay on top of the weather forecast throughout your day and limit exposure to the hottest part of the day as much as possible.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK: LOW

Robbery is 70% lower than the national average. About 36% of all robberies are armed robberies, which is worth considering if you're going to be out at night. Stay in well-lit, familiar areas.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK: MEDIUM

Reynosa is a border town in Mexico, and it's known as an entry point for illegal drugs, guns, and human trafficking. The risk is medium, as it's no secret how dangerous the cartels and gangs are in this area. You can help by reporting anything suspicious and avoiding any kind of troublesome situation. Always call for help instead of trying to interject.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK: LOW

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.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW

In McAllen, the risk is low. Women have plenty of places to explore that are safe, family-friendly, and even okay for solo travelers using basic personal protection steps. Those enjoying the nightlife should always stick with a friend or family member and never venture out alone, just in the spirit of extra precautions. Don't walk around unknown neighborhoods after dark.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK: LOW

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. Looking back at several years of McAllen's reports, no violations have been reported and all categories meet or exceed the standards.

Safest Places to Visit in McAllen

It appears there are two great websites where you can learn more about tourism in McAllen.

The first one, Explore McAllen, is run by the city.

The second, Visit McAllen, is run by the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

While it’s unusual to have two local groups running separate sites, it benefits you with two places to explore and plan itineraries.

McAllen is part of the Central Flyway, a primary route for many bird species migrating north and south.

The McAllen Nature Center is a haven for nature lovers, offering a peaceful retreat with walking trails, bird watching, and native plants.

Quinta Mazatlan, a historic adobe mansion, serves as an urban sanctuary and is part of the World Birding Center.

The McAllen Performing Arts Center is a modern venue that hosts a variety of performances, from Broadway shows to concerts and local productions.

This is a wonderful chance to see some cultural experiences you can’t get in most American cities, thanks to the strong Mexican and Texas influences.

Oval Park, just outside the performing arts center, is another hot spot for festivals.

The adjoining lake also has the famous swan pedal boats for guests to use.

Town Lake at Firemen’s Park is a great place to go fishing (catch and release) or kayaking.

The H20 hut is a rental store in the park where you can get all the fear you need for a great day.

The International Museum of Art & Science (IMAS) provides a blend of art and science exhibits, offering interactive experiences for visitors of all ages.

Exhibits change throughout the year, and you can view some of the virtual exhibits to see if this is a place you’d like to visit.

The McAllen Heritage Center showcases the rich history and cultural heritage of McAllen and the surrounding area.

Admission is free, and exhibits are rotated every season.

The center also plans dynamic local events, which are worth planning a trip around if you can.

One thing I wanted to add is that many of the parks and nature center locations offer free fitness activities, like yoga or HIIT workouts.

Places to Avoid in McAllen

While McAllen is one of the safest cities in Texas, the border town of Reynosa in Tamaulipas is the exact opposite.

All of Tamaulipas state is considered high risk and comes with a DO NOT TRAVEL advisory from the U.S. State Department.

In a state of dangerous towns, Reynosa is among the most volatile.

Even in March 2024, the New York City mayor canceled a trip due to security concerns.

The Mexican cartels run freely in this border town, using torture and murder to get what they want.

Reynosa is also where hundreds of thousands of migrants await entry into the U.S., some of whom are subjected to brutal violence by cartels who demand money from families in exchange for keeping their loved ones alive.

In one weekend in 2021, 19 people were murdered in Reynosa.

This isn’t a situation where “staying aware of your surroundings” is going to be helpful.

Cross the border at your own peril.

If the mayor of New York City won’t even visit it, I don’t know why anyone else would consider it.

Finally, don’t go to the Rio Grande River.

Half of it is in Mexico, and it’s common to see people trying to illegally cross the river.

That’s in addition to whatever pollution or debris is in the water.

Safety Tips for Traveling to McAllen

  1. McAllen does have a local police department. The main phone number is (956) 681-2000 if you’d like to call and ask specific questions. Follow the city of McAllen on Facebook @McAllenTX to get information from the police department as well as other city departments.
  2. The city also has an app you can download for Android or iOS. McAllen 311 is like having a city directory on your phone, where you can report issues, ask questions, and get a wide range of contact information. It also includes a list of parks and attractions.
  3. McAllen uses the CodeRED system for emergency notifications. You must stay informed about potential severe weather or public safety threats, and this is the fastest way to get that information. The program is free, and you can easily unenroll when you leave.
  4. Use the Park Mobile app to find parking in downtown McAllen. You can pay for parking through the app, limiting the need to carry around coins. If you do pay at the kiosk, you’ll need to have quarters or a credit card. No cash bills are accepted.
  5. If you visit the Traffic Operations section of the city’s website, you can click on an interactive map that shows all the roadwork being done in the city. The map also displays broken stoplights, power outages, and detours during local events.
  6. For road conditions across South Texas, use the Drive Texas website or app. Live cameras can show you the conditions along the route, with real-time traffic displayed along with weather information as needed.
  7. If you plan to fish while you’re in Texas, a license is required from the Department of Game and Parks. You can get a non-resident license for a day, week or year. Choose the one that is right for you and carry it with you at all times while fishing.
  8. Stay hydrated in McAllen, which means drinking water with electrolytes. People who aren’t used to extreme heat can experience heat exhaustion or heat stroke quickly. Even as I’ve been working on Texas cities since late May, excessive heat warnings have been prominent from the Hill Country to South Texas, and we’re not even into summer yet. For example, on May 9, 2024, McAllen had a “feels like” temperature of 114°F.
  9. If you’re visiting between June and November, that’s the hurricane season, and additional precautions should be taken. Check out the nearest evacuation route. Even though McAllen isn’t on the coast, it’s close enough that storms moving inland can bring damaging winds and excessive rainfall.
  10. Invest in a windshield cover if you’re visiting during times of excessive heat. I lived in Las Vegas, and I lost the top layer of skin on my fingers when I grabbed the steering wheel before letting the car air out on a hot day. Don’t leave electronics, kids, or pets in a hot car, even for a few minutes.

So... How Safe Is McAllen Really?

McAllen is a safe community with violent crime rates 65% lower than the state average and 62% lower than the national average.

About one-third of violent crimes happen against strangers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean tourists.

It could involve drug or gang activity.

About 44% of violent crimes are listed as happening in private homes.

Theft is 30% higher than the national average, but it has seen a 30% drop since 2010.

During that time, the city population increased by 10%.

43% of all thefts were shoplifting, according to the last five years of crime data.

About 20% were related to car break-ins or accessory thefts.

About eight cars are stolen each month.

About 25 drug crimes happen each week.

In 2023, McAllen saw the 13th year in a row of crime reductions.

The police chief credits a good relationship between law enforcement and the community with helping make the city safer, even at a time when it was growing.

“At the end of 2023, we recorded our lowest crime in 38 years,” McAllen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez said.

“McAllen has decreased our crime volume [by] 77.8% from our highest crime ever reported by McAllen.

That was 1995.”

I particularly like that the police department has its own list of crime data provided in a clear and easy-to-understand format.

Some communities shy away from being that transparent, but it helps give a sense of trust when law enforcement fully owns its successes and challenges.

Even with the current crime landscape and border challenges, McAllen is still the third-safest city in Texas.

That’s not an easy feat, but it definitely helps punctuate the point that it is a safe place to visit in the Rio Grande Valley.

How Does McAllen Compare?

CitySafety Index
McAllen74
Los Angeles56
Oakland57
New Orleans57
Baltimore56
Boston67
Washington DC56
Siem Reap (Cambodia)63
Phnom Penh (Cambodia)61
Niagara Falls (Canada)87
Calgary (Canada)82
Buenos Aires (Argentina)60
Vancouver (Canada)82

Useful Information

Visas

Visas

Whether you fly into McAllen or cross the border from Mexico, you'll need a visa or visa waiver. Those flying into McAllen but planning to visit Mexico should check the requirements before going. Details for both situations are on the U.S. State Department and Border Patrol websites. Your passport must be valid for at least six months after your trip, or you’ll need to apply for a new one.

Currency

Currency

The U.S. dollar is the currency used on the American side, but you'll also find border towns that accept USD or pesos. You should get cash in small bills, $1 and $5 bills, as most Mexican vendors won't make change for larger bills. Plenty of currency exchange places are available, but banks offer the lowest rates for members.

Weather

Weather

McAllen is hot and humid with a subtropical climate. Spring, summer, and early fall heat can be oppressive. Plan to sweat a lot and limit outdoor activities during the heat of the day. November through February is the best time to visit, as highs only get into the 70s on average.

Airports

Airports

McAllen has an airport, and it's the best option since larger airports are a long drive away. For example, San Antonio is at least three and a half hours away. Houston is six hours away! You'll be pleasantly surprised at the robust number of flights offered out of McAllen.

Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance

Comprehensive insurance offers the best protection and peace of mind. Be sure you know what emergency health coverage you have and if your rental car comes with roadside assistance coverage.

Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

McAllen Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan 15° C
Feb 18° C
Mar 21° C
Apr 24° C
May 27° C
Jun 30° C
Jul 30° C
Aug 30° C
Sep 29° C
Oct 25° C
Nov 20° C
Dec 16° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
212427303235363634312622
Low
°C
91115182224242423191410
High
°F
707581869095979793887972
Low
°F
485259647275757573665750

Texas - Safety by City

CitySafety Index
Abilene67
Amarillo65
Austin65
Beaumont51
Brownsville68
Carrollton72
Corpus Christi71
Dallas64
Del Rio68
Dell City81
Denton72
El Paso77
Fort Davis80
Fort Worth77
Fredericksburg85
Frisco84
Garland83
Granbury74
Grand Prairie72
Gruene82
Harlingen75
Houston59
Irving79
Laredo68
Lewisville80
Llano83
Lubbock38
Luckenbach77
Marathon78
Marfa80
McAllen74
McKinney84
Mesquite52
Midland78
Nacogdoches78
New Braunfels83
Plano86
Port Aransas83
Richardson81
San Angelo83
San Antonio53
Schulenburg83
Sherman73
Smithville84
South Padre Island70
Tyler70
Waco61
Waxahachie83
Weslaco68
Wichita Falls68
Wimberley81

Where to Next?

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