Kentucky : Safety by City
- Bowling Green
- Cave City
- Cumberland Falls
- Harlan Tri-Cities
- La Grange
- St. Matthews
St. Matthews, Kentucky, is a sleepy suburb and shopping destination on the eastern side of the Louisville area.
It’s named after St. Matthew, the patron saint of bookkeeping and accounting, and the city itself doesn’t really get more exciting than that unless you like big malls.
It was a tragedy that made St. Matthews get the population boom, even though it’s still a small town of fewer than 18,000 people.
In 1937, a massive flood hit Louisville, and people seeking escape made their new homes in surrounding cities, including St. Matthews.
St. Matthews is now in a great location, along the busy Shelbyville Road where it intersects with Interstate 264.
This provides easy access around Louisville and a straight drive into downtown Louisville in just 20 minutes.
Churchill Downs is just 10 miles away as well.
A great part of this region is that you can be in the big city, a dense shopping area, or a farm, all within minutes of each other.
Warnings & Dangers in St. Matthews
OVERALL RISK : LOW
For the most part, there's a low overall risk. Violent crime rates are low, neighborhoods are safe, and there are a lot of amenities nearby. This is definitely a suburban area and doesn't have a city feel at all.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
The Louisville TARC bus system serves St. Matthews. You can also easily get a taxi or rideshare. There's a low risk no matter how you choose to get around but be prepared for typical suburban traffic.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk here, and this city might have the highest theft rate I've seen in my hundreds of travel safety articles. There's a one in 22 chance of being a theft victim here, with the rate being more than three times the national average. Eight pickpockets or purse snatchings were reported in 2020.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
While advancements have been made in flood prevention since the Great Flood of 1937, there's still a flooding risk with the Ohio River being on the northern edge of the metro area. Severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, hail, and winter storms are also potential dangers at various times of the year. Because of all this, there's medium risk.
MUGGING RISK : MEDIUM
The robbery rate is at the national average, and while most thefts here don't happen by force, there's still that chance. Because of the greedy nature of the criminals in this shopping hub, we'll give this a medium risk. I hope that prompts you to take extra care of what you bring with you and what you level behind in the hotel.
TERRORISM RISK : MEDIUM
Louisville and nearby Fort Knox are both considered potential hard targets, so there's a medium risk in this area. St. Matthews isn't a possible target but would definitely feel a ripple effect with any kind of attack.
SCAMS RISK : MEDIUM
The biggest scam happening in St. Matthews is checks being stolen from mailboxes and then "washed" to allow the scammer to cash in bigger amounts. While this isn't a scam that would impact a tourist, it just shows how creative the thieves and scammers are in this area. Medium risk is really the only option here because of the greedy, thriving people.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM
60% of the violent crimes that happened here were against women in 2020, but just 35% of violent crime victims were strangers. There's a low risk of being a victim of a violent crime, but you should always assume someone is eyeing your shopping bags or your purse. Go forward with medium risk and protect your stuff.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
Louisville Water says in the 2021 Annual Water Quality Report that it is one of the "nation's top water utilities." No violations were reported, and all tests met or exceeded requirements.
Safest Places to Visit in St. Matthews
Shelbyville Road is one of those streets that has every major retailer and restaurant on it if you drive far enough.
This culminates just before the I-264 interchange with Mall St. Matthews, one of the largest shopping malls in the state.
While you do have a lot of national chain restaurants, there are some local eateries to check out.
It takes a brave restaurant owner to open a Kansas City-style barbecue restaurant in the heart of Kentucky Barbecue county, but that’s just what you can get at Momma’s Mustard Pickles & BBQ.
Gerstle’s has been open since 1924, serving the staples of any good neighborhood restaurant/bar.
Check the schedule for local bands throughout the week.
Kayrouz Cafe is another restaurant with a lot of history in this area, but it serves food more suitable for lunch and without live bands in the background.
For breakfast, try out Wild Eggs St. Matthews.
They serve traditional breakfast food with some added creative concoctions like “Kalamity Katie’s Border Benedict,” which is described as “Green chili cheddar corn cakes topped with chorizo, two poached eggs, queso fundido, pice de Gallo, sour cream, onions, and avocado.”
Arthur K. Draut Park is one of the popular outdoor areas in the city.
With nearly 25 acres to explore, you can walk the path with quaint bridges, a babbling brook, and various wildlife.
You can also walk to nearby Brown Park from there.
Locust Grove is just four miles from St. Matthews and is a storied home with famous footprints throughout.
This home was built in 1792 and has guests, including Presidents and explorers Lewis & Clark.
Here you can do a house tour or hear the story of the home as told through the eyes of slaves that once tended to the property.
Oxmoor Farm is another tour you can take through a home with three centuries of history, this time focusing on the families who lived here and the top crop of its heyday – hemp.
You do have to make a reservation in advance, but the bonus to that is the tour guides will cater to your preferences.
Want more Civil War information?
Prefer to go with Colonial stories?
Ask, and they’ll do it.
Places to Avoid in St. Matthews
You don’t have to worry about a bad neighborhood in St. Matthews.
First, the city isn’t that big.
Second, all the main attractions are in the same area, and there’s little need to go into the neighborhoods anyway.
St. Matthews is laid out oddly, with borders that bounce all over the place and pockets of what looks like it should be in the city, actually a different city.
This is because of the annexation battle that built St. Matthews.
There’s more information on the city’s website about that if you like annexation stories.
I just don’t want to put anyone to sleep by diving deeper into it with so much more to talk about in this article.
Safety Tips for Traveling to St. Matthews
- Louisville makes it easy to get emergency information for anyone in the metro area. LENSAlert is a service that just takes a few steps on your cell phone to set up. Text “LENSAlert” to 67283, and you’ll start receiving emergency messages. Actually, as I write this, there’s a LENSAlert about a Severe Thunderstorm Warning.
- Download the Louisville Metro 311 app, and this is designed for people to be able to report problems. See a pothole? Send a message. Notice fresh graffiti on a wall? Send a message. You get the point.
- If you do drive through neighborhoods here, watch out for speed humps. They are marked with white arrows, so you should see them well ahead of time (assuming you are going the 25 mph speed limit). A speed hump is wider than a speed bump, but it’s still going to be a jolt if you drive over it going too fast.
- St. Matthews is “one of those towns” where you can even report habitual speeders if you’d like. With so many families here, it’s important to keep track of the people who make the streets more dangerous. You can fill out the form on the police department’s website to tell them about a speeder. Be as descriptive as possible. I’m not sure what they’ll do about it, but you’ll feel good just reporting it, right?
- If you happen to be in this area because you are dealing with losing a family member or loved one, the region has a great program called First Hour Grief Response. You can get a free appointment with a counselor or just talk to someone on the phone. That number is (502)791-9938.
- The St. Matthews Police Department has an interactive map on its website where you can search in whatever area you’d like for specific types of crime. This is a great way to see how many thefts have happened near your hotel or what violent crimes have been reported before or during your visit.
- The police department recommends having a hotel room with a chain lock on the door in addition to the traditional lock. This is a great deterrent for thieves. You should leave your valuables in the hotel safe when you’re out and about.
- Since there aren’t a lot of attractions in St. Matthews, you need to find the local events that bring out the community. The Chamber of Commerce for the city has a great Facebook page with ongoing updates of new businesses and events. One of them is the return of the potato festival in 2022. St. Matthews was once a potato farming community.
- If you’re going to be fishing anywhere in Kentucky, you need a license from the Department of Fish & Wildlife. You can purchase the license online. Boaters and hunters need a license, too, so review all the regulations and get what you need to enjoy beautiful Kentucky outdoors.
- Some of the businesses in St. Matthews have a Louisville address. While it’s really just a matter of postal codes and districting, it can confuse first-time visitors (or researchers who write articles about visiting). Just be sure to look at the location on the map to make sure it’s near St. Matthews.
So... How Safe Is St. Matthews Really?
So much of St. Matthews is very safe, but thieves would steal your shoes if they could.
Honestly, the theft rate is insanely high here, but that’s fueled by a key category.
Can you guess what it is?
44% of the 794 thefts in the city were shoplifting related in 2020, and this is a trend that has been happening for years.
The police chief said in 2019 that if there was no shoplifting, the city crime rates overall could go down 40%.
While shoplifting isn’t usually a crime that will impact a tourist, there’s a concern about what that could lead to.
“Generally, this is not their first time.
They come back and steal over and over,” St. Matthews Police Chief Barry Wilkerson told a local television station, “Ya know, could it get worse?
Someone might get killed.
You’ve seen that when somebody takes money from a cash register at a gas station, it escalates to where someone is seriously injured.
That’s what we want to avoid.”
Car break-ins also accounted for 25% of the thefts in the city, so you have to lock your car when you park and remove ALL your belongings every single time.
Never leave your purse on the back of a chair at a restaurant.
Always keep it in sight or on your lap.
I like to get an extra seat at a table where I can put my purse and then triple-hook the strap around the chair, so if someone tries to grab it, they take a chair with them.
This is really a great area to visit and stay in with a lot of things at your disposal and the city just a short drive away.
The crime rates all change when you get into Louisville, so read our article about that city before you go.
How Does St. Matthews Compare?
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- Visas - You'll need a U.S. Travel or Work Visa if you want to get here from outside the country. This process can take up to four months, so start planning early.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here, and I'd suggest you don't carry around cash. Best practices are to use one credit for all purchases, monitor the purchase list daily, and immediately report any fraud you spot. Write down your credit card numbers somewhere safe, like in a locked document on your phone. Also, include the phone number to call if your card is compromised. This will help you get the card shut down faster if it falls into the wrong hands.
- Weather - Most of the year, you can get away with t-shirts or sweatshirts and jeans or shorts. Winter can get pretty cold, so bring a coat. Summers will be hot and humid, and you should prepare to sweat a lot. Don't worry; everyone else will be sweating a lot too. Humidity isn't something you can acclimate to very well.
- Airports - Louisville International Airport is just a quick 10-minute drive or ride to or from St. Matthews. That is the largest and best option for a traveler.
- Travel Insurance - It's always smart to have travel insurance, especially when visiting a place with so much wild weather throughout the year. There's also a hospital in St. Matthews if you get injured, and travel insurance should cover those costs as well.
St. Matthews Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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