The Most Dangerous Spring Break Spots in the U.S.

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Who would have known that the place where you can visit Mickey Mouse, Harry Potter and the Hulk would be the most dangerous Spring Break destination in the U.S.?

A new study by Avvo, a legal-research organization, has found that Orlando tops the charts when it comes to the most dangerous Spring Break destinations in the country. Ten other popular Florida destinations were also part of the top 25 compiled by the group.

Orlando had the worst average across almost all of the categories Avvo looked at for its study, which include violent crime risk – including separate numbers for both murder and rape, fatal car crashes and the site’s own data on the concentration of doctors and lawyers in the area, as well as the number of criminal defense questions it receives in its online forum. The home of Disneyland registered double the amount of violent crime risk, and more than three times as many criminal defense questions received in its forum than any other Spring Break cities.

Daytona Beach ranks second in Avvo’s analysis with 41% more criminal defense questions asked than the average. The city is at least 21% worse than the average in all other categories.

Avvo researchers also looked at big news items related to the areas and found that in 2010, six rape cases were brought to light during Spring Break in Daytona, and the local paper even dubbed the city “Florida’s rape capital.”

Mark Britton, CEO and co-founder of Avvo, attributes the dubious honor of being a dangerous Spring Break spot in part to the heavy toll the economic downturn took on Florida. Researchers noticed that the company had received a lot of questions about criminal issues in Florida cities, especially Orlando, which began a broader search examining this trend. Orlando limited its analysis to the latest popular Spring Break destinations, as determined by travel publications.

Researchers looked at Avvo’s data on the concentration of doctors or lawyers in an area and concluded that the higher the concentration, the more safety problems there were, according to Britton. Avvo did not include petty or property crimes in its analysis.

“Something that we see are increases in petty or property crimes, just by virtue of having tourists in your area,” Britton said. “We focused on those crimes which tend to be spread out on the larger population.”

South Padre Island, TX is number seven on the list and has the highest violent crime rate of any of the other areas on the list, with around five times more than the national average, and the highest rape rate of five times the average, according to Avvo's data.

New Orleans holds the next spot with the highest murder rate – a number more than eight times the average among Spring Break cities.

The list is bad news for many Spring Break spots that are trying to break free from their association with debauchery and violence, which can alienate travelers.

“A lot of Florida destinations are trying to revitalize family culture,” says Anne Banas, executive editor at SmarterTravel. She mentioned Daytona Beach as an example of a city trying to move beyond the stigma of a drunk college student destination. “Some destinations are changing their image, and are trying to become less of a party destination. They are working on it from a marketing perspective.”

Regardless of a city’s ranking on this list, though, Banas noted that common sense can help any traveler enjoy his or her vacation safely. She advised that people research destinations on the State Department website, and keep important numbers handy, valuables hidden and try to blend in with the locals.

Another important tip is keeping friends notified of your whereabouts.

“In any Spring Break setting, stay with a friend and keep each other accountable for one another. It's a good way to stay safe and out of harm's way,” advised Nicole Hockin, a travel expert and blogger at Hotels.com.

Check out the top 10 ranking here:

  1. Orlando, Fla.
  2. Daytona Beach, Fla.
  3. Las Vegas
  4. Myrtle Beach, S.C.
  5. West Palm Beach, Fla.
  6. South Padre Island, Texas
  7. New Orleans
  8. Panama City, Fla.
  9. Jacksonville, Fla.
  10. Miami

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