Mississippi : Safety by City
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The first time singer Jimmy Buffett was nibbling on sponge cake and watching the sun bake was likely in his childhood hometown of Pascagoula, Mississippi.
The city is tucked into the southeast corner of the state near the Alabama border, nearly 10 miles away from the busy I-10 corridor across the coastal states.
Pascagoula (“pass-kuh-GOO-lah”) offers a coastal beach but also a vulnerable shoreline, as we saw in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge left more than 90% of the city underwater.
This is in an industrial shipbuilding hub, with the Ingalls Shipbuilding Yard on its own peninsula in the city.
Tourism is another economic booster, though the city is often overlooked for the Alabama and Florida beaches along the same coastline.
DID YOU KNOW?
Two of the islands that are part of the Gulf Shores National Seashore are just south of Pascagoula and won’t have any of those tourist crowds!
Here you’ll find southern cooking with a Cajun kick, a history of lighthouses and the Civil War, and a love of Mardi Gras competitive with Mobile and New Orleans.
You also have local legends like a UFO abduction that is still told nearly 50 years later, the Phantom Barber who criminally cut hair while women slept, and a river that still “sings” a peaceful plea of Native Americans from centuries ago.
Warnings & Dangers in Pascagoula
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
You'll find many articles stating Pascagoula is one of the most dangerous cities in the state. The hook on that lies in property crime, as the violent crime rate is just slightly higher than the national average. You must exercise diligent personal property safety tactics, but if you do so, you'll have a low risk. Treat it with a medium risk regardless due to the high percentage of larceny/theft.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
Pascagoula doesn't have a public transportation system, and the Coast Transit bus system runs along the coastline but only goes between Gulfport and Ocean Springs, 17 miles to the west. You'll need to rely on taxis or rideshares if you don't get a rental car.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
While no pickpockets or purse snatchings have been reported for years, there's a more sinister wave of credit card theft and crimes involving fraud of stolen checks and such. Don't let anyone borrow your mobile phone, even if they claim it's an emergency, because they are likely trying to access your mobile banking or payment accounts. Treat this with a firm medium risk, as more than two of these incidents happen each week.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : LOW
Hurricane Season runs from June through November, with a peak seasonal surge between August and October. You must track the tropics before a trip and avoid the area if a storm is heading that way. Don't risk it since most businesses will close days in advance to prepare for impact. The city got hit hard by Hurricane Katrina and will tell extreme measures to keep people and property safe. Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes can happen any time of year. Winters are mild, so you don't get snow storms here.
MUGGING RISK : MEDIUM
Thieves here are more likely to swindle you than rob you, as just two of the robberies in 2022 were in public places. You should still treat it as a medium risk since the violent crime was up 45% in 2022 compared to 2021.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
The risk of terrorism in Pascagoula is generally considered low, but the city does have a significant industrial presence, including shipbuilding and petrochemical industries. These industries could potentially be targets for attacks, although the higher risk comes with higher security. The Mississippi Office of Homeland Security has much information about shoreline, industrial, and terrorism safety.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
About twice a month in 2022, someone was swindled in Pascagoula, and that doesn't include the credit card and ATM fraud. The city has a high poverty rate nearing 25%, so you'll hear a lot of convincing sob stories about why people need money or see desperate attempts, but you shouldn't let your emotions make you vulnerable. Use extra caution around any coast casino, since scammers will know you have cash on you to play the games.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Women really need to protect their personal items here, and you should bring a small, discreet purse or wallet holding on the minimum you'll need. Never through a receipt in a public trash can and assume anyone who approaches you is trying to swindle you. Yes, that's a broad statement, but there's just too much theft and larceny here to risk it.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
Mississippi has a long history of water quality issues, but the 2021 Annual Water Quality Report shows no violations, full compliance, and extensive testing on additional EPA requirements. If you see any reports mentioning Pascagoula with sensational headlines like "Don't shower with your mouth open," that's from Jackson, Mississippi, where Pascagoula Street is mentioned often. Oh, and BTW, don't drink the water if you pass through Jackson unless someone official tells you that it's safe.
Safest Places to Visit in Pascagoula
The Coastal Mississippi website includes all the cities in the region, including Pascagoula.
You can also visit the Main Street Pascagoula website to get information about the city center.
These websites will also include Mardi Gras information, but you can also check the Jackson County Carnival Association website and social media pages for updates.
Pascagoula Beach Park is a nice stretch of sand with a pier and picnic areas right along Beach Road.
Restrooms, walking trails, and sporting fields are available for public use.
The rest of the road is along the water, but there isn’t a beach or rocks between the water and the roadway.
You’ll see firsthand how easy it would be for the road to flood.
LaPointe-Krebs House and Museum is an 18th-century historic home and museum showcasing exhibits on local history, including Native American artifacts and exhibits on the city’s colonial and antebellum history.
It’s certified by experts as the oldest building in Mississippi.
Admission is $5 or less.
You can also learn more about the region’s history at the Scranton Museum, which is more focused on the economic and industrial drivers throughout the centuries.
Round Island Lighthouse is a historic lighthouse that was originally built on Round Island in the Mississippi Sound in 1859.
The lighthouse served as a navigational aid for ships entering and leaving the Pascagoula River.
After being damaged by Hurricane Georges in 1998, the lighthouse was moved to Pascagoula’s Lighthouse Park and restored as a tourist attraction.
Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge is a 13,000-acre nature preserve diverse in wildlife, plants, and trees.
It’s a bird lovers’ paradise but does have alligators, so you’ll need to know safety steps to avoid them.
To stay closer to the air-conditioning, visit the Pascagoula River Audubon Center.
It features exhibits on the local flora and fauna, as well as guided birdwatching tours and educational programs for visitors of all ages.
Get up close to alligator safety with Gulf Coast Gator Ranch and Airboat Tours.
They are the experts on the local swamps and bayous.
Visitors can see alligators lured with marshmallows and other animals that live in this unique ecosystem.
If you have an interest in marine biology and the Gulf Coast’s ecosystem, the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory is a must-visit destination.
The facility offers educational programs and exhibits on the area’s marine life and ecosystems, as well as research projects and initiatives.
Visitors can learn about the work being done to preserve and protect the region’s natural resources and get a firsthand look at the research being conducted.
You can visit West Petit Bois Island and Horn Island, part of the Gulf Shores National Seashore, but you’ll need to charter a private boat.
The islands don’t have amenities or support staff, but they are open to the public, barring an approaching storm.
To get to the tourist hot spot of Orange Beach in Gulf Shores, you’ll need to drive for about 90 minutes and be prepared to sit in beach traffic.
Places to Avoid in Pascagoula
Pascagoula is a small town laid out with major roadways that are distinct among the neighborhood streets.
You should avoid Moss Point unless you are visiting friends or family there.
That city just north of Pascagoula has been having problems with a crime for years now and is facing a staffing emergency at the police department going into 2023.
In Pascagoula, you should know that nearly half of violent crimes happen in homes or neighborhoods, which is another good reason to stick to tourist attractions, entertainment districts, and main roads.
Avoid the coast when a hurricane is approaching.
While Gulf of Mexico storms can be hard to track with any certainty, you should know at least 3–5 days ahead of time if there’s a substantial risk on the coast.
If you are caught in town with a storm approaching, leave well ahead of an evacuation.
Don’t wait until the gas is gone from the stations and traffic is at a standstill.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Pascagoula
- Pascagoula Police Department covers the city and works in tandem with law enforcement along the Gulf Coast. The department’s Facebook page is @pascagoulapd. The city also has accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
- Sign up for citywide alerts on the main city website to get information about traffic, drug busts, missing people, and water issues.
- The city has a list of hurricane and flooding preparation information under the “Flood and Disaster Preparedness” section title. One great tool is the “Before the Storm” guide to help you plan in advance – just in case.
- You can anonymously report a crime or suspicious activity to the Mississippi Crime Stoppers by calling 1-877-787-5898, filling out the online form, or texting CDTIP to 274637.
- Sign up for weather and emergency alerts through the city, as this will get you direct notifications about weather risks, approaching severe weather, closures, evacuation routes, and a bunch of other critical storm safety information.
- If you book outdoor tours during your visit, and severe weather is possible, always call in advance to check if the tour is happening. Don’t assume they’ll call you. Since the weather can fire up pretty quickly, a tour could be canceled hours when the skies are still sunny.
- If you’re visiting during Mardi Gras, don’t assume Pascagoula is going to be tame just because it isn’t New Orleans. Sure, NOLA is a bigger celebration, but these small communities are just as excited and can be just as outrageous. There are some family-friendly events and parades in Pascagoula too.
- If you notice any water, sewage, or drainage problem along the roadways you can call the 24/7 Public Works Hotline at (228) 938-6623. This is also a place to report potholes to, but if you’re on a state road, you’ll want to contact the Mississippi Transportation Department.
- The city issues a monthly newsletter called Inside the Flagship City. You can sign up for this when you confirm your travel plans, so you’re up-to-date on local issues and upcoming events.
- Anglers need a fishing license from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks. You will have the choice between a saltwater or freshwater license, and you should look for a combo license where you can fish both water types with more flexibility. Also, review the reciprocity agreement with Alabama and Louisiana to avoid having to buy licenses in more than one state.
So... How Safe Is Pascagoula Really?
Pascagoula crime has been a topic of concern for years, but it’s not as dire as in places like Jackson, Mississippi.
Since just 22% of violent crime happens against strangers, you’re at a lower risk visiting here than if you lived here.
If you follow smart safety steps and use common sense, you can keep the risk low.
That said, if you go looking for trouble, you’ll find it.
In mid-2022, the Gulf Coast Community Mobile Enforcement Team led a surge of crime crackdowns across the region, including Pascagoula.
170 people were arrested, with 152 felony charges on top of more than 110 misdemeanor charges.
Police say two human traffickers were also caught trying to bring nine people into the country.
“This operation means far more than just drugs and criminals off the streets.
This means safer neighborhoods, safer roads, fewer threats to our kids and families, and improved quality of life,” said Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves.
“We’ve sought to undermine existing criminal enterprises and to bolster the ongoing efforts of local law enforcement leaders, and that’s exactly what this deployment accomplished.”
Thefts, larceny, and fraud remain the biggest non-violent concerns, with a rate 270% higher than the national average.
While just three pickpockets have been reported in the past decade, there are still an overwhelming number of crimes that still hurt people financially and mentally.
25% of thefts are car break-ins, so you need to lock your car every time and leave nothing personal or valuable inside.
If you are just searching to pick between Mississippi Gulf Coast cities, you’ll find more hotels, nicer accommodations, and more things to do in places like Ocean Springs or Biloxi.
If you’re just here for work or looking to get away from the larger crowds, you shouldn’t be dissuaded, but you will need to be careful with your personal belongings.
How Does Pascagoula Compare?
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- Visas - International guests must have a visa and passport to enter the United States. There are different types of trip-purpose visas, such as tourist, business, student, and work. Start the application on the U.S. State Department website. It can be arduous, so start early.
- Currency - There are several places in Pascagoula where you can exchange currency, including banks, currency exchange offices, and some hotels. Only the U.S. Dollar is accepted here. For the lowest fees, exchange currency in your home country. Hotels and casinos might offer players better value on currency exchange, but you will need cash or chips in USD to play games.
- Weather - Pascagoula has a warm and humid climate throughout much of the year. Lightweight, breathable clothing made of natural fibers like cotton or linen is recommended, especially during the summer months. Light layers such as light jackets, long-sleeve shirts, and pants or jeans are appropriate in the fall and spring, while winters are generally mild but will still need a jacket or coat occasionally. Bring bug spray and sunscreen.
- Airports - The closest airport to Pascagoula, Mississippi, is the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport (GPT), located approximately 30 miles west of Pascagoula. Another option is the Mobile Regional Airport (MOB), located approximately 45 miles east of Pascagoula.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance will cover the flight delays and cancelations possible with the severe weather risks here, but you should really get the best policy to cover your belongings since property theft is so high. Consider rental car insurance, getting insurance on valuables (or leaving them at home), or paying more for a more private or secured hotel room.
Pascagoula Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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