This turned into a long reply, but I figure if I were you, I'd rather read a long reply than lack information so here is a lot of information about Jasper from a long-time resident:
Crime: Not an issue
I am a Jasper resident, lived here most of my life and I can tell you that the crime rate listed is a huge surprise to me.
I have never known anyone who was victim of a violent crime, ever in Jasper. I have never heard of a shooting that wasn't domestic violence (and that is very, very rare) and I've never heard of anyone getting mugged.
I am comfortable walking all over Jasper day or night (not that there's good sidewalks, but I've done it some anyway) and actually, late night is generally pretty dead overall. What crime we have is mostly petty theft, burglary on the smaller scale (I've had a neighbor have a watering hose stolen from his yard... yeah, seriously... but that's about it.) and drug charges.
However, most of the drug problem in Jasper is pot. I have seen a person who lived with a cop walk out of his apartment and deal to someone on the sidewalk 10 feet from the cop's house. I know that tons of people here smoke pot (tho I was completely ignorant of this growing up and only really started learn about it a few years ago) and there is a well-known methadone clinic on Airport road that sees heavy use. Hard drugs aren't as much of a problem here tho.
The "bad neighborhoods" here are nowhere near as bad as the bad neighborhoods in cities I've visited. I lived in the projects downtown for two years. We saw the rare drug-deal going on and someone siphoned gas from a neighbor's car once... One fight broke out in the parking lot but it was just a couple of girls slapping each other over a boyfriend. I used to go walking through our apartment complex in the projects and just do laps on the sidewalk at night with my spouse and we were carrying our daughter on our backs in a carrier or pushing her in a stroller and it never felt unsafe, threatened or even scary.
Most of the arrests in this area are traffic incursions and drug problems.
I hear there are sex-offenders, but I've never heard of anything happening other than domestic abuse in that sense.
It is to say... I think most of the violent crimes that occur in Jasper and surrounding areas are domestic abuse in one form or another.
Drug problem is rampant, but mostly harmless at the same time.
There are bad neighborhoods, but they're not really even that bad and they *really* *really* bad neighborhoods are pretty far-removed from any part of town you'd ever have a reason to visit. (I hear there's a bad neighborhood just South of the train tracks near the post office, but there is literally nothing in that area for you to need to go there.)
As for being afraid of being left alone at night... Don't be. Have a lock on your door and put a deadbolt or a chain on it for your peace of mind. Break-ins are very rare here and a small amount of deterrent will go a long way. I've known people who didn't bother locking their doors at night even and it was never an issue. I've known of people who didn't bother locking their cars and never had a problem.
If you're really afraid, Alabama has open-carry laws and the Castle law and Stand Your Ground law. You can buy a shotgun from Walmart and keep it in your house. If anyone tried to come in, you can warn them off with a shotgun. If you have to, you could defend yourself. I read a story of a woman in Dora (very near to Jasper) who kept a shotgun to protect herself and her kids and ended up shooting a guy who came into her house. (1. Story was a rarity because this kind of stuff never happens here and 2. The police ended up believing that the guy didn't mean to break in and was just drunk and at the wrong house and ended up forcing entry because he couldn't get his key to work.)
It is to say, if you are afraid, there are plenty of means to protect yourself, but being a long-time resident, I am not remotely afraid here. I sleep soundly at night and my car has never been messed with either.
I have had two friends come to visit here from California (one from Oakland and one from Burbank, so very different parts of California) and both commented repeatedly that it was very nice here and very comfortable/safe.
I was comfortable at our last residence letting my daughter go out into the yard (with the door open so I could keep an eye on here) and play day or evening or even step outside at night. If she were older, I wouldn't worry about letting her go out into the yard to play without the door open. It's just not a scary place like that.
Your father-in-law is probably telling you the truth. You say you want to move to a safer place... I don't think you'll find one honestly. Jasper is safe.
Tornadoes: Definitely a Threat
We're used to tornadoes here, but I never really grasped the effects of a tornado until our house was hit by straight line winds last month and two tree tops landed in it.
1. Learn basic tornado safety and pay attention to the weather alerts.
2. Have a safe place to go in case of tornado warnings.
3. Insure your belongings and home if you can.
4. Learn the signs that a tornado is about to strike and if you ever see a greenish tint on an overcast sky, get to a safe place immediately without hesitation.
That said, I lived 28 years in Walker County and never even had a neighbor effected by tornadoes, less my own homes. I finally drew the unlucky straw last month, but it's still not like you're likely to be the one hit just because tornado weather crops up.
The Humidity is worse than you think
Make sure your home has a good cooling system and keep it well-maintained.
I hate Alabama summers.
What is it really like in Jasper?
Quiet, boring, peaceful, safe, friendly on the surface, decently conservative, a bit backwards, slow-paced, and small.
The local hangout for youth is generally the parking-lot at Walmart. There is nothing to do here.
The area is predominantly white, Christian, Republican, and somewhat redneckish. Jasper is not as redneckish as surrounding areas. You can't throw a stone in Jasper without hitting a church.
We don't have the amenities of a city. There is no public transportation, and not even much in way of sidewalks. You can't walk or bike here easily.
Medical care is horrible here. Don't let people lie to you and tell you there is a "great hospital" on the highway. That hospital is an absolute joke. They let IV's run dry repeatedly on my friend's wife. They put a cast on the wrong side of my spouse's arm. They treated my spouse's grandfather for cancer in the wrong organ. I have never heard someone here talk about it being a great hospital. It is a terror. If you need a hospital, you'll drive to Birmingham. If you want a decent doctor, you'll drive to Birmingham.
(Look at this: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?f...size=960%2C720
I mean it's just memes people made, but this shows you the public opinion to a degree beyond mine. That's from Walker County's Meme page on Facebook... A lot of the memes there are gross exaggerations making fun of stuff playfully and please don't believe the pictures of "inbred redneck looking people" because that's just not accurate... but these about the hospital did not surprise me remotely and are reflective of the local opinion of the hospital.)
As for jobs, you said you'll be looking for work... My advice is make sure you find work before you move. Jasper's job market is pretty tight and there are not a lot of good jobs here. If I knew what industry you were looking for I could tell you more, but most of the well-paying jobs are in Birmingham and you're going to have a commute. Of course, the commute isn't so bad because of the corridor, but you're not going to find many good jobs in Jasper city and the surrounding areas.
Also, make sure the place you select has access to Charter if internet or television are important to you. In Jasper, you can't be sure without checking the address with Charter. I had high-speed internet (30mb dps) at my last home and my sister 3 miles down the street can only get DSL because Charter doesn't service her area. So check.
Also check whatever cell phone service you use gets coverage here. AT&T is one of the best for coverage along with Tmobile. Sprint and Verizon are good in the city limits at least. Walmart's Straight Talk is a surprisingly good carrier actually and is the cheapest option. (You can even get a sim from them to convert almost any phone to work on their network). Just make sure the carrier you use gets coverage at your home area. Coverage is spotty here.
For your kids, the school systems are not great. Alabama is very low on the list of "best education in America". Jasper city is a little better than surrounding areas, but the schools here are still not amazing. Also, regardless of laws or what people say, your children *will* be taught Christianity at school to some degree. (If you're Christian, this is fine for you but if you're not Christian, fair warning. I warned a friend who was non-Christian of this when she moved here and she didn't believe me. A week later, her son came home with a hand-crafted cross that his teacher had had the class make "so that god would protect them" and had been taught quite a deal of Christian stuff that she was not happy about.)
If you like fishing, hunting, sports, or boating/swimming, you should enjoy the area's recreation. It's all outdoorsy and the land itself is beautiful. Forest everywhere. Pine trees *everywhere*. Smith Lake is a big attraction and has tons of beautiful land around it, beautiful properties where celebrities and rich people make their Summer homes.
And finally, the people are really pretty friendly on the surface. I say that because most people are bigots and if you're non-Christian, gay, not-White or otherwise "different", many people may not like you... They honestly will probably never tell you to your face tho.
And I hope that all helps. If you have other specific questions, feel free to ask me. I did my best to give as much info as possible for you from a resident's perspective. My opinions are just my opinions, but that's all I can give.
Good luck to you, and if you move to Jasper, I hope you enjoy it here.