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Is El Paso Safe? | Travel Tips & Safety Concerns

Is El Paso Safe? | Travel Tips & Safety Concerns

El Paso is perhaps the most famous border city in the United States. Located in southwestern Texas, across the border from Juarez, El Paso is a sunny, bustling area with a large Hispanic population and thriving arts and sports scenes.

Because it’s so close to the border, many people wonder if El Paso is a safe place to live or visit. Generally, yes – El Paso is not only a safe city but also far safer than most similarly-sized cities.

El Paso stays safe due to the presence of several law enforcement agencies and an engaged, vigilant community.

Of course, no city is entirely safe, and when in El Paso, you’ll need to know how to protect yourself from property theft, mugging, hot weather, and other potential threats. Here are our top safety tips to keep in mind when in El Paso.

Is El Paso Safe to Visit in 2022?

North Franklin Mountain pictured for a guide on whether or not El Paso is safe to visit

Lang Lim/Shutterstock

El Paso (population 687,700) consistently ranks as one of the safest big cities in America, with low rates of both violent and non-violent crime. You’ll likely experience no issues as a visitor and will feel comfortable walking around town, even in the early morning and evening.

Most crimes in El Paso center around drugs and theft. You’re extremely unlikely to experience a violent assault during your visit, but you might see people selling or using drugs in certain places.

Areas with large amounts of drug use also tend to suffer from car, house, and hotel room break-ins, muggings, vandalism, and similar crimes. However, the rates of even these crimes are low. El Paso’s safety is strongly influenced by its location right on the US/Mexico border.

A large border wall, combined with the presence of multiple law enforcement agencies, has kept crime low for over a decade. However, you’ll want to exercise caution if you go near the actual border wall.

Also, never enter Juarez unless you’re prepared for a truly dangerous environment. The city’s geography also poses potential safety risks.

El Paso is a desert, so you’ll need to protect yourself with sunscreen, water, and other precautions. You’ll also need to bring bug repellent, as the mosquito population is substantial during warm weather.

Crime in El Paso

FBI statistics show low violent crime rates, with 40 murders and 310 rapes in 2019 (the most recent data available). Aggravated assaults are more common, with 1,734 occurring in 2019, but the number is still low compared to similarly sized cities. 

The most common crimes in El Paso are property crimes, thefts, and drug crimes. The city had 10,378 property crimes in 2019 along with 1048 burglaries and 8,479 thefts.

Eight hundred and fifty-one motorcycle thefts were also reported. To avoid becoming the victim of a crime in El Paso, secure your valuables and property. Keep your car locked both when driving and while parked.

Also, don’t display any valuables in public, such as smartphones or large amounts of cash. Familiarize yourself with the area you plan to visit so you can avoid excessively consulting a map in public.

Stick to well-lit, public areas when walking in the city. Finally, while the people of El Paso are friendly, there’s rarely a legitimate reason for a stranger to approach you in public. Never go with someone who wants to show you around town or offers you a special deal. 

Avoiding Bad Neighborhoods

Chihuahuita is generally considered one of the most dangerous areas. The neighborhood is small, impoverished, and home to less than 200 people. However, it’s also near Interstate Highway 10, a major port of entry for migrants.

The constant influx of people passing through the area, and its overall poverty, increase instances of property crimes and theft. The neighborhood has significant historical significance, so if you plan to visit, do so during the day.

Stick to main streets and don’t brazenly display any high-value items, such as smartphones. Also, lock your car after parking. You’ll also want to avoid Angel’s Triangle (informally referred to as “The Devil’s Triangle”), an area between Dyer Street, Hondo Pass Avenue, and the Patriot Freeway.

It’s known for high levels of drug activity and related crimes. Visit during the day, stay in public areas, and avoid initiating contact with people on the street.

Other areas with high crime rates include A Presidential Neighborhood, Magoffin, and the nearby city of Socorro. Visit these areas during the day and in a group to minimize the risks of any problem occurring.

Border-Related Dangers

El Paso’s unique location presents potential risks you won’t find in other cities. On the other side of the border lies Ciudad Juarez, the largest city in the Mexican state of Chihuahua.

Known throughout the years as the “Murder Capital of the World,” Juarez is rife with cartel violence. Fortunately, the crime problems in Juarez mainly stop at the border.

The construction of a border wall in the late 2000s and improved relations between the community and law enforcement caused crime in El Paso to drop significantly. But border-related risks still exist.

Stay away from the US/Mexico border wall as much as possible. In particular, avoid international bridges, especially at night.

If you spend time near the border, stay reasonably close to police stations and checkpoints. Although extremely rare, gunfire from Juarez has injured people standing near the border in El Paso. 

Law Enforcement Presence

El Paso police block roads and direct traffic prior to President Trump's arrival. El Paso, Texas 11 February 2019

El Paso police block roads and direct traffic prior to President Trump’s arrival. El Paso, Texas 11 February 2019/Grossinger/Shutterstock

El Paso has more law enforcement agencies per capita than any other city in the US. Agencies operating within the city limits include:

  • El Paso Police Department
  • El Paso County Sheriff’s Department
  • US Border Patrol
  • Drug Enforcement Agency
  • CIA
  • FBI
  • ATF

Many of these agencies operate from the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC), which allows for a coordinated approach to keeping the community safe. Additionally, law enforcement works closely with community partners.

It’s no exaggeration to say you might see a different law enforcement vehicle roughly every five minutes when driving through El Paso. 

Many of these law enforcement agencies primarily focus on high-level drug trafficking, cartel monitoring, and similar activities, but that’s almost irrelevant. Just the fact that so many law enforcement officials live and work in El Paso significantly deters crime of all types.

Public Transport in El Paso

The public transportation system in El Paso is safe and reliable. The city upgraded its entire busing system to increase efficiency and environmental friendliness. It has two elements:

  • The Circulator is a free shuttle that operates downtown.
  • The Sun Metro bus system runs throughout the entire city.

Note that the bus system runs in a very limited capacity at night, which is quite different from public transportation systems in similarly sized cities.

After 5 pm, you might have difficulty finding a bus. Taxis and rideshare services are available around-the-clock. While they’re generally safe, you’ll need to take proper precautions.

Only enter official, registered taxis. Confirm the car type and driver’s face before entering your rideshare. During the ride, stay on the phone with someone. 

Environmental Conditions

Horizon City east of El Paso pictured from the desert

Bill Chizek/Shutterstock

Because El Paso is so safe, environmental conditions are far more of a concern than crime. El Paso has an average annual temperature of 77°, with many days reaching over 80°, 90°, and even 100°.

Additionally, the area gets only tiny amounts of rain and cloud cover, resulting in lots of direct sun exposure. Make sure you protect your skin and stay hydrated. El Paso experienced a mild earthquake in 2020 but has no significant history of them.

The risk of tornados is also low. El Paso has never experienced a tornado sized F3 or larger, and any tornadoes that do appear are often brief and narrow. Although small and seemingly insignificant, mosquitoes pose a fairly substantial problem for El Paso.

Each year, city officials encourage residents to prepare for mosquito season by removing all standing water outside. Mosquitoes can carry diseases such as West Nile Virus, Zika, and Dengue. 

Is El Paso Safe for Solo Travelers?

Solo travelers face increased risks compared to those traveling in groups. Still, because El Paso is generally a safe city, solo travelers usually don’t encounter major problems. When traveling alone, you need to take extra precautions.

Make sure someone, like a family member or friend, knows your travel plans. If you’re staying in a hotel, and plan to head out for the evening, consider letting someone at the front desk know your itinerary. 

Another important tip for solo travelers is limiting your alcohol intake. Never accept drinks from strangers, and don’t leave your drink unattended. 

Finally, many solo travelers find they make friends easily while traveling. While being friendly is fine, never reveal personal information about yourself, such as your travel plans or hometown. 

Is El Paso Safe for Families?

Yes, El Paso is generally considered safe for families. Some family-friendly activities around the city include the Franklin Mountains State Park, the Hueco Tanks State Historic Site (with ancient pictographs), and the Scenic Drive Overlook.

You’ll want to keep two safety issues when traveling with young children in mind. First, stay out of the bad neighborhoods mentioned above.

While most crime in those areas is relatively non-violent, you still want to keep your family away from visible drug use and related issues. Also, protect your kids from the sun, as they can’t do so themselves.

The hot climate of El Paso can quickly result in dehydration, sunburn, and other problems. Apply sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every two hours. Limit time spent outside, especially between 10 am and 4 pm when the sun’s rays are strongest.

Things to Consider

Whether you’re stopping in for a visit or plan to relocate, here are do’s and don’ts for when you’re in El Paso:

  • Do your research. Do familiarize yourself with the basic layout of the city so you know what neighborhoods to avoid and which ones are safer. 
  • Don’t forget your sunscreen and water. The city’s hot temperatures put you at risk of sunburn, sunstroke, dehydration, and more. 
  • Do stay in well-lit, public areas. The city’s large police presence means most crimes occur in out-of-the-way locations. 
  • Don’t draw attention to yourself. Dress casually and keep valuables hidden. 
  • Do watch your gas gauge. The general area around El Paso has long stretches of road with few gas stations, so fuel up your car before leaving the city. 
  • Don’t drink too much. Intoxicated tourists are often ideal victims for criminals. 

Above all, listen to your instincts. Leave any situation or interaction that seems “off,” even if you can’t articulate why. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Aerial view of a neighborhood in El Paso pictured for a piece on Is El Paso safe to visit

iflyAerialPhotography/Shutterstock

Let’s look at quick answers to common questions about El Paso’s safety level.

Is El Paso sketchy?

El Paso, with an approximate population of 687,700, consistently ranks as one of the country’s top 10 safest large cities.

However, a few neighborhoods are considered “sketchier” than others, such as The Devils’ Triangle, Chihuahuita, and A Presidential Neighborhood. They have higher instances of crime, especially drug and property crimes.

Is El Paso a good place to live?

Yes, El Paso is generally considered an excellent place to live due to the low crime rates, thriving job market, residents’ reported happiness, and other factors.

In 2020, US News and World Report ranked El Paso as #124 of their top 150 places to live in the country. El Paso also has a large Hispanic population, making it a great place to live for anyone who enjoys Hispanic culture. 

Where should you not stay in El Paso?

El Paso’s bad neighborhoods include Chihuahuita, A Presidential Neighborhood, and Magoffin. A section of town known informally as The Devil’s Triangle is also considered dangerous. It’s bordered by Dyer Street, US Route 54, and Hondo Pass Avenue.

Is it safe to drive through El Paso?

Yes, driving through El Paso is considered safe. While some areas of the city known for higher crime rates are near I-10, you shouldn’t have any problems if you’re just driving through.

Remember that if you drive through El Paso entirely and enter Juarez, you’re entering one of the most dangerous cities in the world. 

Which part of El Paso is safest?

If you’re considering a move to El Paso, the neighborhoods with the lowest crime rates are Album Park, Cielo Vista, Castner Heights, Mesa Hills, and Montoya Heights. There are plenty of other safe, great neighborhoods throughout El Paso.

The El Segundo Barrio neighborhood is known for colorful murals and a Tex-Mex art scene. The Sunset Heights neighborhood features a mix of historic buildings and modern restaurants.

Can you see Mexico from El Paso?

While you can’t see Mexico from downtown El Paso, you can see it by taking a scenic drive. The Scenic Drive Overlook in El Paso is an officially designed scenic drive created in 1920. You’ll see El Paso, Mexico, mountains, and the desert during the two-mile drive. 

So, Is El Paso Safe to Visit?

El Paso is recognized nationally as a safe city, with low instances of serious crimes. City residents and visitors benefit from the presence of multiple law enforcement agencies, a large border wall, and an engaged community. 

The city of El Paso is filled with history, culture, and fun – and you can enjoy your visit while also staying safe. Happy travels!