Here is everything you need to know about safety in Houston
Is Houston Safe at Night?Even though Houston isn’t one of the safest cities in Texas or in the United States, it is worth noticing that it owes its high crime rates to specific neighbourhoods. If you wish to go out at night, you can do so without worrying too much as long as you remain in the city centre, avoid dimly lit streets or alleyways, don’t go into the sketchy neighbourhoods, and are with someone. Downtown Houston is generally considered safe post sundown and you can go to a club, bar or restaurant. It is however advisable to remain vigilant of your surroundings, to stay away from any suspicious people and to carry pepper spray if you can, for added protection.
Is Houston Safe for Women?Houston does have a higher crime rate than many parts of the country, and if you are a woman travelling to the city, especially alone, you must be aware of the situation of women’s safety there. According to the statistics, crimes against women aren’t extremely high in the city, but they do occur. Besides domestic violence, there have been cases of women being flashed, groped or even assaulted, and it would be better to do some research about the dangerous areas. You must avoid going out late at night unless you are with someone or know the area very well. In order to avoid becoming a victim of pickpockets or chain snatchers, avoid wearing expensive jewellery or carrying expensive accessories. Moreover, it is always good if you carry pepper spray or know self-defense.
Houston and Natural DisastersThe National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as well as the United States Geological Survey (USGS) have declared Houston to be one of the 10 most at-risk places in the country when it comes to natural disasters. The city is quite prone to hurricanes, strong hail and flash floods, and before you book your tickets, make sure to follow the weather news to avoid getting stuck in one such disaster. In the event that you do find yourself in the midst of a natural disaster, follow the given guidelines:
- Carefully monitor the weather news and any other news reports about the disaster.
- Do not get into a car or attempt to drive anywhere when there is a flood or hurricane.
- When indoors, avoid standing close to windows or any glass surfaces likely to shatter.
- It is advisable to have an emergency kit at the ready, containing food, water, flashlights, medicines and any other necessary supplies.
- Try to be in touch with your neighbours, help them or ask for help if need be.
Tips for Staying Safe in HoustonRegardless of the various tourist attractions that Houston is home to, the country’s fourth-largest city has a higher crime (violent and property) rate than other cities in Texas and also in other parts of the United States. Given that it has 2 of the country’s 25 most dangerous neighbourhoods, here is all that you should keep in mind to ensure your safety:
- Be alert of your surroundings and avoid distractions: No matter where you are, always be aware of your surroundings and raise the alarm if you see something or someone suspicious. Avoid talking on the phone or listening to music while you are going around the city since that would make you an easy target.
- Stick to known and well-lit areas: Houston has its fair share of shady neighbourhoods and strange alleyways known for criminal activities, especially post sundown. It is advisable to not venture into unknown parts of the city or to take short-cuts through such areas to avoid any problems.
- Don’t carry too much money: It goes without saying that as a tourist, you would want to shop or eat out often, but be warned against carrying large amounts of cash on you. Keep only as much you would need throughout the day and try not to take it all out at once in front of people.
- Walk with purpose: One of the easiest ways of being targeted while on a trip is by looking like a tourist. To avoid this, know exactly where you wish to go, don’t talk to strangers on the street and don’t stop frequently to stand and admire something you see.
- Avoid flashy clothes: Unless you are going to a fancy dinner or a club, avoid wearing too much jewellery or carrying expensive accessories since they increase your chances of being targeted.
- Lock your doors and windows: Whether you are staying at a hotel or an Airbnb, never forget to lock your doors and windows at night or when you are out. Also make sure to do a thorough inspection of your lodging to ensure that there are no hidden cameras anywhere.
- Keep copies of your documents: When you are out and about, you would need to keep some form of identification with you and instead of carrying important documents like your passport, keep copies of it to show when required. In fact, it would be smart to have a copy of all necessary documents like tickets, insurance, drivers license etc.
- Find a safe place for your documents: It is advisable to not keep your real documents but your copies with you in case of pickpocketing, and to lock away the former in a safe place. You can keep them in a safe if there is one in your room, or in a suitcase given that no one is likely to open it.
- Don’t provide strangers with any private details: Not to say that every person you encounter on your trip will be dangerous but it is better to not engage in conversation with people you don’t know. If you do talk to a stranger, never give out your phone number or address, and don’t tell them about your plans in the city.
- Know the emergency contact numbers: In the event that you are alone and find yourself in a worrying situation, you must know who to call. The first thing is to call 911 immediately and then anyone else that you might know in the city. In case you are outside and need help, try to find the nearest police or fire station.
5 Neighbourhoods to Avoid in HoustonIn order to ensure that you do not venture into dangerous areas, here is a list of some neighbourhoods or areas that you must avoid at all costs while in Houston:
1. MacGregor NeighbourhoodDespite the many mansions, beautiful homes, schools and universities here, the MacGregor Neighbourhood is known for its high violent crime rates; there are many low income houses, frequent thefts, and the Texas Southern University notorious for criminal activity. It is situated at the intersection of Dowling and McGowen Streets and must be avoided.
2. GreenspointOften known as “Gunspoint,” Greenspoint is located in north Houston and is known for its high crime rate despite increased police surveillance. The crimes here are attributed to many low income families and also the 2005 Hurricane Katrina which brought in many evacuees.
3. Leeland Street and Scott StreetEven though the situation is improving in the neighbourhood located at the intersection of Leeland Street and Scott Street near the Gulf Freeway, it must be avoided since it is notorious for high rates of property and violent crime, and theft.
4. Tidewall areaThe Tidewall area is situated on the northside of Houston and it is well-known for rampant crime, especially in a neighbourhood at Fulton Street and Northline Mall. There are a number of low income houses here and it is known for theft, gun violence, property crime and assault.
5. SunnysideSunnyside is located towards the south of downtown Houston and is termed as one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods in Texas. The crime rate here is quite high, with residents having a 1 in 11 chance of falling victim to it, and thus you must not go into this area.
The information mentioned above is based on research, has been derived from various sources and is in no way intended to create an unfavourable opinion of Houston or any of its neighbourhoods. While some areas in the city may be unwelcoming at the moment, it is important to keep in mind that things are surely changing for the better.Like many cities in the United States, Houston too has its dangers and there are multiple areas that must be avoided at all costs. Besides being aware of these issues, you must make sure to ensure your own safety in Houston by being an alert and aware tourist and must take every precaution to not become a victim of any crime