If you pay attention to the news, Florida seems like a bizarre, lawless wasteland. While we aren’t here to confirm or deny such an allegation, we can still shed some light on how safe some areas of the Sunshine State might be.
Dubbed the “Murder Capital of Florida,” Jacksonville is often seen as an intensely dangerous place. However, many of these statements are said on sensationalist headlines and uninformed opinions.
If you’re looking for a glance into how safe Jacksonville, Florida truly is, we’re here to help! Read on for a quick read-up on how safe the Gateway to Florida is.
Is Jacksonville, Florida Safe to Visit?
Overall, Jacksonville is perfectly safe to visit. That said, there are a few things that a visitor should know before they begin wandering the city, believing it a perfectly-safe sanctuary.
For example, the city is called the “Murder Capital of Florida” due to its high murder rate. Compared to other larger cities such as Orlando or Miami, the amount of murders is lower.
However, when compared on a per capita basis, Duval County (which Jacksonville calls home) takes the lead. Past the murder rate, many other crimes are relatively frequent in Jacksonville.
Robbery and assault both occur around Jacksonville with some frequency. Vehicle-related crimes like DUIs are reported. Break-ins and burglaries also happen with a decent level of commonality.
Crime in Jacksonville, Florida
In previous years the crime rate has decreased while the murder rate has remained steady. Part of this has been attributed to budget cuts in law enforcement, while others have related it to gang violence.
In 2012, many of the murders were murder-suicides. Still, the overall number of murders that year was lower than the previous year.
Using the Jacksonville Sheriff Crime map can help you see what sorts of crimes are common and where they’ll most likely occur. For example, vehicle-related crimes are most common near the inner city of Jacksonville.
Towards the beachlines, alcohol-related or violent crimes become more common. Logically speaking, this is due to the density of what you’ll find in each area.
Jacksonville is called the beachy vacation spot, and it’s far from uncommon for beachgoers to overindulge in alcohol. Meanwhile, the inner city has more vehicles, leading to more vehicle-related crime.
The crime rate also increases during the night hours – this is especially common in touristy cities where people are more likely to be unfamiliar with the city. As tourists go out at night, local criminals can more easily take advantage of them.
Unattended vehicles, insecure hotels, and Air B&Bs are also frequent causes. To avoid crime, you should not travel alone, which is true for any city.
You should stick to more densely-populated areas and try not to be out late at night unless necessary. The more touristy areas often have more police and are likely safer than others. Avoid the “shady” areas or the outskirts of the city, especially at night.
Avoiding Bad Neighborhoods
Jacksonville has several areas that some consider unsafe. 29th and Chase, Mid Westside, Springfield, Moncrief Park, and East Jacksonville are all areas you should avoid as a tourist.
While these are far from horrifically dangerous sections of the city, much of the crime does tend to focus here. Additional areas include Mixon Town, Lackawanna, New Town, and Midtown. Allendale is also an area that some avoid.
Few of these areas are vital for traveling, making them easy to avoid. Study a map beforehand and plan routes that don’t go through these areas. That said, these areas are crucial to avoid at night. During the day, there are rarely issues.
The same is true for Downtown Jacksonville. Including the districts of Brooklyn, LaVilla, Southbank, and Northbank, Downtown Jacksonville is mostly a business district. Because of this, there aren’t many reasons to be out at night.
At nightfall, Downtown Jacksonville is mostly deserted – this makes tourists an easy pick for local gangs to use as targets for whatever they may decide on.
While gangs aren’t incredibly common in Jacksonville, they still have a presence. Pickpockets, muggers, and other thieves are more likely to find a few wandering tourists more vulnerable in this area.
The best way to avoid this is to do your partying towards the beachfront areas instead. Most cities have their downtown areas as nightlife centers, whereas Jacksonville’s is towards the beach.
There are plenty of restaurants, bars, and beachfront clubs on the Jacksonville beach that you can spend your night at instead. Avoiding the bad neighborhoods of Jacksonville is refreshingly easy. Familiarize yourself with the layout of the city beforehand.
Do your best to avoid these areas, especially at night. Make plans that don’t involve these areas unless your visit makes them necessary. If you follow these easy tips, you shouldn’t struggle to avoid these areas.
Where to Stay
With so many “bad” neighborhoods, where are the good ones? It’s important to know where you’re going to spend your time when you’re in Jacksonville instead of only knowing where to avoid. For leisure, the beachfront areas are typically much safer.
Natural parks and historical attractions have few, if any, safety issues. Tourists are more vulnerable to crimes such as theft, but these aren’t usually targeted by gang violence or other localized crimes.
Because of this, touristy areas are a great place to be. Jacksonville Beach is arguably the safest place in Jacksonville. The high population of tourists makes it so that criminals usually don’t target people in the area due to the higher likelihood of being caught.
There are generally more police officers in this area as well. Logically speaking, if a crime does happen, you’re less likely to be the target than in sparsely-populated areas.
For a nicer, more chic area, Ponte Vedra Beach is another great location. This relatively high-income location is a seaside resort that tends not to have as many people. Security is typically high, and the beaches are much less crowded as well.
It’s a great place to stay if it fits your needs for your visit! Another great area is Neptune Beach. The more family-oriented locale is quieter and tends to have more wholesome, family-focused fun and entertainment.
It’s a sleepier area that won’t be as active at night, letting you and your family enjoy the safety of your resort stay. Atlantic Beach is another location that fits this description, should Neptune Beach not fit your desires.
Things to Consider
When planning your trip, there are several things that you should keep in the front of your mind, such as:
- Where will I be staying?
- How long will I be in Jacksonville?
- Am I staying in Jacksonville or just passing through?
- Will I be towards the beach or further into the city?
- Can I plan my visit to be indoors at night?
- Am I traveling alone?
- What is my main method of transportation?
- Am I familiar with the area I’ll be staying in?
- Have I booked a secure, reputable place to stay?
Frequently Asked Questions
With all of the safety questions covered, there are still a few things that may stick out in your mind. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding the safety of a stay in Jacksonville.
Is Jacksonville Beach open to the public?
In general, Jacksonville’s beaches are open to the public. There are multiple beaches including Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach, Mayport Beach, and Atlantic beach.
All the beaches listed above are open to the public at any time. Additionally, they’re pet-friendly beaches that hold many businesses, including restaurants, shops, sports gear outlets, beach boutiques, and more.
There are also parks like Dutton Island Preserve and Hanna Park. However, there are some areas where the beaches may be private, or a small stretch may be reserved for customers of a nearby hotel or business.
For example, Jacksonville Beach Pier is a lengthy fishing pier that isn’t always open. Admission is only a dollar for walking and three dollars for fishing, with bait shops and a concession area available.
Other areas like the Little Talbot Island State Park are more focused on nature than a beachy party scene and charge admission.
Overall, the vast majority of the 22 miles of beach that Jacksonville holds are available to the public. While some small areas may require a fee or admission charge, there are very few areas that aren’t open to the public.
What is the best month to visit Jacksonville, Florida?
The best month to visit depends entirely on your reason for visiting. Generally speaking, it’s best to visit between March and May if you’re looking for an outdoorsy experience.
Visiting at this time can help you avoid much of the touristy crowd. You’ll also have the warm springtime weather.
Just know that you run the risk of running into spring break crowds as well, so it pays to know the schedule of local colleges! If you aren’t in it for the outdoorsmanship, visiting between September and November is another great window.
There are fewer tourists, prices are often lower, and the weather is generally pleasant. However, visiting so close to winter can lead to chillier weather and stormy seas. September is also peak Hurricane Season, which can raise risks.
If a hurricane is coming, you could find yourself stuck indoors, in an unenjoyable climate, and even forced to evacuate. The threat of a hurricane is also a risk itself.
If you visit more in October or November, the threat of Hurricane Season is usually absent. The weather is cooler, so the beach may not be ideal. If you’re looking for city life, historical attractions, or nature reserves, this weather is lovely!
What is the coldest month in Jacksonville, Florida?
Florida doesn’t experience weather quite as severely as much of the United States does. It’s common for much of the winter to have high temperatures, but through the winter, the ocean is still often colder.
If you’re looking to visit during (or avoid) the coldest month, you should visit Jacksonville in January. The average low is about 46 degrees Fahrenheit, with the high reaching the mid-60s. From December to February, the temperature will rarely go above the 70s.
Can I visit the beach at night?
Yes! The beaches in Jacksonville are 24/7. You can visit the beach at any time using nearly any outlet. If you’re staying in a local hotel, one of the most popular activities is to walk on the beach at night.
Beach-front hotels will typically have beach access ramps that you can use. That said, there are some threats that you should be aware of. If you haven’t walked on the beach at night, be prepared for an extremely dark environment.
Laws discourage beachfront businesses from having lights on, and there are rarely any beachfront lights or lamps. Falling or getting lost is easy. Depending on the season, you also shouldn’t have a flashlight to counteract this.
During some months, sea turtles may come onto the beach to lay their eggs. This is much more common on beaches south on the coast such as Melbourne, but some have been seen as far north as Jacksonville.
Lights can alarm or distress them, so flashlights are discouraged. You’re also isolated and far from help in the case something does happen. Given that we’re focusing on safety, it’s worth knowing that you never know the intentions of anyone else walking the beach.
Because of this, you shouldn’t walk alone or unprotected. In the more touristy areas such as beachfront clubs or piers, walking on the beach at night is safer.
It’s brighter with local lights, there are more people around, and police officers usually are nearby. While it isn’t as serene or solitary, it’s much safer to walk the nighttime beaches in these areas.
What makes Jacksonville worth visiting?
Most visitors that are coming to Jacksonville are there for the beaches. With 22 miles of shoreline and a city focused on oceanic life, it’s undoubtedly the most popular attraction.
Past that, some football fans may visit to see the Jacksonville Jaguars. Nature enthusiasts have several reserves and parks that they can visit to be close to nature and see the true beauty of Floridian coasts. Timucuan Preserve is one that you should try to visit!
Historical buffs also have plenty of reasons to visit: There are locations such as St. Joseph’s Mission Schoolhouse, Camp Milton, Fort Caroline, the Olustee Battlefield, and the Kingsley Plantation that some may want to visit.
Past these locations, visitors are likely passing through on the way down south. Jacksonville is referred to as the Gateway to Florida as many pass through on the way to locations like Miami, Tampa, and Orlando.
So, Is Jacksonville Safe to Visit in 2023?
You can visit with your safety assured no matter what’s bringing you to Jacksonville. While far from without threat, the “Murder Capital of Florida” is much safer than one may think.
Avoid suspicious areas at night, stay in more touristy locations, and plan your visit to try and have a safer experience. To learn more about safety during your visits across the country, feel free to browse our website for more information. Safe travels!