Florida : Safety by City
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Sarasota sits on a stretch of western Florida known as the Suncoast.
This is a city of culture, cuisine, and carefree days at the beach.
The white sands of the Siesta Key Beach have earned a ranking as America’s Best Beach.
That’s just one of 14 beaches in this city by the water.
A few blocks inland and you are surrounded by high-class art, shopping sophistication, and entertainment galore.
The city of Sarasota picked up its artsy vibe from the Ringling family of Ringing Brothers Circus fame.
The Ringling Museum is a huge draw in this community, positioned right on the water.
Sarasota is known for its top rankings by U.S. News and World Report, including:
- #1 Place to Retire
- #5 Safest Places to Live
- #9 Best Place to Live
- #15 Best Quality of Life
Once written off as a place where retired people go to enjoy their golden years, there’s a hip culture taking over, making room for retirees and younger generations to peacefully enjoy all the community offerings.
The population is just under 60,000 but jumps to 90,000 during “Season.”
That’s when the snowbirds come down to live between November and April.
This isn’t a typical party beach destination.
This is one of sophistication and class mixed with laid-back beaches and sunsets that will take your breath away.
Warnings & Dangers in Sarasota
OVERALL RISK: LOW
There's a low overall risk, except when it comes to hurricane season—but even that comes with folklore we'll dive into later. This is a safe community with people dedicated to keeping it safe. It's a pristine slice of Florida life.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
There's a low risk in public transportation, taxis, and rideshares here. All are governed at a city or state level. Just make sure you see a permit when getting into a cab. Be prepared for a potentially costly ride, as traffic in this area can be brutal. It does make sense to rent a car here, as there are so many unique areas in Sarasota and Sarasota County to explore.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: MEDIUM
There's a medium risk in Sarasota. Larceny made up for 64% of all reported crimes in Sarasota in 2020. This is a wealthy town and criminals know it. There's also a large homeless population throughout the downtown area. Keep your belongings close by and never leave a bag unattended.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
Hurricane season runs from June - November, and Sarasota sits right on the water. Due to that, we're giving it a medium risk during the hurricane season and low risk from December - May. There's an urban legend you'll hear in Sarasota that it's protected from hurricanes due to a Native American blessing that was put on the area, making it immune to a direct hit. As Hurricane Irma, a strong Category 4, was headed right toward Sarasota Bay in 2018, I thought to myself "Well, I guess that puts an end to that theory." Then the storm changed paths right before it hit land. Sarasota was only hit by a Category 2 storm. Folklore aside, the positioning of Sarasota on the shoreline and the unique weather dynamics needed for it to get a direct hit is more likely the reason this area escapes the worst time and time again.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
There's a low risk of mugging. In 2020, robberies made up just 3% of the total crimes in the area.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
There aren't any hard targets in Sarasota, so there's a low risk. There is a strong Sarasota connection to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. First, President Bush was in Sarasota when he got the dreaded message. Second, it turns out three of the terrorists involved in 9/11 trained at a flight school in Sarasota County.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
We're going to give this a medium risk simply because of the elderly and the retired population here. They've got a lot of money and might be easier to swindle. Sarasota Police do a great job of letting people know when scams are happening.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
I'm a middle-aged woman who lived in Sarasota for 4 years and I never once felt unsafe. There's a low risk.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
Sarasota County's drinking water meets and exceeds all state and national standards. There's a low risk here. The only concerns come when there is a spill or water quality issue from time to time, which is quickly addressed with a boil water order.
Safest Places to Visit in Sarasota
There are a lot of safe places to visit in this picturesque community.
The beaches of Sarasota County are legendary.
Siesta Beach is one of the top beaches in the nation each year.
The sand here is worth the trip as it’s made up of quartz.
This not only gives it a bright white appearance, but it also keeps cool even in the blistering Florida sun.
No burned feet at Siesta Beach!
The Marie Selby Gardens sits on Sarasota Bay and it’s a beautiful walk through a slice of Sarasota history surrounded by the beauty of Florida foliage.
The Ringling Museum is another must-see and is free on Mondays, so try to plan your trip around that.
Downtown Sarasota has it all. High-end and bargain shopping.
A global food experience with cuisine from just about every country.
Sarasota is quickly making a name for itself as a foodie destination.
The University Town Center (UTC) area has high-end shopping and dining in a suburban atmosphere.
Nearby Nathan Benderson Park is a great way to work off some of those calories.
It is also home to prestigious rowing events year-round.
Places to Avoid in Sarasota
You’ll hear people say to avoid the Newtown area of Sarasota.
This historically African American section of town sits near Dr. Martin Luther King Way and Tuttle Avenue.
There can be crime spikes in this area.
It’s also strongly patrolled by police officers and has a large community effort to curb the crime that does happen.
Should you avoid it for fear of your life?
Do you have a reason to go there as a tourist?
It is worth researching the history of Newtown and the strong influence the African American population played in making it a place you want to visit.
Some parts of downtown can seem overrun with homeless people.
Should you see one of these pockets of people, just go a different direction.
Along 10th Street near Orange Street, you’ll see a large group of homeless as this is where The Salvation Army is located.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Sarasota
- Get ready to see alligators. When you come across any freshwater lake or pond, assume there are alligators in it. Do not go swimming in the water and never feed an alligator. Stay at least 20 feet from the waterline as alligators can quickly pop up. While they aren’t an imminent threat by any means, you should still avoid them. If you spot one, call the police and they’ll come to take care of it.
- Traffic gets pretty bad in this area during “Season” when the snowbirds come to town. I lived 10 miles from work when I was there. Half the year my commute took me 20 minutes and the other half of the year it took 45 minutes. November – April traffic, especially during rush hour times, gets insane. Retirees aren’t in much of a rush to do anything, so you’ll just have to take a deep breath of that Gulf air and be patient.
- Check for Red Tide during your visit. This algae bloom can wreak havoc on the Gulf waters and ruin a day at the beach. The bloom kills fish in the water, which then washes up on shore and bakes in the Florida sun as birds peck away at the carcass. In November 2017, a Red Tide breakout lasted for 15 months and devastated the economy and environment along the beach. The smell is enough to turn your stomach. You can’t plan a trip around Red Tide as there’s no scheduled time of year for it, but if it happens during your trip you’ll spend a lot more time inland.
- Who’s that on the highwire? Don’t be surprised if you see a highwire up near the UTC area during your visit. Nik Wallenda of the famous Flying Wallenda heritage likes to practice his moves for audiences, especially if he’s gearing up for a big walk. He’s friendly and approachable and will even talk to you while he’s on the wire. Feel free to ask for an autograph or photo once he’s on the ground.
- There are lizards everywhere here. It took me a while to get used to that. A lizard in your hotel room doesn’t mean the hotel is overrun with critters. I promise you will get used to it. They also say a lizard in your living space is good since it will eat all the spiders. It is worth shaking out your shoes before putting them on just to be safe.
- When you are at the beach, practice the Stingray Shuffle. This is when you start to enter the water and you shuffle your feet around to disturb an embedded stingray that might be nearby. A couple of shuffles of the feet and the stingray moves on.
- Beachcombing is a popular activity on the beaches of Sarasota and they are loaded with shells ripe for the taking. It’s important to know that if you pick up a shell with a live animal in it, you need to put it back. Taking a live animal is illegal.
- Florida drivers are terrible at driving. When driving on I-75, it can feel like a speedway until an accident happens and slows it down to a crawl. There’s a lot of weaving in and out of traffic on the main roads and not a lot of courtesy for other drivers. Don’t engage in road rage.
- Florida is the Lightning Capital of North America. Summer storms can pop up quickly and lightning strikes often. It’s not like any lightning you’ve seen before. Stay inside when it’s thundering and wait 30 minutes after storms pass before going outside again.
- Getting to any beach in Sarasota County means crossing over the Intracoastal waterway. Most of the bridges are also drawbridges for water traffic. Boats have the right of way, so you might sit on the bridge for a while as the drawbridge goes up and down. If you want to get to the beach quickly, go before 8 am. You can thank me later.
So... How Safe Is Sarasota Really?
You are going to have a hard time finding a safer community to visit by statistics and by reference.
It’s ranked so high in places to live, safe places, places to retire, etc., and those reports tell the true story.
There are some places in the northern part of the Suncoast region, like Bradenton, that can get a little more sketchy, but in Sarasota proper, you should feel safe at every turn.
The only place to avoid if you don’t have a reason to be there is Newtown.
Most of the crimes reported there aren’t even against tourists, it’s domestic issues.
The Sarasota Police have a strong presence throughout the community and where the Sarasota city lines end, the Sarasota County Sheriff picks up patrols.
How Does Sarasota Compare?
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There is no special Florida Visa needed to visit here and you'll take care of the U.S. Visa requirements at the airport or port of entry.
There's no currency accepted except the U.S. Dollar here. Credit cards can be used just about everywhere, even when renting a canoe beachside, but it doesn't hurt to carry a little bit of cash just in case.
You can beat the weather here. In the winter, highs average in the 70s with lows in the 50s. There are times when a cold snap hits and it's called "Florida Cold." This is when the temperature dips anywhere below 60°(F) and people dress like there's a blizzard coming. Summers are hot and oppressive at times. Highs get into the 90s, lows only drop to the 70s, and the humidity is high. It's very sweaty here, so bring extra clothes or be prepared to find laundry service. Be aware of any tropical storm or hurricane threat during summer and fall. Also, summer brings a lot of random thunderstorms, so rain gear will be useful.
The Sarasota Bradenton Airport is the closest one. It's right near the county line between Sarasota and Manatee counties. This is one of those airports you can walk right into without a lot of wait time, which is why locals love it. For bigger airports, head up to Tampa International Airport or St. Pete-Clearwater Airport, both about an hour north.
You will want travel insurance for your trip to Sarasota. While the Suncoast isn't prone to huge delays, tropical weather can shut down all the airports in the region.
Sarasota Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
|Temperature / Month