North Carolina : Safety by City
- Chapel Hill
- Elizabeth City
- High Point
- Hope Mills
- Kill Devil Hills
- Kitty Hawk
- Morehead City
- New Bern
- Rocky Mount
Whether you’re just taking a pit stop off of I-95 or spending a long weekend, Rocky Mount, North Carolina, has a unique mixture of being a hip town while still holding on to Southern charm.
The first thing anyone will tell you about Rocky Mount (hopefully before they mention the crime rates) is Rocky Mount Mills.
This is a historic industrial space turned into an eclectic and innovative entertainment district.
Rocky Mount’s history also ties in with railroad ties.
The Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, founded in the mid-19th century, established the city as a major railroad junction.
At the same time, I can tell you there’s a wealth of Southern hospitality here, but the full picture shows a town that’s declining in population – down 6% since 2010 – and historically high crime rates that need to make a sharp turnaround to have this city be considered a safer place to visit.
The safe places to visit in Rocky Mount are worth the stop but look at the wider view of the map.
You’ll see that there isn’t much around Rocky Mount unless you want to drive an hour to Raleigh for nightlife or larger activities.
The more I research, the more I see why this city is more of a pit stop than a vacation destination.
Warnings & Dangers in Rocky Mount
OVERALL RISK: MEDIUM
There's a medium risk in Rocky Mount with some shocking crime statistics, like a homicide rate that is more than five times higher than the national average. We'll talk about why that's not the biggest concern for a tourist as we go.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
Rocky Mount's public transportation is called Tar River Transit. You can review the routes online and see if that suits your travel needs. Taxis and rideshare services like Uber and Lyft are available but may have slightly longer wait times compared to larger cities. Having your vehicle ensures flexibility in exploring the city and its surroundings. There's a low risk with any option, but your own car is the safest choice.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: MEDIUM
While an average of 10 pickpockets and purse snatchings a year doesn't seem like anything but a low risk, it's by far one of the highest rates I've seen in a North Carolina city this size. There's a lot of theft in general in Rocky Mount, so this gets a medium risk.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
You need to be prepared for severe weather throughout the year, so here's another medium risk. Severe thunderstorms, tropical storms, hurricanes that move inland, tornadoes, and flooding can all cause problems. The storms can come from the west or east, too.
MUGGING RISK: MEDIUM
Just 13% of robberies were highway robberies in 2021, but there's enough crime overall to up this to a medium risk. You certainly don't want to walk around at night alone, especially if you are in an unfamiliar neighborhood.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
As a small town surrounded by rural North Carolina, there's a low risk here. You should be much more focused on the crime rates and standard safety steps.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
A few big scams have been trending in the past couple of years, but they are highly focused on residents, not tourists. You can keep the risk low by reviewing the scam alerts on the city's website.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: MEDIUM
Women have the same medium risk as anyone else. This isn't a town where you should meet up at a private party or connect with someone you met on social media unless it's in a public, well-lit space with plenty of other people around.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
The 2022 Water Quality Report does show a violation, but it was from 2020. The water is overall safe to drink and has a low risk. If there's any issue with the water quality, it will be sent out by emergency notifications. We have information on how to sign up a little later on in this article.
Safest Places to Visit in Rocky Mount
Rocky Mount is in two counties, so that gives you three tourist sites to explore.
- Rocky Mount, city website
- “Discover Edgecombe (County)”
- “Explore Nash County”
The hallmark attraction in Rocky Mount is Rocky Mount Mills, a historic cotton mill turned modern hub.
It epitomizes the fusion of history and contemporary.
With craft breweries, diverse dining options, and lively events, it offers a dynamic experience.
Downtown Rocky Mount is a hub of activity with historic charm, local boutiques, and family-owned restaurants.
It’s the perfect place to immerse yourself in the city’s culture.
Using the Monk to Mill Trail, you can get between downtown and the mill on an urban trail system.
This project is underway as of this publication, so check for updates before your arrival.
More history is found at the Rocky Mount Railroad Museum.
Housed in a beautifully restored train station, it’s a captivating look into the city’s railroad heritage.
Tack on a stop at Harriet’s Chapel, a 19th-century church with a rich past, offering a glimpse into the region’s history.
For art and science enthusiasts, the Imperial Center for the Arts and Sciences is a must-visit.
Here, you can explore the Maria V. Howard Arts Center’s impressive collection and engage your curiosity at the Children’s Museum & Science Center.
Nature lovers will find solace in Battle Park, a tranquil oasis with scenic walking trails that wind through lush greenery.
Nearby, the Tar River beckons with opportunities for kayaking, fishing, and riverside picnics.
City Lake Park offers outdoor adventures with its serene lake, picnic areas, and walking trails, providing a peaceful escape from the city’s hustle and bustle.
Places to Avoid in Rocky Mount
It’s hard to find a section of Rocky Mount that doesn’t have its own crime concerns, especially since it’s a small town.
The best advice I can offer is to not drive through different neighborhoods or search for a place to eat or stop without using GPS.
You need to stay on the main roads and try to travel during the daytime as much as possible.
The city has a high poverty rate and a low median income, and there are some rather run-down communities that aren’t anyplace you want to be after dark.
Overall, just avoid thinking a small town “can’t be that bad.”
The crime, gangs, drugs, and mental illness is real here and exacerbated by disenfranchised communities.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Rocky Mount
- Rocky Mount does have its own police department. Follow them on Facebook @RockyMountNCPoliceDepartment. You can also call (252) 972-1443 if you have specific safety questions.
- Rocky Mount uses CodeRED to send emergency notifications. It’s easy to sign up, and you’ll get urgent weather alerts and other public safety information. You can also connect to the Pulse Point app to see current law enforcement and fire department activity. I use Pulse Point every time I hear an ambulance or firetruck in my neighborhood.
- Since Rocky Mount is off a major interstate, you should know how to get information about the roads. Within the state boundaries, you can dial 511 to get information. Outside the state, dial 877-511-4662. Most of the day, you can call that number to speak directly to a person who addresses your specific question.
- Anyone visiting between June and November should follow the National Hurricane Center for approaching storms. Even though Rocky Mount is two hours from the coast, a storm that moves inland can still have hurricane or tropical storm status as it moves over.
- The Rocky Mount Police Department provides an annual report and posts it online. This is a great way to see the challenges and successes of the previous year, along with crime and traffic data.
- If you have information about a crime that isn’t urgent, you can always report that to Twin County Crime Stoppers at 252-977-1111. The call is anonymous, and you can still be eligible for a reward.
- Look at the police department’s website under “Daily Bulletin,” and you’ll get the most up-to-date crime and traffic information possible. When you select a date, all the law enforcement calls for that day will display.
- You might be surprised to know that there are gangs in Rocky Mount, considering it’s a smaller town in a rural part of the state. In 2022, as many as 21 gangs had a presence here. The county is working on a gang reduction strategy.
- If you notice any road hazards while driving around Rocky Mount, please report them by calling 252-467-4800. This could be a pothole or a stolen street sign. Anything that impacts public safety and driving safety is worth reporting, even when you’re just visiting.
- Anglers will need a license to fish in inland and/or coastal waters. You can purchase that online ahead of time through the Go Outdoors North Carolina website.
So... How Safe Is Rocky Mount Really?
Rocky Mount isn’t a very safe city, but not in the sense that it’s too dangerous to visit.
Even another travel website ranked it as the most miserable city in North Carolina based on the weather, poverty levels, income, and crime rates.
It’s shocking that a town of 54,000 would see 20 homicides in a year, but that’s what the community faced in 2022.
Most were fueled by domestic issues.
Residents and local leaders have mixed feelings about the crime rates.
“A lot of time we see individual things happen, and they seem horrific, and it blows up the bigger picture and makes it seem as though crime is just rampant everywhere, but it’s not,” Mount Zion First Baptist Church pastor Nehemiah Smith Jr. said.
“It’s just individual incidents that happen that make it seem bad, but I feel safe in Rocky Mount.”
“I think more than anything, that projects a level of fear throughout the community,” activist Tarrick Pittman said.
“Statistics are great, but they don’t give you a clear shot of the 70-year-old grandmother who’s afraid to come outside because she sees individuals in her community that she’s afraid of.”
The upside for a tourist is that just 7% of violent crimes happened against strangers in 2021, and over the past five years, that number was 14%.
Almost half of all violent crimes happened in private homes.
The biggest risk for a visitor is the car break-in rate, which accounts for 37% of all thefts.
You can’t ignore the violent crime statistics while you’re here.
Please use personal safety standards as you would in a larger city.
The police enacted a violent crime apprehension team in 2023, and that’s showing progress.
Hopefully, by the time you visit, the city will be safer.
How Does Rocky Mount Compare?
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International visitors need a visa or visa waiver, and your country of origin will determine your eligibility for the waiver. You can use the Visa Wizard on the State Department website to see which one you qualify for and start the process.
The U.S. Dollar is the only currency accepted here. You can exchange currency at your home bank to get the best rates. At the same time, credit cards are widely accepted, and ATMs are available to get cash using currency exchange.
Rocky Mount gets four seasons of weather, but you should check the forecast about three days before you arrive since temperatures and seasons can fluctuate. It's unlikely winters will be bitterly cold, but summers will be hot and humid. You definitely need bug spray.
The Raleigh Durham International Airport is just an hour west. That's the largest major airport nearby. The airport does have a currency exchange in Terminal 2. Look for Travelex.
Anytime you take a trip where weather could potentially interfere with flights or driving, we highly recommend getting travel insurance. Don't forget to look into health insurance too if you won't already be covered at your destination. Also double check the insurance on your rental car so you're prepared in the event of a crash.
Rocky Mount Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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North Carolina - Safety by City
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