Oklahoma : Safety by City
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If there ever was a city perfect for a remake of Urban Cowboy, it’s Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Here you get the amenities of a big city – but not too big – and the cowboy lifestyle.
Oklahoma is shaped like a cooking pot, and OKC, as it’s known, is right in the center of the pot.
The city has more than 680,000 people and is still growing, with a 15% population increase since 2010.
While there’s an ongoing friendly dispute about whether Oklahoma is more of a Southern state or a Midwestern state, it really brings the best values of both with some Wild West culture too.
The one thing Oklahomans can generally agree on is that they don’t like Texas very much, thanks to an ongoing rivalry.
This was the site of the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murray building, which was the worst act of terrorism on American soil until 9/11.
A somber and beautiful memorial stands at that location now.
Oklahoma is also in “Tornado Alley,” and it’s part of life here to see a twister or two (or more) in the spring through summer, with a second tornado season in late fall.
Warnings & Dangers in Oklahoma City
OVERALL RISK: MEDIUM
There's a medium risk in OKC due to rising crime rates and some rather dangerous neighborhoods, but when you compare it to cities like Detroit or Chicago, you might laugh off that ranking. As a reminder, we write these articles for people from all global locations, and everyone has a different tolerance level for visiting a city based on crime rates. The good news is that by following our guide, you'll likely notice no crime at all during your visit.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
EMBARK is the public bus system here with stops throughout the city. Streetcars will take tourists through the most popular entertainment districts. Taxi services and rideshares are available, and rental cars are plentiful. You can also rent bicycles and scooters to get around. All options have a low risk, but use common safety when using public transportation, especially in the more dangerous neighborhoods.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: MEDIUM
With more than 15,000 thefts in 2021, only 56 of those were pickpockets. While the risk isn't high, you should still practice big-city safety when carrying a wallet or purse. Bring only what you need, keep it out of sight, and avoid using a back pocket for wallets, credit cards, and IDs.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
Severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, hail storms, violent winds, and heavy rain make up the biggest risks here. Especially for those not used to tornadoes, you really need to study the city emergency guidance, so you're prepared. Winters can bring snow storms, but this part of the country is more likely to get ice storms. I lived just up the road in Tulsa for a while, and winters were generally nice. When the weather turns, it can be brutal.
MUGGING RISK: MEDIUM
The robbery rate is higher than the national average, but only 15% were in public places. Most of the robbery incidents here are among people who know each other or crimes of opportunity.
TERRORISM RISK: MEDIUM
Since OKC has already experienced the evil of terrorism, you can bet the security plan is tight and organized. While this is the biggest city in the state, that's really the only reason it would get a higher risk. A place like Dallas or Fort Worth would likely be a more likely target.
SCAMS RISK: MEDIUM
Watch out for rental scams, as there's a trend here of scammers posting fake rental listings. They ask for money upfront, and then the renter is left high and dry. Also, be careful how much information you post on social media during your trip, as scammers are known to search social media here and then target people. Because of specific threats happening, there's medium risk.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: MEDIUM
The sexual assault rate is twice the national average, yet very few violent crimes happen against strangers or in public places. This suggests it's more of a domestic situation, but it's a good reminder to be suspicious of anyone new you meet and don't go to private parties or homes with a new friend. Avoid walking around at night alone and stay on well-lit streets.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
The 2021 Water Quality Report shows full compliance and no violations, so you shouldn't be concerned about the water quality. The report is available online if you want to review where the water comes from and how it's treated.
Safest Places to Visit in Oklahoma City
Visitokc.com is the official tourism site and the best place to start looking for preferred activities.
Since it’s hosted by the tourism bureau, you can trust the sites, discounts, and recommendations are from a verified source.
The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum is the site of the bombing in 1995.
While it might sound macabre, I’ve been there several times, and it’s a moving, respectful, and peaceful tribute to the victims.
There’s a Memorial Walking Tour where you can learn about the impact this had on the community and the healing that happened to call for unity.
There’s a recent expansion of the memorial offering even more to learn and explore.
The First Americans Museum is an homage to Native Americans and the tribes that first occupied this land.
A Family Discovery Center helps children understand our nation’s history and development while teaching inclusion and diversity of all people.
Oklahoma City Zoo features a tribute to “Sanctuary Asia” with elephants, kimono dragons, red pandas, and more.
Plan a meal here so you can watch over the elephant habitat while eating.
You can also pay more to go behind the scenes with bears, elephants, and sea lions (just to name a few).
Advance reservations are strongly recommended.
Just west of the city, you can visit Stockyards City and go back to the Old West with cattle ranching, fresh steaks, and shop for a hat or boots.
You’ll hear live music and the call of a cattle auction during your visit.
Bricktown is one of the most popular spots in downtown OKC.
The Oklahoma River runs through it, and you can ride water taxis and tour boats to soak in the atmosphere.
Midtown is nearby, with more shopping, dining, and history to explore in a more reserved setting.
A trip to the Adventure District could take all day, so plan accordingly.
You can find the Oklahoma Railway Museum, the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, and the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame here, in addition to several other museums, restaurants, and shops.
The Deep Deuce District is a great place to soak in the history, multicultural experiences, and sidewalk cafes during your trip, and it’s one of the safer neighborhoods as well.
Route 66 went through OKC, so there are several historical and unique attractions in the region.
Check out the Iconic Route 66 section of the tourism website to get an interactive map of all the stops.
RiversportOKC offers various water activities, from rafting river rides to an indoor ski area.
There’s an adventure course with sky-high slides and rope courses with a zip line for those ready for an adrenaline rush.
Places to Avoid in Oklahoma City
The northwest side of the city is generally considered the safest, with some places south and east of the city being more dangerous neighborhoods.
The majority of attractions are north of I-40, so there’s little reason to go south of the interstate and into some of the more dangerous places.
Keep in mind again that a dangerous neighborhood in Oklahoma City isn’t like a dangerous neighborhood in Detroit.
The same rules stand, however – if you don’t have business being in a certain neighborhood, don’t go there.
You want to avoid taking tornado watches and warnings lightly.
The storms here can be massive, reaching the highest on the EF scale, which is an EF-5.
To see how damaging the storms can be, look up the Moore, Oklahoma, tornado of 2013.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Oklahoma City
- You can sign up for crime alerts through the OKC Police Department’s website. The department is also very active on Twitter, @OKCPD, if you prefer to stay informed that way.
- Crime Stoppers is a popular crime tip program where you can give information anonymously and still be eligible for a reward. The number here is (405)235-7300.
- Know the difference between a tornado watch and a warning. A watch means that conditions are likely for storms that COULD produce tornadoes to form. A watch should make you re-think outdoor activities in wilderness areas. A tornado warning means a tornado has been spotted, either by a person or is radar-indicated, and you should seek shelter immediately. Ask your hotel where the tornado shelter is when you arrive. You must know what to do if a storm pops up in the middle of the night.
- Winter weather here can cause chaos on the streets, and you should take certain precautions as a visitor. If the temperature is going to get below freezing for an extended period of time, make sure you leave your faucet with a drip to prevent pipes from freezing. If there is an ice storm approaching, gather supplies for a few days because you don’t want to risk driving on ice. No driving experience or good vehicle can operate well on ice-covered streets.
- If you are using the OKC Streetcar to get between the entertainment districts, use Token Transit to purchase your tickets ahead of time. This keeps you from having to pull out a wallet in a busy tourist area. You can buy a 24-hour pass for just $3, which is much cheaper than paying for parking.
- The river cruises only run seasonally but go pretty deep into the colder months. You shouldn’t worry about the temperature because the boats are enclosed and climate-controlled with big windows, so you don’t miss the sights.
- The Neighborhood Alliance of Central Oklahoma provides monthly updates on crime by neighborhood. You’ll get a full list of crimes in each area, giving you a better look at crime trends before your visit. You can also read the OCKPD 2021 Annual Report to see the year-in-review of crimes, challenges, and successes.
- Anglers who want to fish in the OKC waterways will need a state non-resident fishing permit and a city permit. You can get all the information from the Lakes and Fishing section of the city website. Do not just go by the information on the state wildlife department page because it might not get into the city permits.
- The Parks Department offers an interactive map of all walking and bicycle trails throughout the city. You should use that information to compare against crime statistics before choosing a route. Sticking to the northwest section of the city is strongly recommended unless park rangers or police officers tell you about other safe routes to explore.
- Use the EMBARK app to search for, reserve, and pay for parking in downtown OKC. Not only does this save time, but it’s safer to know where you are going instead of getting turned around or lost.
So... How Safe Is Oklahoma City Really?
Oklahoma City actually lowered most crime rates in 2021.
Some of that was good police work, while other parts were a change in the way crime is reported to the FBI.
Despite drops in many violent crime areas, the rates are still 40% higher than the national average.
A little perspective on the crime rates is important, especially for tourists.
- 50% of violent crimes happened in homes
- 37% of violent crimes happened against strangers
- 16% of violent crime was in public places
- 42% of all thefts were car break-ins
- 15% of robberies were “highway robberies,” meaning in a public place.
What can a tourist take from this information?
The risk of your trip including a violent crime is low as long as you aren’t looking to buy drugs or get into a fight.
Many crimes happen among people who know each other in more dangerous parts of town, not the entertainment districts.
In those entertainment districts, you should lock your car and leave the windows rolled all the way up.
Try to park in a garage to protect against hail damage and wind damage if storms are in the forecast.
Don’t let the kind nature of Oklahoma make you see this city as anything but a big city with associated crime.
Common sense, situational awareness, and basic security precautions will go a long way here, along with a weather app that will send you notifications of storm alerts.
How Does Oklahoma City Compare?
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You'll need a U.S. Visa to get into the country through Customs, but you have several visa variations to choose from. Use the Visa Wizard from the U.S. State Department to see which one suits your needs. It's advised to start the application process at least three months ahead of time. You can also see if you are from a country that qualifies for a Visa Waiver.
To get the best value, exchange currency before you arrive. You can still do so when you get to the airport or at a local bank. Credit cards are ideal for purchases because carrying cash around can draw attention if someone sees you pull out money while paying.
The typical four seasons happen here, so dress accordingly. Summers are going to be humid, and you'll need bug spray. Bring sunscreen too. The temperatures can fluctuate in spring and fall. Bringing various layers is the best idea. The temperature in this part of the country can vary day-to-day.
Will Rogers World Airport is the OKC airport, and it's just 10 miles from downtown. Unless you want to drive four hours to Dallas, this is the largest airport available.
Travel insurance gives you peace of mind for every step of your trip. Be sure you know what kind of severe weather cancelation protection you have, and check the weather conditions for your car rental insurance. Severe weather can cause hail or wind damage.
Oklahoma City Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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Oklahoma - Safety by City