Denver is one of the most popular cities for tourists in the United States. In 2021, it received over 31 million visitors who came to explore the Mile High City’s charm.
Denver has the perfect blend of historic Wild West landmarks, such as Larimer Square, and modern attractions such as the Denver Art Museum.
After a long day of sightseeing, many tourists like to explore the laid-back city’s famous nightlife, full of live music and craft beer. Of course, few people that come to Denver stay in Denver as the city is the perfect base for exploring the beautiful Rocky Mountains.
Before planning your weekend getaway to Denver, you probably want to know more about the practicalities of visiting. Are there any major concerns you need to worry about that will affect your safety?
Don’t worry — our travel experts have done the hard work for you by rounding up the potential safety concerns in Denver, including crime. Let us be your guide!
Is Denver Safe to Visit in 2023?
Yes. For the most part, Denver is safe to visit. Although it has an elevated property crime rate, most thefts affect locals, not tourists. Plus, as long as you stick to safe areas such as downtown, you should be fine.
The biggest concern for most tourists when coming to Denver is crime — with good reason. Denver’s crime rate is sadly increasing. According to US News and World Report, Denver’s violent crime rate is higher than the national average.
Common crimes people worry about are:
- Vehicle theft
- Petty theft
- Hate crimes
One concerning statistic is that Denver’s rate of hate crimes is rising. In 2021, there were 285 reported hate crimes in Denver, although the number of unreported hate crimes is probably much higher.
Victims were harassed and attacked, usually on the basis of their race and ethnicity, although some were attacked due to their sexuality. Although Denver has a reputation as a very liberal city, there are certain elements of the population that have backwards ideas and are not afraid to share them.
Besides regular crime, terrorism is a concern in Denver. The most common form of terrorism in Denver is what we call domestic terrorism, usually far-right terrorists who attack public places.
Sadly, Denver has seen its fair share of mass shootings, such as the December 2021 shooting that the ADL speculated was tied to the shooter’s extreme misogynistic views.Finally, when discussing concerns about visiting Denver, it’s important to mention the weather.
During the winter, Denver gets a lot of snow due to its location in the Rocky Mountains. Be prepared for travel delays — the Denver Airport delays the most flights in the nation due to weather.
Make sure that you bring weather-appropriate clothing and be prepared for cold weather. In the summer, the weather is usually not too hot, but minor tornadoes sometimes happen.
Crime in Denver
The biggest concern for visitors to Denver and residents alike is crime. Denver sadly has one of the highest crime rates of a major metropolitan area in the country.
It is one of the top 10 cities when it comes to motor vehicle theft, property crime, and rape. According to Neighborhood Scout, the crime incidence rate is 70.02 incidents per 1,000 residents.
The vast majority of these crimes are property crimes at least, such as incidents of theft. You have a 1 in 17 chance of being the victim of a property crime while in Denver. Violent crime still does occur in Denver, and frequently.
According to the same source, the violent crime rate is 9.70 incidents per 100,000 residents, which is about twice the statewide average. The local police published statistics on Denver crime, breaking it down by type of crime.
The most common crime was theft from a motor vehicle at 17% of the total crimes committed. That type of crime was closely followed by auto theft, at 15.2%.
Denver is certainly not a safe place to park your car unless you know exactly where you are parking. Other forms of property crime also make up a big chunk of Denver’s total crime rate. Larceny is 14.7% of the total crime rate, while burglary makes up 7.4% of the total crime rate.
Violent crimes make up a small portion of the overall crime rate, but they are still worth mentioning. Aggravated assault makes up 4.5% of the total crime committed in Denver, and it is the most common violent crime on record in the city.
Robbery is the second-most common violent crime at 1.8% of the total crime rate.
Sexual assault and murder make up a statistically smaller portion of the total crime rate in the city, at 1.1% and 0.1%, respectively, but still occur in significant numbers compared to other types of crime.
Denver is famous for its sports culture and its craft beer culture, but be careful when going out. 14.8% of total crimes committed in Denver are some form of public disorder, which is often related to the nightlife.
Be careful when you go out that you don’t run into a rowdy local. Although Denver has a very high crime rate, there is some good news for visitors to the city. The crime rate in Denver is highly geographically stratified.
Wealthier neighborhoods, including most areas that attract tourists, are fairly safe, while Denver’s poorer neighborhoods suffer high crime rates.
Denver is divided into districts, and District 9 has nearly twice as much crime as the other districts. Obviously, this is a bad thing for Denver residents, but it does make it easier if you are a visitor to avoid being the victim of a crime.
Motor Vehicle Theft
Denver is a bad city to drive in, not just because Denver drivers are famously reckless, but because cars are often targets for thieves. If you look at the statistics above, some form of theft related to cars makes up over 30% of Denver’s total crime rate.
Theft from motor vehicles is the most common crime in Denver, and incidents are growing. Between 2018 and 2022, incidents grew by 57.2%, according to the Common Sense Institute.
Auto thefts are a slightly lower percentage of the overall crime rate, but still significant. Auto theft is also the fastest-growing crime in Denver. According to the same source, incidents of auto theft have increased over the past four years by a whopping 176%.
Local news sources and law enforcement statistics report that Denver now has the highest rate of car theft per capita in the entire country.
This is certainly concerning news if you are taking a car into Denver, so one precaution you can take is avoiding driving in Denver. The city center has decent public transportation and links to the airport, so you don’t need to rent a car if you are flying in for a weekend getaway.
If you are road-tripping to Denver or planning on getting into the nearby nature, you can take some additional precautions to protect your car and your valuables.
Never leave your valuables in your car, and definitely never leave them somewhere where they’re visible, such as on the car seat. Invest in equipment to keep your car safe, such as a steering wheel club, or ask your rental company about their advice.
Make sure that your accommodation has a secure place to park. Which neighborhood you go to in Denver will also determine your risk of being the victim of car theft.
Most car thefts happen when thieves cruise wealthy neighborhoods such as Central Park or the Central Business District, but neighborhoods with overall high crime rates, such as Five Points, also have high rates of car theft, so avoid parking there.
Denver International Airport is actually the worst place for vehicle theft, but that’s more of a problem for residents parking in long-term parking while on vacation, not locals. Plus, the airport is taking steps to combat the thefts.
Besides vehicle theft, the most likely crime you might encounter in Denver is robbery. Robbery in all of its forms is common in town, including armed robbery and muggings.
According to City Data, Denver saw 1,218 incidents of robbery per 100,000 people in 2020. Denver has a high rate of gun ownership, so it is very likely for a robber that you encounter to be armed.
If you are a victim of an armed robbery or assault, resist as little as possible. The likelihood that you will save yourself is low, but the likelihood that you will escalate the situation and get yourself injured or worse is higher.
Hand over your valuables and focus on getting yourself out of the situation safely. You can also take certain precautions to avoid making yourself seem like an easy target.
Walk with purpose instead of seeming like a lost tourist. Research safe neighborhoods ahead of time and stick to them. Avoid walking alone at night, and definitely don’t be careless about your valuables.
Avoiding Bad Areas
Since the crime rate in Denver varies so drastically from neighborhood to neighborhood, it’s important to know where areas are to avoid.
Five Points is one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Denver, so definitely avoid going there when you’re in town. It is located close to Union Station, which is also seeing an uptick in crime around the area.
If you are transiting through Union Station as you arrive and depart Denver, make sure that you are staying aware of your surroundings. Take a taxi instead of walking to your hotel.
You should also be careful in the neighborhoods around Interstate 70, The Montbello, and Green Valley Ranch. They also have an elevated crime rate.
As a rule of thumb, the neighborhoods around the southwestern edge of the city are also best avoided. Most of these dangerous neighborhoods (with the exception of Union Station) are far from any tourist attractions anyway.
Tourists stick to downtown, which is perfectly safe during the day. However, even downtown gets a little seedy at night, so try not to walk alone.
Things to Consider
Here are some other safety tips to help you have the best time in Denver:
- Denver is at a very high altitude, so give yourself time (at least 24 hours, if not more) to adjust before heading out on any strenuous hikes.
- Snowstorms are short but intense. Avoid driving or traveling during a storm if you can.
- Even if you go hiking, you’re not safe from crime. Criminals sometimes break into vehicles parked at popular trailheads, so make sure your valuables are out of sight.
- Denver has a lot of panhandlers, but the vast majority are friendly people who might just ask you for some cash.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some other questions that people who are interested in Denver wanted to know about:
What should I avoid in Denver?
In Denver, avoid venturing into dangerous areas as the crime rate in certain neighborhoods is very high. In addition to the neighborhoods listed above, these include City Park, Central-West, and Stapleton (Central Park).
How safe is Denver for tourists?
Despite the high crime rate, Denver is actually very safe for tourists. Most crimes happen in certain neighborhoods far from the tourist attractions and affect locals, not tourists.
Is Colorado safe for tourists?
If you’re visiting Denver, you probably want to explore the rest of Colorado. Colorado is safe to visit and most of the state has a much lower crime rate than Denver, but it does have a higher property crime rate than the national average.
Is Denver worth visiting?
Don’t let the high crime rate scare you away — Denver is absolutely worth visiting. Besides the beautiful nature and historic sights, the city has a great independent culture that is perfect for a weekend getaway.
Is Downtown Denver safe for night walking?
Downtown Denver is probably the safest part to walk in Denver at night, but you still need to take precautions. Try not to walk alone and stick to well-lit streets such as 15th and 17th streets as well as the 16th Street Mall.
So, Should You Travel to Denver?
Denver is safe to visit, and many tourists have a good time each year (including myself!). However, the city’s crime rate is increasing, so you will need to be on your guard as you are out and about.
Be sure to use normal precautions as you would in any big city, and you’ll be sure to have a good trip. So, with so much to see and do, what are you waiting for — book your trip to Denver today!