Mississippi : Safety by City
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If you’re looking for a charming and historic southern destination that captures the essence of the Deep South, look no further than Natchez, Mississippi.
This small town of 14,000 people exudes cultural and historical significance.
One of the biggest draws of Natchez is its stunning collection of antebellum homes.
These historic mansions were built by wealthy plantation owners in the 1800s and are some of the finest examples of Greek Revival and Federal-style architecture in the country.
Natchez boasts an impressive array of historic sites and landmarks, including the Natchez National Historical Park, which tells the story of the Native American, African American, and European settlers who once called the area home.
You’ll see one of the locations where the major slave trade was held.
The city doesn’t neglect its position in the slave trade, but there’s one horror of American history hidden in the snake and alligator-filled bluffs no human would dare venture into today.
It’s a place known as the Devil’s Punchbowl, where slaves freed after the Civil War were forced again into unimaginable horrors of concentration camps.
History suggests as many as 20,000 souls perished there, and the fruits of the land aren’t eaten because of the tragedy that still rots in the ground.
Visitors can also explore the Natchez Trace Parkway, a scenic drive that winds through the heart of the Deep South and offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
Natchez is also home to a vibrant arts and culture scene, with plenty of galleries, theaters, and music venues to explore.
The Natchez Festival of Music is an annual event that celebrates the rich musical heritage of the region.
From classic southern comfort food like fried chicken and barbecue to fresh seafood and Cajun specialties, Natchez has something to offer every palate.
There’s an immersive sense of American history here.
Just don’t forget or ignore the role this city played in slavery and Civil Rights on the way to a more inclusive America.
A visit during February’s Black History Month will be a good all-around education of the truths, consequences, and lessons learned in this Mississippi River-straddling town.
In 2023, the city held its first Black History Month parade and a group named Black Natchez works to support black-owned businesses and those who support the effort.
Warnings & Dangers in Natchez
OVERALL RISK: LOW
Natchez Police Department is one of many state agencies that didn't report 2022 crime data to the state Department of Public Safety. We were given bits and pieces of 2021 crime data, the numbers that show improvement, not the full picture. So we're left with the 2020 crime data to tell you there's a low risk, but it's honestly an average risk as many crime rates to the national average line.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
The only public transportation here is to get citizens around from grocery stores to doctor's appointments and such, so you'll either need a car or rely on taxis and rideshares. Neither is a bad option, but having a car offers more flexibility.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
This is a low risk with a small town that doesn't have many crowds. You should still use standard precautions like keeping your wallet in your front pocket or keeping your purse on your lap at a restaurant.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: LOW
Southern Mississippi faces a slew of severe weather risks throughout the year, from storms to tornadoes to extreme flooding. Drought can also cause problems, and extreme heat mixed with humidity can increase the risks of heat exhaustion or stroke. Hurricanes that move up the spine of Mississippi can weaken but still be dangerous in places like Natchez.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
The robbery rate has been cut in half in the past decade, with nine reported in 2020. While the risk is statistically low, you still need to be aware at night or outside tourist areas. The city has a high poverty rate which could cause people to take desperate, unprovoked action.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
This is a low risk, with its position on the Mississippi River being the only potential hard target. Hate crimes and domestic acts of terrorism are also a possibility in a town so rooted in systemic racism.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
A rash of scams involving fake police officers calling or messaging people on social media demanding personal information or money. If you're using social media to research the city, stick with local organizations and government agencies and not unverified groups.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
The same low risk applies to women, even those traveling alone or with children; just use all the same personal safety steps as you would in any city. The charm of this town doesn't necessarily reflect its safety.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
The 2021 Water Quality Report by Natchez Water Works shows full compliance and no violations. If you're staying in a historic home, let the water run from a stagnant faucet for about two minutes to clear out any potential debris in the pipes between the plant and the tap.
Safest Places to Visit in Natchez
Visit Natchez is the tourism organization’s website for the city, and the Natchez Historical Park falls under the National Park Service, so there’s a separate nps.gov website for that.
The Downtown Natchez Alliance website shows you the current businesses and plans for the future, which could include new businesses and attractions before your visit.
With so many historical homes to see, you can let the team at Natchez Pilgrimage Tours coordinate the perfect sightseeing experience for you or your group.
Spring is the high season for these tours, but there are year-round options with different sites and prices.
The tourism website offers a list of African-American history sites to see, but here are a few of the most significant along the African American Heritage Trail.
- Forks of the Road Slave Market – This historic site was once the second-largest slave market in the South, where thousands of enslaved African Americans were bought and sold.
- William Johnson House – Johnson was a successful businessman and diarist in the mid-19th century who wrote about the social and political climate of the time.
- Natchez Association for the Preservation of African American History and Culture (NAPAC) Museum – This museum features exhibits and artifacts related to the history and culture of African Americans in Natchez and the surrounding area.
- Zion Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church – This historic church was founded in the 1860s by a group of African American Methodists who wanted to worship separately from white Methodists. The church played an important role in the civil rights movement in Natchez in the mid-20th century.
The scenic Natchez Trace Parkway offers stunning views of the Mississippi River, rolling hills, and forests.
It starts (or ends, depending on which way you go) in Natchez and runs 444 miles to Tennessee.
The beauty of this road is that it’s a two-lane “take your time” scenic route covered by the National Park Service.
Many stops along the way allow hiking, biking, and camping.
Natchez City Cemetery is the final resting place of many of Natchez’s most prominent citizens.
You can take a self-guided tour or join a guided tour to learn more about the history and stories of the people buried here.
This is also near the unlisted and inaccessible Devil’s Punchbowl location.
Several companies offer riverboat cruises along the Mississippi River, where you can enjoy live music, food, and drinks while taking in the views of the river and surrounding scenery.
This neighborhood is called Natchez Under the Hill, and it’s a Mark Twain-era-designed series of stores and restaurants.
Don’t forget to try Fat Mama’s Tamales!
Natchez also has a casino built into a 19th-century sawmill.
While gambling has always been illicit and lewd in the Natchez history books, this is more like a themed Las Vegas resort with no river pirates in sight.
Places to Avoid in Natchez
Based on the limited and outdated crime information we have, statistically, we can say that the north and northeast sides of town outside the downtown area or tourist areas have the highest crime rates.
With a poverty rate of more than 33%, it will be aesthetically obvious when you’re crossed into a part of town not frequented by visitors.
The city has taken steps to tear down dilapidated buildings and reduce blight, but that’s a project that will take several years.
Before you book a trip for a cruise on the Mississippi River or a day tour on a steamboat, check with the vendor and explore the river levels.
In 2022, Natchez was one of many cities along the river that experienced historically low levels, impacting tourism and distribution.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Natchez
- Natchez does have its own police department, and the website does list the crime statistics back to 1994. However, as of this publication, it only details through 2020. What you can see is how far crime reduction has come over the years. If I were writing this article in the mid-90s or early 2010s, the safety advice would be much different.
- Natchez partnered with Project NOLA to install cameras in high-crime areas. These high-resolution cameras will pivot in the direction of gunfire and can be zoomed in close enough to see the type of gun a criminal is carrying. As the program expands, more neighborhoods will be covered with cameras to help keep the streets safe.
- Southwest Regional Mississippi Crime Stoppers encourages anonymous tips by a call to (888) 442-5001. This isn’t to be used instead of 911, but if you have information about a crime, you’ll be assigned a case number, and any arrest due to your information could get you a cash reward.
- The gambling age in Mississippi is 21, and juveniles aren’t allowed on the casino floor, but they can be guests at the casino and dine in the restaurants.
- The Mississippi River water is muddy, dirty, debris-filled, and dangerous. Don’t swim in it, and avoid contact with the water if you can. Opt for rivers or lakes nearby to stay away from the current of the river and other health hazards. It also usually has a nasty stench to it, and I say that as someone who grew up along the river in Missouri.
- When you’re in the parks, watch where you sit. Ant mounds can contain fire ants, which swarm your body faster than you can say “Ouch” and leave painful welts. I made this mistake once and ended up with at least 100 bites on the back of my leg. In my defense, I protected my dog first to get the ants off of him before I cleared them off me.
- Spanish Moss is another aesthetic aspect of the South, but don’t take it or touch it. Several bugs, including chiggers, make their home in the moss, and you don’t want to make a suitcase full of bugs just to take home some Spanish Moss. Also, remember the rules of Poison Ivy; “Leaves of three, let it be.”
- Anglers need a fishing license from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks. You’ll be dealing with freshwater here, so get the proper license. If you plan to visit the coast, you’ll also need a saltwater license. Mississippi does have reciprocity agreements with Louisiana, so you don’t need a license for each state if you’re fishing in boundary waters.
- There’s an old wives’ tale about the Mississippi River stating that tornadoes can’t make it across the bluffs, so any city east of the bluffs is safe. I can tell you more than you’d like to know about the second-deadliest tornado in American history that hit Natchez to prove that wrong. Sign up for CodeRED alerts through the county website to stay informed of approaching weather.
- Old cities like Natchez have some pretty gnarly roads, and potholes pop up every spring. I swear, driving in the South makes you ask, “Do I have a flat tire?” at least three times a day. The roads are bumpy, so take your time. You can also use the city’s website to report potholes. Don’t assume someone else has done it. You don’t need to do anything more than file a report about where the pothole was located.
So... How Safe Is Natchez Really?
What’s interesting about safety in Natchez is that the police won’t release updated crime data, but when the local newspaper wrote an article about dangerous crimes in the city, the mayor made a public scene about it.
He suddenly was willing to talk about certain statistics, like the drop from 67% drop in homicides between 2018 and 2021.
“These statistics didn’t happen overnight.
They happened over the last year because we have been smart and we have been addressing crime.
It’s because we are investing in the men and women who put on the badge.
While the rest of us sit at home or sleep comfortably in our beds, these men and women are out every day and every night,” Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson lamented.
“We right now have more police officers than we have had in years, and yet you’re going to call us a dangerous city?
I beg to differ.”
A new police chief is on duty after the previous chief moved to a bigger department.
The city is facing a trend of rising juvenile crime, which is all too common in America right now.
A group of leaders came together in early 2023 to address juvenile crime prevention.
“This is not just a Natchez problem, but it is a problem here, and there is no doubt about it,” Adams County Youth Court Judge Walt Brown said.
“We’re going to have to begin some aggressive policing.
If you see a group of kids out at 1 a.m., you’re going to have to stop them and figure out what is going on.”
What I can tell you is that average seems to be the norm here, with marked improvement over the past 10–20 years.
Several steps, like those Project NOLA cameras, are helping catch criminals faster and make communities safer.
You shouldn’t be afraid to visit Natchez, but you also shouldn’t stop using common sense and situational awareness, especially at night outside of downtown.
How Does Natchez Compare?
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International guests need a passport and a visa to get through Customs but can travel freely throughout the United States after that. Some countries are part of a visa waiver program, and you can see if you qualify on the U.S. State Department website.
The currency used in Natchez, MS is the United States Dollar (USD). If you plan to gamble at the casino, you will need cash. The casino cage will help with that, but you'll find lower fees and exchange rates at the duty-free airport shops or at your home bank.
Pack fabrics that can handle a lot of sweat because Southern humidity can be intense. You also need comfortable walking shoes that can adjust to sweaty feet or long periods of walking. Bug spray and sunscreen are needed. Hats are a great way to shield the sun, but it's Southern etiquette to remove a hat before going inside a building.
The closest commercial airport to Natchez is the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport (BTR), located approximately 90 miles south of Natchez, with several major airlines offering daily flights. Another commercial airport within a reasonable driving distance is the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY), located approximately 150 miles southeast of Natchez.
Travel insurance offers peace of mind when traveling to a storm-prone small town that can experience various travel delays.
Natchez Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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Mississippi - Safety by City