Kentucky : Safety by City
- Bowling Green
- Cave City
- Cumberland Falls
- La Grange
- St. Matthews
Drivers between St. Louis and Nashville will inevitably go through Paducah, Kentucky.
If they just get gas and go, they’re sure missing out on a lot of cultures, creativity, and quilts.
Paducah’s nickname, in certain circles, is Quilty City, USA.
You’ll see a lot of places boasting that Paducah is a UNESCO city.
That means it has been honored by The United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a place that builds cultural bonds through creative expression.
This city is also an outdoor lover’s dream.
The Ohio River forms the northern edge of town, then splits to create the Tennessee River.
On top of that, in just 30 minutes, you can be at The Land Between Two Lakes National Park.
I think the name is pretty self-explanatory, so I won’t elaborate.
Within two hours from Paducah, you can be in Illinois, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, or Indiana.
Paducah is also located along the busy I-24, which turns into I-75 in Chattanooga, and I-75 runs all the way to the Canadian Border of Miami.
The central location is nothing compared to the hometown feel of this city that’s home to 27,000 people.
I’ve driven through Paducah many times with my trusty Golden Retriever, and he swam in many of the waters located in western Kentucky.
Warnings & Dangers in Paducah
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
You will see reports that Paducah is one of the most dangerous cities, if not THE most dangerous city. There's a lot of interpretation that goes into that data and a lot of contexts that goes unaccounted for. For example, while Paducah has a population of 27,000, the actual number of people in the city can be two to four times that size. It's a major shopping and travel destination in the state, so it gets much more transient traffic. There's a medium risk here, and certain crime areas escalate the risk in this otherwise wonderful riverside city.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
Paducah Area Transit System (PATS) is the fixed route service in Paducah and through McKracken County. You can travel between the cities of Murray, Mayfield, and Benton as well. Taxis and rideshares will be easy to find. Rental cars are an option too. There's a low risk, however, you choose to get around.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
The theft rate here is almost twice the national average, according to the 2021 Annual Report from the Paducah Police Department. That said, from 2019 through 2021, the theft rate is down 35%. There's a low risk, but only if you take the right safety steps to protect your belongings. In 2021, three purse snatchings were reported.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk here because of the wide array of weather events that could happen. Flooding, severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, blizzards, ice storms, and earthquakes are the main concerns. There can also be extreme temperatures in the winter or summer. The McCracken County Emergency Management website has a lot of information about preparing for severe weather in any season.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
While many other crimes were down, robbery and aggravated assault increased slightly in 2021. By the numbers, there's a low risk here. I do say that with an edge of caution. Drug crimes in Paducah doubled in 2021, and that could lead to more violent crimes like robbery.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here since Paducah is a small town yet still one of the largest in the region. There's not a major military base there either.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
The most recent scam involves someone pretending to be a police officer and demanding money, but that's focused on the locals. There's a low risk of a tourist getting scammed.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk here because the sexual assault rate is more than three times higher than the national average. The rate went up 14% from 2020 to 2021. As much as Paducah seems like a family destination, there is a good quality of nightlife here. Use all the common sense and security precautions you would in a big city like Chicago.
TAP WATER RISK : MEDIUM
The 2022 Water Quality Report shows no violations, and all water tested was at or above the required standards. That's the official word. Here are two other notes that personally lead me to consider this a medium risk, but I want you to make the best judgment for your family based on the information. o The state of Kentucky doesn't regulate PFAS, known as the "forever chemicals." Several cities have shown above-recommended levels of PFAS in cities such as Paducah. As of mid-2022, Kentucky leaders were still up in the air about how to regulate and test the chemicals. o Paducah is the former site of a nuclear plant and uranium enrichment plant. There have been many concerns about water quality, with even the government stepping in to provide clean water for many years. The site is decommissioned, but the environmental clean-up still continues.
Safest Places to Visit in Paducah
Quilting is such a big deal here that on the tourism website, there’s a whole header for QUILTING that comes before THINGS TO DO.
The Quilt Museum goes so far beyond your grandma’s quilt, and exhibits change throughout the year.
As I look now, there’s an exhibit telling stories using fabric on totem poles.
Some of the quilts look so much like paintings that I actually researched the artist to be sure.
If you want to get in on the quilting action ahead of time, there are virtual quilt classes and groups that span around the world.
Check out The Quilt Museum website to learn more about that.
Walk down by the river, and you’ll see what inspired William Clark of the famous Lewis & Clark adventurers, to settle this town.
You’ll also see a wide array of dynamic murals that tell the town’s story and express artists’ flair for the modern world.
There are two audio tours you can take using your mobile device.
One is historical Paducah, learning about its influence on the Civil War.
You can then visit Lower Town, where the incredible architecture stands in neighborhoods once owned by the affluent influencers of this city.
Stop by the River Discovery Center to learn about river life then and now.
This museum showcases how the rivers play an important part in adventures, distribution, and transportation.
There’s an interactive display where you can steer a steamboat and look underwater to see what’s below the surface of the muddy rivers of the Midwest.
A miniature display shows how river locks and dams control the rivers and prevent monumental floods.
The Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area has a lot to explore, so give yourself a full day to see it all.
You have bison and elk prairies, a museum housed in a replica of an 1850s working farm, a planetarium to learn about the stars, and a wildlife center to get a closer, yet safer, look at the animals of Kentucky.
While you’re there, you simply must dine at Patti’s 1880s Settlement.
You should either skip lunch to make room for dinner or make this lunch your big meal of the day.
With 2-inch tall pork chips and an 8-inch tall meringue pie, you’ll need all the appetite you can muster.
My favorite meal there is Ellie Mae’s Chicken.
Cross over the river into Illinois, and you can visit Metropolis, home of Superman, and the Super Museum.
There are more than 70,000 items in this super showcase of the man of steel, so don’t think it’s just a roadside attraction.
Places to Avoid in Paducah
North of Park Avenue is where the highest number of crimes are, and there aren’t any big tourist attractions in that area.
It’s smart to stay in the tourist areas here and not go through any neighborhoods that aren’t part of a historic district.
The city has a 20% poverty rate, and a rate that high can drive more crime.
Paducah is called Atomic City for the former nuclear plant and uranium enrichment facility outside of the city limits on the northwest side of the region.
Do not go near this site as it’s closed, there’s tight security, and there’s nothing to see.
It can be confusing because there is an attraction called Atomic City Fun Center.
It’s a fine place to visit, with many family arcade-style games.
Just don’t let your mapping system take you to the former plant site.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Paducah
- Sign up for emergency alerts. McCrakenAlert.com allows you to select weather, criminal, or civil alerts. We recommend you choose “All Alerts” to cover any emergency that could happen.
- If you are spending time outdoors or camping overnight, you need a NOAA weather radio. These battery-powered devices can get your emergency weather information if power lines and cell towers are out. You can have the emergency management office or a fire station program the radio for you. It’s important to stay weather aware throughout the year. While tornado season is in spring, it was December of 2021 when tornadoes ravaged western Kentucky, leaving more than 70 people dead.
- It was February of 2022 when heavy rainfall caused flooding to close more than a dozen roads. Never drive through a flooded street, even if you don’t think the water is “that deep.” It just takes six inches of water to sweep a car away.
- The Paducah Police Department produces an annual report to reveal crime and safety information for the previous year. While some departments don’t keep up with the annual reports since COVID hit, Paducah does. It’s worth reading the annual report to get a better grasp of criminal activity around the time you visit. Unfortunately, the department doesn’t offer monthly or daily reports.
- Here are a few phone numbers you should program into your phone. The non-emergency number for police dispatch is (270)444-8550. The Public Information Officer can be reached at (270)444-8590. To report criminal activity without leaving your name, call Crime Stoppers at (270)443-8355.
- If you are involved in a fender bender or minor crash that doesn’t require a police officer to respond, you have 10 days to fill out the collision report through the Kentucky State Police website.
- Anglers need a Kentucky fishing license to cast in any Kentucky lake, river, or pond. You’ll need a non-resident license which costs $15 for a one-day license and $35 for a seven-day license.
- If you are at any event or location in Paducah and you see someone in a red vest, there’s a good chance they are a Paducah Ambassador. These volunteers help welcome visitors and answer questions from guests. These are safe people to approach who will give good information.
- The city of Paducah has a parking map on its website for downtown. All of the parking garages are free, and there are more than 1,000 spots to choose from.
- There are more than 10 public hot spot areas where you can connect to WiFi for free. You’ll know the service is available if you see “PaducahHotSpot” in your list of wifi networks. While this is a great service, don’t do things like check your bank account or credit card activity on a public network. They are easy to hack and in a tourist city like Paducah, thieves could just be waiting for someone to provide login credentials.
So... How Safe Is Paducah Really?
I feel like I need to make a full disclosure here because my personal connection to this story has been challenging.
My best friend from college was from the Paducah area.
I’ve spent many days and nights here, either just driving through or staying for a few days.
It’s hard for me to say anything negative about this city since I’ve enjoyed my time there so much.
However, I’m ridiculous regarding personal safety, so that might be why I haven’t seen the underbelly.
I am also from St. Louis, which is habitually rated as one of the most dangerous cities in the country.
I might just be de-sensitized to high crime levels.
I mentioned earlier, that the crime data can appear skewed because of the number of people who visit here.
When the police chief released the 2021 crime statistics to the media, he said this to a local newspaper, “When you compare our crime stats against the actual population of the folks that are coming in, doing business in our city, staying at the hotels, eating at the restaurants, Paducah’s a very safe city.”
Drug crimes are the biggest concern, going from 650 arrested in 2020 to 1,113 in 2021.
Drug crimes can create more theft, robbery, and assault crimes due to desperation and monetary motivation.
Here’s how the risks break down as of 2021:
- Violent Crime: 1 in 251
- Robbery: 1 in 2,467
- Theft: 1 in 38
Law enforcement is also cracking down on criminals during emergencies.
Since Paducah gets so much extreme weather, that creates looting in neighborhoods devastated by tornadoes (for example).
Now, a theft that happens during an emergency can be a felony instead of the misdemeanor it usually is.
Overall, you can expect a safe visit to Paducah.
Just know there is an underbelly of crime, and you should stay away from any situation or place that feels uncomfortable.
How Does Paducah Compare?
- Visas - You should plan several months ahead of time to start the U.S. Visa process. The cost of a visa starts at $160. You will use the visa at the airport but won't need it to travel through Kentucky's cities.
- Currency - You will only be able to use U.S. Dollar currency here. Because of the high theft rates, avoid bringing cash with you, or only as much as you'll need on a given day. The more you can charge to a credit card, the more security you'll have from fraud protection.
- Weather - Paducah enjoys all four seasons, and the temperatures can fluctuate. I once drove through here on Christmas morning, and it was 60°(F). A week later, a snowstorm hit. You're smart to bring winter outerwear, but also bring layers of clothing in case the temperatures are mild. Summer will be hot and humid, so wear loose, comfy clothing that can handle a lot of sweat.
- Airports - The Paducah airport is small, and there has been discussion about switching carriers. A new terminal is opening, which will help get more flights in and out, but as of this writing, only United serves this airport. Nashville and St. Louis have much larger airports, but each is a two and half hour drive in different directions.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance is a great plan to cover unexpected weather circumstances or a traveler's illness. Be sure you know what kind of weather events are covered under your plan.
Paducah Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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