Mississippi : Safety by City
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Tupelo might be best known as the birthplace of Elvis Presley, but there’s so much more to explore in this northern Mississippi community.
It won’t take long to find out why the charm of this town brought Elvis back to his roots time and time again.
The town of 38,000 people is known for its great food; from southern cooking to Cajun to barbecue, you’ll have more than 160 restaurants to choose from, with hearty portions for every meal.
Tupelo (“TWO-puh-low”) is also the headquarters of the Natchez Trace, a national park that is actually a 444-mile road.
Free camping and park access are another bonus, and autumn visitors will be amazed at the foliage.
Elvis’ love of music lives on with live performances nightly covering many genres, and music fans can also take the Mississippi Blues Trail or Elvis Guitar Trail.
Civil war history is here as well, and the cultural impact of Native Americans can be found at several stops.
Tupelo is wild for buffalos, and you can see a huge herd at the local zoo, which is also home to a monkey that keeps trying to escape only to be recaptured and make national headlines.
Memphis, Birmingham, and Ole Miss (Oxford) are within two hours of Tupelo, opening the door for more road trips and adventures.
Warnings & Dangers in Tupelo
OVERALL RISK : LOW
Tupelo has a low risk, but that is more to say it has an average risk. Crime rates ride the national average and can dip far above or below compared to Mississippi overall. You have a lot of family-friendly and safe activities here to avoid boredom that can lead to trouble or being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
Tupelo Transit is an on-demand service requiring 48 hours notice. Taxis and rideshares are available. A rental car is ideal, especially if you want to ride the Natchez Trace.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
The risk is low unless you're here for a large event or in a crowded public space. Standard safety precautions are needed, like not leaving a purse hanging from the back of a chair at a restaurant.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Tupelo can get hit hard by severe weather any time of year. This section of the country is known as Dixie Alley, another common place for tornadoes to hit outside of Tornado Alley in the Midwest. Flooding, intense lightning, and high winds can cause damage. Winter isn't very snowy, but ice storms are more likely, which cause treacherous road conditions. It's a medium risk, and you should never plan an outdoor activity without checking the forecast.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
Robberies are more likely to happen in local businesses, like gas stations, banks, and check cashing locations, instead of random individuals. You can keep the risk low by not wearing flashing valuables or walking around at night.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
The risk is low for an international terrorist attack, but racial tensions are longstanding in this community. Hate crimes and domestic terrorism can happen in any city. You review the Mississippi Office of Homeland Security (MOHS) website for safety and awareness videos while following MOHS on Facebook. As a bonus, that social media page also covers severe weather safety.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
Common scams like fake police officers and threatening utility bill calls take the headlines here, but those are most commonly against locals. The city has seen an increase in persistent or aggressive panhandling, and you should know that only one in 10 panhandlers is actually homeless. Don't let a panhandler stop you, and call 911 if you feel threatened. Better yet, if you see panhandlers, don't walk by them. Keep car windows rolled up at intersections.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Nothing in the crime data indicates women are at greater risk, but with the lively nightlife here, you want to take the standard safety precautions. It's not a city safe enough to walk around at night alone.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2021 Water Quality Report shows full compliance and no violations. A new report is posted each year by June 1, so you can check for an updated report on the city's website. Even with an impeccable report, any emergency water quality issues will be posted on the city's social media sites.
Safest Places to Visit in Tupelo
Tupelo.net is the official tourism website, and it has a separate travel guide and dining guide free for download.
You can also use the “Ask a Local” feature.
The “Plan Your Trip” feature is a great way to sort through the options, as you can choose if you’re traveling solo, with a pet, for work, or with family.
Elvis Presley Birthplace is the main attraction in town, with its own website of the same name offering ticket information, downloadable maps of the property, and insight into the people who helped take Elvis from this modest home to superstardom.
Celebratory events are held in January and August, the month of his birth and death.
The site has over 20 stops, including a museum and his childhood church.
You can also pick up a map of the Elvis Driving Tour around Tupelo.
Mississippi’s Final Stands Civil War Memorial and Battlefield is 20 miles north of Tupelo.
Start at the interpretive center, where you learn the story and see artifacts, before exploring two battlefields and hiking the nearby trails in the steps of Civil War soldiers.
The Oren Dunn City Museum and Tupelo Veterans Museum offer insight into Tupelo’s history, war efforts, and growth throughout the decades.
To learn about the Mississippi outdoors, you can visit the Mississippi Hills Exhibit Center.
Top the trip off with some revolving art exhibits at the GumTree Museum of Art.
While Tupelo is somewhere in the middle of the Natchez Trace, it’s also the headquarters of the National Park Service protected property.
While several websites offer information about the roadway, nearby attractions, and parks, you should stick to the National Park Service website for the most updated safety information.
Pair the NPS information with the Tupelo tourism site to find the best nearby attractions since the full route goes nearly 450 miles.
ScenicTrace.com is another great official resource for the trail.
The Tupelo National Battlefield also falls under the NPS, and it’s right in the center of town.
You can also use the NPS app to navigate your trip through all NPS locations.
The Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo are open throughout the year, weather permitting.
This exotic animal attraction has been here for more than two decades.
Guided tours through the buffalo pasture and hand-feeding baby animals are two of the most popular activities.
Fall visitors should put the pumpkin patch at the park on their itinerary.
Places to Avoid in Tupelo
Tupelo is a smaller town, clearly laid out by main north/south and east/west roads.
Use these to get around or use the highways.
There isn’t a neighborhood that’s too dangerous to drive through, but there are some haphazardly placed streets that might make a visitor feel uncomfortable.
The city has a homeless and panhandling population along Carnation Street between Church Street and Highway 6.
There’s a Walmart near there with large vagrant crowds at times.
It would be best to shop elsewhere, or at least visit this store during the daytime.
Avoid any outdoor activities until you have checked the weather conditions for the region.
Even a severe thunderstorm or tornado watch should be taken seriously, as weather can turn violent quickly here.
You can also use Mississippi 511 to check road conditions and storm damage after a weather event.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Tupelo
- Tupelo has its own police department and posts weekly and monthly crime statistics. Use the monthly reports to get year-to-date information. The weekly reports will list all the crimes that happened, while the monthly reports are in an easier-to-read grid format.
- TPD has its own Facebook page, but there are several fake or unofficial accounts to sort through. While the page doesn’t have a handle, you want to look for the one that reads, “TPD utilizes this platform as a means of non-emergency communications.”
- You can report any suspicious activity to Crime Stoppers of Northeast Mississippi without having to leave your name or contact information. The number is 800-773-8477. The Facebook page @csnems also posts a list of wanted suspects.
- If you’re anywhere on the Natchez Trace and you come across an artifact, you should not touch it or take it with you. It is against federal law to remove artifacts from these protected lands. If you see anyone else taking artifacts or defacing the property, please call the National Park Police Ranger Station at (662)680-4014.
- One thing you should do if you see an artifact is taken several photos showing the item up close and from a distance, note the location, and report it to the visitor center, so an archeologist can examine it.
- Use the Tupleo 2 Go app to find a list of dining options in the city and review the menus. If you want food delivered, this app is better than using the nationally branded options since the money and fees all stay in the Tupelo area.
- For those attending any Tupelo School District sporting events, there’s now a clear bag policy in place. You won’t be allowed in without a clear bag, and several stores in town keep these bags stocked. This policy avoids any weapons or dangerous items being hidden in large purses or backpacks.
- The city doesn’t have an emergency alert app, but the local television station WTVA does. Look for the Heartland Media WTVA Weather app in the online stores. Be sure you have location tracking, and severe weather emergency alerts turned on.
- Ask the hotel clerk where the storm shelter is upon check-in. A storm that becomes dangerous in the middle of the night could leave you very little time to get to safety. Tupelo also has a list of public storm shelters where people can seek refuge ahead of a storm system moving in.
- Mississippi Emergency Management Agency handles storm, emergency, and disaster information. Each county has its own office, but you want to use the MSEMA website to review the common disaster risks here. Even though Tupelo is more than 300 miles from the coast, you’ll find out why you still need to know about hurricane risks inland.
So... How Safe Is Tupelo Really?
Tupelo is a challenging city to research because it doesn’t stand out on any “best” or “worst” list.
It hasn’t seen a large increase in violent crime or juvenile crime.
During the summer of 2022, there was an increase in gun violence, prompting law enforcement leaders to produce a gun violence safety video with the families of the victims.
You can watch that on the Facebook page.
Use the crime statistics each week to see what crimes are trending.
Looking at the Facebook page and news release list, the city has seen a surge in drug activity and arrests.
One involved an arrest of three people found with more than 10,000 fentanyl pills.
That’s especially concerning since overdoses are skyrocketing nationwide due to illegal drugs stuffed with fentanyl, which is lethal even in very small doses.
Users don’t know that fentanyl is in the pill, and some people sell the drugs as if they are prescriptions.
As far as we can tell, the biggest concern for a visitor will be panhandlers.
“From the emails, radio calls, and community meeting feedback, I have seen personally complaints of panhandling have definitely been rising,” Tupelo Police Department Major Chuck McDougald said.
I can’t stress the importance of weather knowledge here, as Tupelo has seen its share of dangerous tornadoes.
People who live there might be a little more laid back about severe weather risk since they’re used to it, but you should follow the official safety guidance.
You also should know that people here speak with a strong accent, move a little slower, and take time to have longer conversations than some urban people might be used to.
It’s a slower pace of life here, so slow down and enjoy this unique culture.
If you’re heading to Jackson, Mississippi, or Memphis, Tennessee, please read out articles on those locations.
The crime risks are much higher in those places, and you should be aware of the dangers within.
Many people who visit Tupelo to visit Elvis’ birthplace might also have Memphis on the list to visit Graceland.
How Does Tupelo Compare?
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- Visas - International travelers will be required to have a passport that is more than six months from expiring and a visa for the purpose of the trip. The U.S. State Department website has a Visa Wizard app that helps you get started on the right visa. Check the Customs and Border Patrol website for a list of things you can/can't bring into America.
- Currency - The U.S. Dollar is the only currency you can use here. Take care of currency exchange at home to get the lowest fees or at the airport.
- Weather - You get a mixed bag of weather here most of the year, so bring layers of clothing to adapt. Summers will be very humid and almost oppressive, so leave tight-fitting or bulky clothing at home. You'll sweat a lot. Definitely bring comfortable walking shoes. Bug spray will be your best friend for those massive mosquitoes in the Mid-South.
- Airports - Tupelo has its own regional airport with flights only through Contour Airlines. You can get to the Memphis International Airport in 90 minutes or the Birmingham airport in two hours. If you plan to take the Natchez Trace to Nashville, plan for at least four hours on a two-lane road, but there are bigger highways to take if you're in a hurry.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance should cover the price of your flight, unpredictable weather events, and lost or stolen baggage. You'll want a health insurance policy if you aren't covered since there's no free healthcare in America and out-of-pocket costs for the uninsured can skyrocket.
Tupelo Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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