Is St. Joseph Safe? Crime Rates & Safety Report

Updated On September 23, 2023
St. Joseph, United States
Safety Index:
47
* Based on Research & Crime Data

St. Joseph, Missouri, is a unique destination with a rich history and vibrant culture.

Founded in 1843, the city played a significant role in the westward expansion of the United States and served as a hub for the Pony Express and the Oregon Trail.

This city is also where famed outlaw Jesse James drew his last breath after being shot in the back of the head by one of the only people he trusted, which led to the movie name The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

Today, visitors can explore St. Joseph’s storied past through its many museums, historic sites, and landmarks.

In addition to its historical significance, the city is also home to a thriving arts community, with galleries, theaters, and performance venues showcasing the talents of local artists and performers.

The Missouri River, which runs alongside the city, provides opportunities for outdoor recreation, including fishing, boating, and hiking.

St. Joseph, or St. Joe as it’s known, is also somewhere in the middle of the main road between Omaha, Nebraska, and Kansas City.

This is also where the Kansas Chiefs NFL football team trains in the summer.

Warnings & Dangers in St. Joseph

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK: MEDIUM

There's a medium risk here with crime rates that took it from one of the safest cities in the state to rival some of the most dangerous. It's not just the high crime rates but the inability to get it under control that causes this risk level.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW

Go St. Joe is the public bus system with eight fixed routes between this city and Elwood, Kansas just across the state line. Taxis and rideshares will be easy to find, but you're safest in a rental car if you plan to practice proper vehicle safety.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK: MEDIUM

Over the past decade, the city has averages about 26 purse snatchings or pickpockets in a year, and with theft rates more than twice the national average, you should treat this as a medium risk.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM

Every month brings the potential for either severe weather or extreme winter weather, and that's a medium risk because you must be weather aware here. Tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, flash flooding, blizzards, ice storms, and derechos are all possible.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK: MEDIUM

The robbery rate is just above the national average, but it's the fact that robbery rates doubled between 2021 and 2022 that gives it a medium risk. There are just too many reckless criminals here to let your guard down.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK: LOW

This is a low risk. The terrorists in this community are gangs and drug dealers, leading to a surge in criminal activity. While you should always be vigilant, there are far bigger things to worry about than an act of terrorism.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK: LOW

Nearly 63% of fraud crimes in 2022 were due to ATM or credit card fraud. Another 28% were identity theft. Instead of focusing on tourist scams, which are rare, take the extra steps to protect your credit cards, keep all receipts until you can shred them, and do not give personal information to sinister sources.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW

While everyone should avoid high crime areas, women should use extra caution in every part of town because of the growing crime rates.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK: LOW

The 2021 Water Quality Report offers detailed information about where water comes from in this region and how it's treated. All standards were met or exceeded, and no violations were reported. The Safe Drinking Water Hotline is available for any questions by calling (800) 426-4791.

Safest Places to Visit in St. Joseph

Stjomo.com is the official travel and tourism site for St. Joseph.

You can download a free visitor’s guide without having to give any personal information.

The organization also has a Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr account where you can learn more, watch videos, and see upcoming events.

Downtown St. Joseph is a mix of historic architecture and bright murals guiding you through the streets of locally-owned stores and restaurants.

The city is filled with historic districts that border each other, so you aren’t limited to just one part of the city.

Various walking tours of the city are available through the Clio app, which includes tours for art, building, history, ghost, and innovation lovers.

If you can’t choose which one is best for you, stop by the Historic St. Joseph Emporium and have a local help you get started with the perfect itinerary.

Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area is right next to the visitor’s center with an interactive timeline of the wars and injustices that were waged in this region.

The Pony Express Museum is a great destination for learning about the iconic Pony Express and the role it played in the development of St. Joseph.

For those interested in the history of notorious outlaws, the Jesse James Home Museum offers a glimpse into the life of one of America’s most famous criminals.

The Glore Psychiatric Museum is a fascinating place to learn about the history of mental health treatment and see artifacts from the former St. Joseph State Hospital.

Nature lovers will enjoy a visit to Krug Park, which features beautiful scenery and plenty of opportunities to explore the outdoors.

St. Joseph Parkway also offers a meandering drive along 26 miles to enjoy the sights and sounds of all seasons, with many stops along the way to stretch your legs.

The Remington Nature Center is another great option for those who want to learn about the wildlife and natural resources of the Missouri River ecosystem.

Finally, the Robidoux Landing Playhouse is a popular destination for theater-goers and offers a wide range of productions throughout the year.

Places to Avoid in St. Joseph

You need to do a little tap dancing around the dangerous parts of St. Joseph because some are close to the districts tourists will want to see.

Near downtown, you should avoid Highly Street, North 11th Street, and Lewis Park.

Stick to the central part of the city north of Messanie Street, east of 3rd Street, and west of 10th Street.

On the south side of the city, avoid Kirschner Street.

“Kirschner and Angelique Street are two areas that deal with some sort of theft on a daily basis,” Sgt. Matt Kneib, crime prevention officer with SJPD.

“We get so many reports about cars getting hijacked, house burglaries, stolen purses and other personal items, nearly anything you can think of.

Even on Faraon, which isn’t too far from the police department, we’ve gotten a lot of reports regarding stolen mail and packages.”

East and north of the city, you’ll find safer neighborhoods and plenty of hotels.

Safety Tips for Traveling to St. Joseph

  1. The St. Joseph Police Department (SJPD) puts out an annual police report on its website, offering a 10,000-foot view of crime, challenges, and successes of the previous year. This is a perfect chance to get familiar with the trends in the community and learn some names to contact if you have more questions.
  2. SJPD also offers an interactive community crime map where you can search the city for criminal activity closer to your visit. For example, you might want to know about assault within 1/2 mile of your hotel in the past month or how many car break-ins happened within the past six months in a mile around downtown.
  3. If you have any crime tips or information you get after the fact or see suspicious activity, report it to Crime Stoppers by calling (816)238-8477 or filling out the form on the department’s website.
  4. Sign up for City Link, the city’s weekly newsletter, to stay on top of events, projects that could impact traffic, and updates on new businesses.
  5. In order to keep police officers responding to the most urgent calls, the department offers Teleserve to report non-violent crimes like vandalism or credit card fraud. You can make a report online or do so over the phone by calling (618)271-4777.
  6. The city website has the option to enroll in Notify Me alerts, which would cover anything from transit cancelations or parking changes due to severe weather. There are dozens of options on the website, and you can custom-select which ones you want. We recommended at least getting the News Flash alerts.
  7. The city offers an interactive map for bike trails. Look for the Urban Trails Mobile Site. You can look for stopping points, restrooms, clean water, and fishing spots along the way.
  8. Downtown St. Joseph has a parking garage at 8th and Felix Streets. This garage is free but now includes a closed gate with a camera, and everyone entering needs to grab a ticket for entry. This was done to keep shady characters and criminals from us. “We want to keep it to where only the people who should be inside the parking garage, who have a car and are coming in to use services or shop or get food, that those people are inside the parking garage and not other people. So, it’s just about safety,” Christy George, Downtown Liaison, said.
  9. Anyone who wants to fish while they’re here should get a license from the Missouri Department of Conservation. There are non-resident permits for a day up to an annual pass.
  10. Missouri Western State University is also located in St. Joe, so you’ll notice larger crowds at the start of each semester and during graduation, with smaller college crowds during the summer.

So... How Safe Is St. Joseph Really?

Where I live now in Nebraska, I drive through St. Joseph to get to and from my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri.

I would never guess the crime rates are as high as they are in St. Joseph.

I urge you to take the same precautions I take just to be safe.

This is one of those cities where most crimes happen in impoverished and underserved communities, and if you don’t go looking for trouble you likely won’t find it.

However, the historic and attractive nature of the community can be a little comforting and cause people to let their guard down.

“Naturally, crime is going to be higher in poverty-stricken areas because you have people that are taking things they don’t have from other people,” Kneib said.

“Or, there are people associated with a gang, and it just becomes a cycle.

That’s why we have to do our job and make sure we’re policing those highly targeted areas, so people don’t feel comfortable doing these criminal acts.”

Basic advice like locking your car and being aware of your surroundings will go a long way here.

31% of all thefts were car break-ins or car accessory thefts like expensive catalytic converters.

Taking steps like leaving your car in a lot with security or in a garage will help.

That, mixed with situational awareness, is key to lowering your risk.

“Lock your vehicles, don’t leave your keys in them, and don’t leave any weapons in your vehicle.

A huge trend that we’re seeing: we’re losing a lot of guns from unlocked cars,” said Interim Police Chief David Hart in early 2023.

“Don’t leave your gun in a glass box on the side of the street.

We see it time and time and time again, so now we have a lot of guns that are in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.”

St. Joseph is really a tourism gem in northwestern Missouri, but it does come with a great deal of necessary precautions since the violent crime rate is twice the national average.

How Does St. Joseph Compare?

CitySafety Index
St. Joseph47
New Orleans57
Baltimore56
Boston67
Washington DC56
New York City67
Detroit56
Niagara Falls (Canada)87
Calgary (Canada)82
Buenos Aires (Argentina)60
Vancouver (Canada)82
Cordoba (Argentina)61
Toronto (Canada)81

Useful Information

Visas

Visas

International travelers need a passport and U.S. Visa to get through Customs at the airport. Starting the visa process first since it can take the longest. You won't need to show proof of visa in St. Joe, but you will use the passport as your legal ID.

Currency

Currency

The U.S. Dollar is the only currency accepted nationwide. You should not exchange currency in St. Joseph and definitely don't use ATMs. There's just too much crime, and you can get cash at the airport with lower fees anyway.

Weather

Weather

St. Joseph gets four seasons, and temperatures can be temperamental, changing from mild to cold to warm within a week. You'll need a warm winter coat and accessories, but check the seven-day forecast to see if you're getting lucky with a mild stretch of weather. Summers will be hot and humid, and you'll need bug spray.

Airports

Airports

The nearest commercial airport to St. Joseph is the Kansas City International Airport, which is approximately 50 miles south of the city.

Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance

There's too much of a severe or winter weather risk here to travel without some kind of protection against your investment. It's also smart to get full coverage on your rental car, given all the auto break-ins.

Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

St. Joseph Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan -3° C
Feb 0° C
Mar 7° C
Apr 13° C
May 19° C
Jun 25° C
Jul 26° C
Aug 25° C
Sep 20° C
Oct 14° C
Nov 7° C
Dec -1° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
251319243031302620124
Low
°C
-8-517131921191471-5
High
°F
364155667586888679685439
Low
°F
182334455566706657453423

Missouri - Safety by City

CitySafety Index
Blue Springs82
Boonville83
Branson70
Cape Girardeau72
Carthage80
Chesterfield78
Clayton72
Creve Coeur78
Fenton72
Ferguson43
Frontenac72
Hannibal76
Independence74
Jefferson City75
Jennings31
Joplin53
Kansas City39
Kirksville72
Kirkwood77
Lee’s Summit78
Maryland Heights79
Mehlville73
New Madrid84
Poplar Bluff57
Rolla58
Springfield62
St. Charles79
St. Joseph47
St. Louis58
Ste. Genevieve83

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