Maine : Safety by City
- Bar Harbor
- Carrabassett Valley
- Presque Isle/Caribou
- South Portland
South Portland, Maine, is a wonderful location tucked between the larger city of Portland across the Fore River and Cape Elizabeth to its south.
This is the state’s largest metro region and one of the most popular.
The west side of South Portland is a retail and commercial hub of activity, while the east side is full of outdoor adventures and seaside activities.
It’s also home to the second-largest oil port in the nation.
South Portland was built on a pig farm in the 1960s and has grown to more than 26,000 residents.
You get stunning shoreline views with lighthouses on the horizon.
You will also have access to the largest mall in the state and easy highway access to other portions of the coast or the mountain regions.
Downtown Portland has an abundance of hotels, and in South Portland, most hotels are on the west side near the highway.
You will have plenty of vacation rental options in South Portland near the water and if you’re also close to the Portland Head Lighthouse, one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world.
Warnings & Dangers in South Portland
OVERALL RISK: LOW
There's a low overall risk in South Portland and Portland, but crime rose in Portland during 2022. Maine is the second-safest state in the nation, and Portland is the 4th safest city, according to Wallet Hub. On top of that, you have so many safe and fun things to see and do, you won't wander around and end up in a bad area.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
Greater Portland Metro serves the region with routes that include the airport in South Portland. Rides are $2 each way. Amtrak offers service "Down East" to Boston and back. You'll need a car or taxi to get you between Portland and South Portland if you don't have a rental car. All options are low-risk and easy to use. Having your own is preferable.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
Between Portland and South Portland, there were just three pickpockets in 2021, on top of lower-than-average theft rates. You want to use smart safety practices and extra caution during the busy summer months.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
This is a medium risk and with a storm approaching during any season, treat it as a high risk. Nor'easters and hurricanes are the major weather threats, and winter weather can be quite intense. Flooding is another concern on top of storm surge risks. You'll get plenty of warnings about an approaching storm. You can review the hazards and safety tips on the Cumberland County Emergency Management website.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
This is a low risk, with just six robberies reported in 2021 with no highway robberies. Portland's robbery rate was 80% lower compared to 2015. Keep your risk low by walking only in well-lit areas. Don't walk around at night alone.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
If any city in Maine would be a target, it's Portland. With such a vital port economy, South Portland would be included in that risk. However, Boston would be a likelier target since it's so much bigger with more impacts on the population and economy.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
The only real concern here are rental scams. This is when people post fake listings of rental homes for insanely low prices. Customers are asked to pay in advance and then arrive to find out the location doesn't exist or is owned by someone else. Avoid this risk by using a local travel agency to help you find a vetted rental home.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
This is another low-risk category. As long as you follow standard safety precautions, especially when shopping and carrying numerous bags, you shouldn't face much of a risk. However, there will be crooks looking for a crime of opportunity. Don't let the low crime rates give you a false sense of safety.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
Portland's water source is so clean that it doesn't need to be filtered before it's treated and sent through the pipes. The 2022 Water Quality Report does show one violation, but that was due to a reporting error, and water quality was never compromised. This does not cover the water quality of the river or ocean, but we'll talk about how to check that later in this article.
Safest Places to Visit in South Portland
VisitPortland.com is the official tourism website for Portland, South Portland, and Cape Elizabeth.
VisitMaine.com covers the entire state if you want to go beyond the coastline.
Use the “My Trip Plan” function to save your favorite activities and share them with travel buddies.
Portland is a four-season destination, though some of the attractions are only open from May through October.
One of the first things I’d recommend when planning a trip here is to decide if you want to rent or charter a boat.
This part of Maine has dozens of islands off the mainland, including:
- Eagle Island State Historic Site
- Fort Gorges
- Fort Scammel
A Greenway trail in South Portland ends at Bug Light Park, where the Bug Light still stands.
This was once a shipbuilding yard but now is geared toward tourists wanting those incredible seaside landscapes or great views of Portland across the way.
Events are held throughout the year, and the path goes all the way to the Bug Light, a stout lighthouse.
Willard Beach is a four-acre beach with views of the lighthouses and fishing boats working in and out of the harbor.
You can also see Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse.
Fort Williams Park is just south of South Portland in Cape Elizabeth and home to the Portland Head Lighthouse.
Plan to spend half a day to a full day at this park, as there are many sections to see, including:
- Portland Head Lighthouse Tours
- The Ecology Project: Learn about sustainability and revitalization of this natural wonder.
- Battery Keyes & Battery Blair: The remnants of small military battery units.
- Goddard Mansion: Remnants of a mansion building in 1861.
- Children’s Garden
The Maine Military Museum honors the sacrifice of soldiers throughout history.
The exhibits cover wars from the Revolutionary War to the War on Terrorism.
Uniforms and artifacts are also displayed, with real-life war stories told along the tour.
This museum is open year-round.
The Maine Mall is in South Portland and full of shops from name brands to local vendors with plenty of restaurants.
A nearby trampoline park is a great way to have fun and burn energy on a cold winter’s day.
Places to Avoid in South Portland
Feel free to travel throughout South Portland, as there are no dangerous neighborhoods or places to avoid due to criminal threats.
The Old Port area of Portland saw increased gun crimes during 2022, but not enough to keep locals and tourists away.
“You’ve got to be careful wherever you go, but I wouldn’t bring my granddaughter down here if I didn’t feel safe in the city of Portland,” North Yarmouth resident Nelson Parise, who was visiting the Old Port area with his granddaughter, told Maine’s News Center.
It is something to keep an eye on as violent crime can quickly spin out of control.
Portland saw nearly double the shooting numbers in 2022 compared to 2021, and that was before 2022 even came to an end.
If that rate continues, this might be a whole different article.
However, police immediately reacted to the increase in crime by shifting more officers to street patrol.
“The goal is to show a presence to let the public understand we’re out there, and we understand the importance we understand that they’re concerned about what they’re seeing in their community,” Interim Police Chief Heath Gorham told the news outlet.
In South Portland, there’s a controversy about homeless people being allowed to stay in local hotels.
This is important when you look for a place to stay, as Days Inn, Comfort Inn, and Howard Johnson were being used as of 2022 for homeless housing amidst an affordable housing crisis in the region.
The hotels and surrounding areas have seen more crime, and the community demands change.
Safety Tips for Traveling to South Portland
- South Portland Police Department (SPPD) has an interactive crime map on its website that’s updated daily. You select parameters for your search and then can review each result or see crime hot spots on the map. For example, you might want to know how many car thefts happened near your preferred hotel. You might want to check thefts on the beach. It’s a versatile way to check more concerning crimes while staying on top of the latest crime trends but not getting overwhelmed with data.
- You can’t afford to miss emergency notifications in this community, and by signing up for CodeRED alerts, you’ll get information for the entire county, not just South Portland. Download the CodeRED app to get the most features out of the program.
- South Portland Community Television videos are posted online. While some of the videos are boring meetings that are geared toward residents, there are local events and safety interviews on there too. You can also learn about new businesses and upcoming festivals.
- Parking rules change during the winter. I wish I could summarize it quickly for you here, but there are a lot of details I don’t want you to miss. The “Winter Parking Ban” section of the city’s website lays out where the bank is implemented and where to park in the meantime.
- The city also has a “New Residents” guide on its website, but there’s a lot of great information that tourists would find useful about parks and amenities. For example, if you are really interested in water quality, you can schedule a water treatment plant tour.
- Anglers need a license from the Maine Department of Marine Resources or the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Rules vary between saltwater, open sea, freshwater, and ice fishing, so do your due diligence by reviewing the unique rules of this outdoorsy state.
- I once had a 30-minute conversation with a friend about how I interviewed for a job in Portland. We talked about how beautiful the city was – the beach, the rocky shoreline, and the lighthouses. I eventually realized we were talking about two different Portlands. I was talking about Portland, Maine, while she was talking about Portland, Oregon. This is an easy mistake to make with two major cities – clear across the country from one another – sharing similar traits. Make sure you add “Maine” to all of your searches. Another great indicator is the 207 area code, which is in Maine.
- To help you find the local police departments on Facebook, the handles are @southportlandpolice and @PortlandMainePolice. You can also follow @cumberlandcountyemergencymanagement to check on weather and safety risks.
- Use the “Check Beach Status” on Maine.gov before getting into the water at any beach. The interactive map on this website is easy to use; you can see which beaches have healthy water and where there might be risks.
- Even when the weather is warm, the water in the ocean can still be too cold for swimming without a wetsuit. Summer water temperatures might not even get above 62°(F), even if it’s hot outside. Cold water can put your body into shock, and you could drown even in a few feet of water. Talk with a local surf shop about best practices for water activities. You won’t find the warm ocean waters like Florida has in this region.
So... How Safe Is South Portland Really?
You might come across some social forums that talk about how dangerous Portland is, but that’s a privilege people have in a state with unusually low crime rates.
Any city with elevated crime levels will get a reaction from locals.
No city in this state is nearly as dangerous as Chicago or New Orleans.
That said, Portland has seen an increase in violent crime in 2022.
This is just a reminder that personal safety should never be ignored simply because of a crime rate listing.
As violent, drug, and gun crime rise, Portland and South Portland have escaped the worst, at least by the end of 2022.
I’ve seen several cities in Maine have the issue of homeless people staying in hotels and bringing more crime to an area.
This is because the cost of living in the state is so high that affordable housing is more of a dream than a reality.
To keep people off the streets, local governments offer up hotel rooms funded by grants.
Desperate people can turn to crime as a way to make ends meet.
In South Portland, 18% of violent crime happened against strangers, and in Portland, 34% of violent crime was against strangers.
The crime that does happen is much more likely to be among people who know each other or cases of domestic violence.
Robberies are more likely to impact a business than someone walking down the street.
You should take winters seriously here because bitter-cold temperatures don’t stop the tough people of Maine.
You’ll need to know base layering skills to insulate your body from the cold while preventing perspiration or precipitation from getting close to your skin.
Maine is known as Vacationland, and for good reason.
Hopefully, this safety guide has helped you get started on the best path to enjoy all the amenities.
How Does South Portland Compare?
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The U.S. State Department is in charge of visas for international travelers. The process can take several months and includes paperwork, an in-person interview, and a review of all social media sites from the past five years. Your criminal history will be checked as well. Once you get your visa, you'll use it when you go through Customs at the airport or port of entry.
You can only use the U.S. Dollar here. Exchange currency at home to get the best value and lowest fees. Some U.S. banks will buy back currency at the end of your trip. Credit cards are widely accepted, but carry about $100 of cash with you just in case. Just keep it in a safe place.
Pack for the worst of each season; hopefully, you'll be pleasantly surprised by mild weather. Waterproof shoes/boots and jackets are a great idea. You can rent fishing and boating gear, so there is no need to pack that. Bring sunscreen and bug spray. Even in the summer, the mornings and evenings can be cool, so pack a jacket or your favorite sweatshirt and jeans all year long.
Portland International Jetport is in South Portland, so you can easily trip to the only major airport nearby. If you are flying out of Boston, plan for about two hours on the road to get there. You can also take the Downeaster train to get to Beantown.
We always recommend travel insurance, but especially when visiting an area so prone to travel impacts of weather. An approaching nor'easter or hurricane could shut down the entire northeastern corridor to air travel. Insurance will protect your financial investment if you're stuck, delayed, or facing canceled flights and rebooking fees.
South Portland Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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Maine - Safety by City