Minnesota : Safety by City
- Brooklyn Park
- Detroit Lakes
- Fergus Falls
- Grand Marais
- Grand Portage
- International Falls
- Maple Grove
- New Ulm
- Red Wing
- St. Cloud
- St. Paul
- Two Harbors
St. Cloud, Minnesota, sounds like a heavenly place just 90 minutes northwest of the Twin Cities while offering urban amenities and outdoor recreation with nearby lakes and the Mississippi River running through the city, creating the outdoor adventure of Beaver Islands.
It turns out the clouds are cumulonimbus, and a storm always seems to be brewing here.
The city of nearly 70,000 people made its place in American history by being a port stop on the Mighty Mississippi River.
It’s now known for the hydroelectric power produced with the help of the river and for being home to the third-largest public university in the state – St. Cloud State University.
St. Cloud has made headlines over the past decade or so for its influx of Somalian refugees and for trying to blend a new culture into a county founded by immigrants.
The ongoing debate is one of the systemic issues in this mid-sized city.
While having some of the Minnesota outdoor opportunities and the urban mix, it doesn’t really excel at either one.
As the city works to lower crime rates, increase community collaboration, and build a tourism industry, it’s definitely an “okay” place to visit, but I can’t really give it much more than that.
Warnings & Dangers in St. Cloud
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk here, with the city facing the same onslaught of violent crime as in many other cities. While it's not as dangerous as some parts of Minneapolis, it's not as safe as some of the more northern or North Shore communities. Between the Saint and the Cloud, there's just a tense air of conflict that is either outwardly spoken or lingering in the atmosphere like humidity.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
The Metro Bus system is available with fixed routes throughout the city and some college-specific routes. Taxis and rideshares are easy to find, and rental cars are widely available. Bus service has been scaled back since the pandemic and aftermath of staffing shortages, and car break-ins make up 40% of an already high theft rate, there are no better or worse options. There are just personal safety steps to take with each one.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk here, with 35 pickpockets or purse snatchings reported in 2021. While that doesn't seem like a lot, it's the highest I've seen in dozens of travel safety stories I've done in the state. Be smart when you walk around and keep your purse close to your body while keeping mobile devices out of plain sight. Store your wallet inside a jacket pocket or in your front pants pocket to lessen the risk of a pickpocket.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Winters are brutal in Minnesota, but if you're from a cold weather location, it's nothing you haven't seen before. Snow storms, blizzards, ice storms, and blustery winds can impact travel and cause power outages. Spring brings tornado season, with severe thunderstorms happening often. Flooding is also a risk along the Mississippi River, but as of 2022, the low river levels due to drought are a bigger concern since the water flow powers so much electricity.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
This is a low risk, but that's more to say it's an average risk since the robbery rates are near the national average. 30% of the robberies here were highway robberies, most likely to impact visitors. Keep the risk low by staying near well-lit sidewalks and attractions at night. Don't walk around alone after dark.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
The city doesn't elicit the same assumed sense of security that many other towns its size would have. A 2016 stabbing spree at a local mall left the suspect, an Islam extremist, dead and 10 people hurt. In 2022 several mosques were broken into and damaged, both being treated as hate crimes. It's not that the risk here is so high - it's more that the tension is thick, and the fuse is shorter. However, police did extended safety training after the 2016 incident, and many programs are in place hoping to bridge the cultural gaps between refugees and native Minnesotans.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
While most scams here target the locals, you can read the "How to Spot a Scam" document on the city's website to see the most common red flags of a scam.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM
The sexual assault cases here are almost as high as the robbery cases. In the fall of 2020, a woman leaving a bar was forced into a car and raped at a local park. Women should treat the risk as a medium, just because of the higher than average rate and the potential for women to be taken advantage of in this college town. You just really need to use street smarts and personal safety steps here.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2021 Water Quality Report shows full compliance and no violations. That report can be viewed on the city's website. If you want to learn about water quality in one of the many lakes, visit the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency website.
Safest Places to Visit in St. Cloud
Visit St. Cloud is the tourism website for the city, and the official city website also has some park and visitor information.
The tourism website also has a chat function on the home page where you can ask specific questions.
You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A free tourism guide is available for online download as well.
Aroundtheclock.org is the official arts organization for the city.
Review the website to see upcoming performances, festivals, and gallery displays.
You can also find the location of several sculptures and wall murals throughout the city.
“Be the Change” is one of the most Instagram shots in the city.
Art and Heritage Place is a nearly 10,000 art space with modern art and art history.
Downtown St. Cloud is filled with restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues fanning out from the St. Cloud River’s Edge Convention Center.
It runs from the riverfront to 10th Avenue and is three blocks long.
You can also download walking tour maps of the historic sections of town on the tourism website.
Stearns History Museum is a great way to learn about St. Cloud’s past.
It’s set up with each room being a decade, so you can take a literal walk through time!
Stop and smell the roses at Munsinger and Clemens Gardens on the eastern edge of the Mississippi River.
Don’t miss the Virginia Clemens Rose Garden.
A bloom schedule can be found on the garden section of the city’s website.
A walkway along the river can take you through several other parks and scenic views along the Mississippi River.
On the other side of the river, you can walk or bike the five-mile Beaver Island Trail.
Beaver Islands Fly Company can hook you up with a fly-fishing adventure.
Please note that the Beaver Islands in St. Cloud are not the same thing as Beaver Island off the coast of Michigan.
You can rent kayaks or SUPs in the warm weather and check out snowshoes or skis in the winter to enjoy the surrounding trails and county parks.
Places to Avoid in St. Cloud
A lack of standard tourist attractions outside the downtown entertainment district could lead some visitors simply searching for something to do.
Police have targeted crime hot spots in the past year, which include the south and southeast sides of the city, especially near the western edge of the university.
An alleyway shooting in the summer of 2022 happened just a block away from the university as two groups engaged in a gunfight.
That includes neighborhoods on the city’s southeast and south sides, especially the area west of St. Cloud State University.
Avoid the hotels in these areas and stick to the ones on the city’s western edge with Waite Park near Highway 15.
For outdoor adventurers – never trust ice on the water if you don’t know how to measure ice depth.
Minnesota has seen a rash of water rescues as people fell through the ice.
Just because a cold spell causes the river or lake to freeze doesn’t mean it’s strong enough for people or a car.
Use the Department of Natural Resources website to learn about ice safety, and you’ll see that “No Ice is 100% Safe,” but you can take safety steps to lower your risk.
Safety Tips for Traveling to St. Cloud
- St. Cloud does have its own police department. The website does have crime statistics and annual reports, but as of this publication, the reporting ended in 2020. Hopefully, it gets more updated in the future. The department is also active on Facebook and Twitter. Just be sure you’re looking at St. Cloud, Minnesota, and not St. Cloud, Florida, which is just south of Orlando.
- Tri-County Crime Stoppers is a program designed to allow anonymous crime reporting without being involved in a criminal case or called to testify. Rewards are also available for tips that lead to arrests. You can report information on the website, through the P3 Tips app, or by calling 1-800-255-1301.
- Use the city website to sign up for Notify Me alerts. These cover issues like water main breaks, snow emergency parking restrictions, and police emergencies. You can also customize which “News Flash” reports you want from various departments.
- If you are a student or visiting the campus, sign up for Star Alerts through the campus police department. This will include shelter-in-place orders, weather cancelations/delays, and health alerts. Family members of students can also sign up for the alerts.
- A fishing license is required for anyone who is going solo fishing or booking a charter. You can get that information through the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources or at one of the sporting goods stores in town.
- The Stearns County Emergency Management website has a great page of information about Avian Influenza, which should be viewed by anyone going to birding areas or hunting birds. As global problems continue into 2023, it’s helpful to know the risk and safety steps you can take to avoid carrying the virus b between wilderness areas.
- Rave Mobile Safety is the program that sends emergency notifications from the county. These are different from the city notifications. For example, county alerts will let you know a winter storm is approaching. The city alerts will tell you what that means for downtown parking or business hours. You absolutely need to have county alerts that cover tornadoes, winter storms, severe thunderstorms, ice issues, and flooding.
- Use 511 MN to get road reports across the state or within the St. Cloud region. Maps are interactive with live cameras and color-coded systems to designate heavy traffic, construction, or accidents.
- The Stearns County website also has an updated list of ski trail conditions and difficulty levels. Some county parks require a parking permit and a ski passport from the state, while others don’t, so that’s information visitors need to know as well.
- The city gardens in St. Cloud are great places for a family photo shoot, but you do need permission from the city to do so. In the rose garden, no photos are allowed without a permit. Also, don’t pick or take any of the flowers from the garden.
So... How Safe Is St. Cloud Really?
The St. Cloud Police Department hasn’t released official data from 2022, but we do have the final 2021 numbers with some updates from August 2022.
2021 hit an all-time high number of homicides, with five deaths.
Gun crimes were down slightly in 2022, but still, incidents like an alleyway shooting that happened in broad daylight near the university ended with four people shot.
The victims ranged in age from 15 to 21.
The city started a Safe Streets Initiative in August 2022, and the first two weeks led to 30 arrests, 300 traffic stops, and some illegal drugs and guns taken off the streets.
There’s progress being made, but still a lot of work to do.
“Sometimes perception doesn’t meet the reality of statistics.
But that doesn’t matter — if you don’t feel safe, that’s not good.
We need to make sure you feel safe, too,” Mayor Dave Kleis said.
In 2021, 24% of victims were strangers, which sounds reassuring, but it’s also about 2-3 times higher than in some other mid-sized Minnesota cities.
30% of robberies were highway robberies, meaning they happened on a public street or sidewalk.
40% of thefts were car break-ins.
Adding to that – St. Cloud isn’t a vibrant tourist community.
Even though a children’s museum is in the works, the planning has been ongoing since 2012.
Nothing makes St. Cloud unique to visit that you can’t find in other, safer communities across the state.
The risk/reward balance is more in the risk category here, but it’s also an area trying to find its cadence during a challenging couple of years.
Even when writing the safe things to do here, I had to weed between standard restaurants and options like Escape Rooms, which can be found in any community.
It’s not the most exciting community, and it’s also not the most dangerous.
It does have a lot of room to grow in both community attractions and safety rankings.
How Does St. Cloud Compare?
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- Visas - If you are a refugee or looking to immigrate to St. Cloud, you can use services like Family First Immigration to help with the processing for family visits or full family moves to the United States. If you are immigrating to America, please review the Immigrant Visa qualifications, which differ from the Visitor or Student Visas. Above and beyond the visa process, you'll need a valid passport that isn't within six months of expiring.
- Currency - No other currency is accepted in St. Cloud except the U.S. Dollar. You can exchange currency at a local bank or, for lower fees, use your home country's bank. For immigrants who wish to send money to Somalia, please discuss the process with your bank, as there are some hoops to jump through to make it happen.
- Weather - You'll need layers of winter clothing since it can be blustery cold here for months at a time. Spring and fall can still have cool nights or mornings. You'll want to have sweatshirts, sweaters, jeans, and pants. Summers will be warm with humidity, meaning bug spray is essential too.
- Airports - St. Cloud has a regional airport with limited destinations, such as Phoenix, Arizona; Laughlin, Nevada; and Punta Gorda, Florida. For the larger airport in the Twin Cities, you'll need to drive for about 90 minutes.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance is a wise investment to avoid financial losses due to weather delays or cancelations.
St. Cloud Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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