Is New Madrid Safe? Crime Rates & Safety Report

Updated On March 7, 2023
New Madrid, United States
Safety Index:
84
* Based on Research & Crime Data

You’d think that being known as the Oldest City West of the Mississippi would be enough to make New Madrid, Missouri, stand out.

Instead, it is the seismic suspense of the New Madrid fault line and the reality that hit in 1811 that really keeps this town from being shaken out of tourist guides nationwide.

It is situated along the Mississippi River, which provides plenty of opportunities for boating, fishing, and other water-based activities.

The town is also home to several parks and nature preserves, including the New Madrid County Conservation Area, which offers hiking trails, picnic areas, and wildlife viewing opportunities.

New Madrid is in the southeast section of the state, near the area known as the Bootheel.

It was founded in 1789 by the Spanish and played a significant role in the Civil War.

Between 1811 and 1812, a series of earthquakes rocked the region with such intense force the Mississippi River flowed backward.

“The screams of the affrighted inhabitants running to and fro, not knowing where to go, or what to do—the cries of the fowls and beasts of every species—the cracking of trees falling, and the roaring of the Mississippi— the current of which was retrograde for a few minutes, owing as is supposed, to an irruption in its bed— formed a scene truly horrible.”

– Eliza Bryan, witness to the earthquake, as written in 1811

The name of the small town might still send shudders down the spine of anxious travelers, but what you’ll really find in this community is a mix of Midwestern and Southern cultures, safe spaces, and plenty of room to explore without crowds or concern.

Warnings & Dangers in New Madrid

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK: LOW

There's a low overall risk here, with not a single stranger being a victim of violent crime in the past decade. It is a very small town and a good 2–3 hours from larger cities, so the low risk also comes with low hopes of nightlife.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW

There's a local public transit system just for residents, and you're going to need a car to get around this city and region. Even if you use a taxi here or there, you'll want a vehicle of your own, or you'll get bored fast.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW

This is another low risk, with just two pickpockets reported in the past decade. The only downside to a safe town like this is that people will let go of common sense and leave doors unlocked. Don't do that.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: LOW

Of course, the elephant in the room is the earthquake risk, but that's not a reason to avoid the city. Any quake from the New Madrid Seismic Zone would impact at least St. Louis and Memphis. The bigger ongoing risk is severe thunderstorms and tornadoes in the warmer months and the risk of snow and ice in the winter. Being this close to the Mississippi River also brings a flooding risk.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK: LOW

No robberies have been reported in the past decade, so this is another low-risk area.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK: LOW

New Madrid is a "blink, and you'll miss it" exit on the interstate, so there's no reason a terror group would even consider this location. On top of that, it's in the middle of a rural area.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK: LOW

Scams here are targeted at residents and are more garden variety like IRS scams or fake police officers asking for money.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW

Women will enjoy the safe nature of this city and the escape from the hustle and bustle of urban life. You'll need to know outdoor wilderness safety to explore the region, but that's easy enough for any female traveler.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK: LOW

The 2021 Water Quality Report shows no violations and full compliance with all state and federal standards. If you have questions about water regulations, call the EPA's Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.

Safest Places to Visit in New Madrid

The New Madrid city website has a section for tourists, and the Chamber of Commerce updates local events, like backyard barbecues and yard sales.

A tourist guide is available for free download.

New Madrid sits along the northern bank of a wobbly section of the Mississippi River.

Do you know the loop you make when you start to tie your shoes?

That’s what the loop of the river looks like south of New Madrid.

Despite being able to touch the river waters of Kentucky and Tennessee, you’re a good hour’s drive from either of them.

You definitely don’t want to miss a trip to the New Madrid Historical Museum.

It’s housed in a former saloon and tells the stories of Native Americans that roamed the land, pioneers who passed through on their way out West, Civil War moments, and the Great Earthquake(s) of 1811-1812.

You can also see artifacts found at the Indian Ceremonial Mound to the south.

Walk along the river and stop at the Observation Deck, where you can see the “Bessie Bend Oxbow,” that curve of shoelaces around Kentucky.

The land on the other side of the river is the Kentucky Bend, separated from the rest of the state by the curve of the river.

You’ll also likely see some barges pass by or be loaded up during your rest by the river.

As you stroll the Riverwalk, you’ll pass several plaques along the way to remember the Trail of Tears.

It’s worth a moment of silent tribute to the tribes that were forced from this land to make way for settlers.

The Hunter Dawson Historical Site is an Antebellum home with daily tours.

The home is preserved and finished with original items.

All the furniture was shipped to this location using the river.

The oldest home in New Madrid, built several decades after the earthquakes, is still standing and is now an art gallery as well as a historical marker.

Places to Avoid in New Madrid

New Madrid is too small to have bad parts of town, and you can easily see the entire city in one day.

The city is designed on a grid, and there’s a defined line between where the city ends, and rural areas begin.

Are you wondering why I haven’t told you where to find the New Madrid Fault Line?

That’s because you can’t find it.

It’s so deeply buried under layers of earth that even geologists don’t fully understand how such a fault line can exist.

What they do know is the power the zone can unleash.

So, you have to avoid looking for the fault line, but you can look for other signs of the earthquake more than 200 years later if you know where to look.

New Madrid is actually about 12 feet lower than it was before the earthquakes.

As you’ll learn in the museum, the force of the earth’s movements caused some land to rise, showering waterfalls on the banks of the river, and others to plummet – some gobbled up by the earth and others resting lower than before.

Around New Madrid, one of the largest sand boil locations exists, a mix of water and sand heated up and exploding like a volcano back during the quake.

The sandy underbelly of the earth here is one of several reasons another major quake could be disastrous – and there’s an estimate that the area is due for one in the next 40 years.

You can also consider driving about 90 minutes to Reelfoot Lake in Kentucky.

In 1810, this lake didn’t exist.

The force of the earthquakes opened up giant holes in the ground, which then filled with water.

Safety Tips for Traveling to New Madrid

  1. New Madrid does have its own police force. The surrounding county is policed by the New Madrid County Sheriff’s Office, which is also based in New Madrid. You can follow the city police department on Facebook @newmadridpolicedepartment.
  2. Two sections on the emergency management department website are must-reads; earthquake safety and tornado safety. While there’s a much greater chance of a tornado, it’s also important to know how to prepare for an earthquake. Despite what some locals might try to convince you, there is no such thing as earthquake weather.
  3. The city has the option to sign up for Notify Me emails, and the main one that pertains to tourists is the City News Flashes.
  4. The main road along the river in New Madrid is Levee Road. That’s because it’s the actual river levee. You will be able to walk up and touch the water at normal levels (though we don’t recommend touching that dirty water). You will get a shocking glance and just how little water it would take to flood the road and creep toward town.
  5. Even if the river level is low while you are there, don’t try to swim or paddle across it to the Kentucky Bend. The current is swift, and at the bottom is a muddy, debris-filled mess. Oh, and the barges won’t stop for swimmers. Just sayin’.
  6. The weather information in New Madrid comes from Paducah, Kentucky. Since this is such a rural area, the forecasts given are specific to each region.
  7. If you want to fish in this area, look for reciprocity agreements between the shared body of water with specific states. That means you can get a license in one state but still be permitted to fish in the adjoining rivers.
  8. In early 2023, several credit card skimming devices were found on New Madrid gas pumps, backing up my claim that a safe town can’t be assumed to be crime-free. You’ll lower your risk of falling victim by using the pump closest to the entrance or choosing to pay for your gas inside. If you do pay at the pump, look for the serial number security stickers at eye level. If those are removed, you should not put your credit card in the machine.
  9. If you’re doing a lot of research about New Madrid, you’ll see that several quakes have been reported in late 2022 and early 2023. Fault lines are usually pretty active, but most quakes will be so minor you won’t even feel them. Even if it is enough to rattle the cabinets, it’s not indicative of a larger quake coming. I once experienced an earthquake but thought my car engine was having trouble at a stoplight. I was thrilled it kept going when I pushed the gas. It wasn’t until I got home that I saw the news about the earthquake.
  10. Speaking of loud noises in a car, here’s an uncommon occurrence but worth telling you about because it happened to a family driving through New Madrid. The family was on a road trip and started to feel sick around New Madrid. They stopped and called for help. Turns out there was a broken car part that was sending carbon monoxide into the vehicle. Two adults, five children, and the family dog were treated for minor health issues. It’s a good reminder to keep your car serviced and stop every few hours on the road.

So... How Safe Is New Madrid Really?

New Madrid crime rates are so low they almost aren’t worth discussing.

Outside 2019 – 2021, the city hasn’t had more than nine violent crimes in a year since 2011.

Rates spiked up to 27 violent crimes during the pandemic but were back down to seven violent crimes in 2022.

Theft numbers came in at 36, and law enforcement grouped them into an “other” category, which could be stuff stolen from a yard or the street.

Despite the ongoing earthquake risk, it’s really the winter weather or severe storms you should be prepared for here.

Nothing about the flow of the river is going to stop a severe storm from moving through.

If you’re worried about the earthquakes enough to go somewhere else, you’ll need to go pretty far away.

Those quakes in the 1800s were felt from Canada to Mexico and rang church bells in Boston.

The ongoing risk is the sandy and soft soils under the earth that would be catastrophic from St. Louis to Memphis if another big one hit.

New Madrid is a small town with big stories to tell and some unique geology nearby.

The first-hand accounts of the earthquake are fascinating, down to the men who cut down trees and laid them sideways to have something to hold onto if another quake opened up the earth.

How Does New Madrid Compare?

CitySafety Index
New Madrid84
New Orleans57
Baltimore56
Boston67
Washington DC56
New York City67
Detroit56
Niagara Falls (Canada)87
Calgary (Canada)82
Buenos Aires (Argentina)60
Vancouver (Canada)82
Cordoba (Argentina)61
Toronto (Canada)81

Useful Information

Visas

Visas

International tourists need a passport and a visa, but a large number of countries are part of a visa waiver program, so explore that option first. You can travel to all the different states in America without having to go through a checkpoint.

Currency

Currency

You can only use the U.S. Dollar here, and don't wait to get to New Madrid to exchange currency. In fact, the lowest fees are found at your home bank.

Weather

Weather

The region gets a full four seasons. Pack layers of clothing because the temperatures often swing, especially in spring and fall. Summers will be hot and humid. You'll need bug spray around the clock. Winter will be cold, and you'll need a thick coat, but might luck out with a warm spell. Bring comfortable walking shoes and dress casually.

Airports

Airports

The closest commercial airports are Cape Girardeau Regional Airport, which is about 35 miles north of New Madrid, and Memphis International Airport, which is about 95 miles south of New Madrid.

Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance for your flight and your road trip to New Madrid makes sense, especially when severe weather and river flooding can cause long delays.

Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

New Madrid Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan 1° C
Feb 4° C
Mar 10° C
Apr 15° C
May 20° C
Jun 25° C
Jul 27° C
Aug 26° C
Sep 22° C
Oct 16° C
Nov 9° C
Dec 4° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
691521263133322822148
Low
°C
-4-149141921201594-1
High
°F
434859707988919082725746
Low
°F
253039485766706859483930

Missouri - Safety by City

CitySafety Index
Blue Springs82
Boonville83
Branson70
Cape Girardeau72
Carthage80
Chesterfield78
Clayton72
Creve Coeur78
Fenton72
Ferguson43
Frontenac72
Hannibal76
Independence74
Jefferson City75
Jennings31
Joplin53
Kansas City39
Kirksville72
Kirkwood77
Lee’s Summit78
Maryland Heights79
Mehlville73
New Madrid84
Poplar Bluff57
Rolla58
Springfield62
St. Charles79
St. Joseph47
St. Louis58
Ste. Genevieve83

Where to Next?

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