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Is San Diego Safe to Visit in 2024? | Safety Concerns

Is San Diego Safe to Visit in 2024? | Safety Concerns

Is San Diego safe to visit in 2024?

San Diego is renowned as one of the safest big cities in the U.S., boasting a crime rate around the national average despite its large population. While common urban crimes like petty theft do occur, the city’s violent crime rate is lower than the national average, making it a relatively safe destination for tourists.

Visitors should be mindful of natural risks such as earthquakes and rip currents, and familiarize themselves with safety protocols, especially if they’re unaccustomed to these hazards.

Sunny San Diego is one of California’s biggest tourism acts. Nearly 30 million visitors come to San Diego annually, making up an important part of the city’s economy.

With its sunny beaches, vibrant culture, and family-friendly attractions, it’s easy to see why visitors flock to this Southern California city. But is San Diego safe?

Is San Diego Safe to Visit in 2024?

Gorgeous view of the rolling hills of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve as one of the safest places to visit in San Diego

Manuela Durson/Shutterstock

The good news if you want to visit San Diego is that it is very safe. San Diego is one of the safest big cities in the United States, if not the safest city of its size.

Of course, you will need to take basic precautions as you move around the city and avoid sketchier areas, but that shouldn’t be too difficult to do. According to U. S. News & World Report, San Diego’s crime rate is about the national average.

The city records 345.7 crime incidents per 100,000 people. The violent crime rate is below the national average, showing just how safe the city is.

If the crime incidents per 100,000 people statistics seem high to you, remember that San Diego is a big city. According to the World Population Review, San Diego is the eighth-largest city in the United States, with over one million people.

Yet, its crime rate is average even when you compare it to smaller cities and towns, which tend to have a much lower crime rate than big cities. San Diego, like any big city, has problems.

It does have crime incidents, including:

  • Bag snatching
  • Pickpocketing
  • Petty theft
  • Mugging
  • Scams

However, the rate of crime is still fairly low. Although violent crime occurs in the city, tourists are almost never affected. The most you will have to watch out for is petty theft or some more aggressive forms of robbery.

If you are concerned about safety, then San Diego is absolutely one of the best cities in the United States for you to visit. When visiting San Diego, it’s important to keep an eye out for natural dangers as well.

San Diego lies on the Rose Canyon fault and is at a risk of earthquakes at any time, with little warning. Before visiting, brush up on earthquake protocols, especially if you’re from an area that doesn’t get them.

When swimming in San Diego, stay close to the shore especially if you are not a strong swimmer as the ocean around the city is prone to rip currents that will carry swimmers away.

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Crime in San Diego

A bunch of high-end homes lining the street for a piece on is San Diego safe to visit

SAN DIEGO, USA – JUNE 11: facade of houses in the gaslamp quarter on June 11,2012 in San Diego, USA. The area is a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places and dates back to 1867/Travelview/Shutterstock

The crime rate in San Diego is overall quite low, especially when you compare it to other big cities of similar sizes in the United States. It’s no wonder that people claim it is one of the best places to live!

Neighborhood Scout offers a detailed breakdown of crime in San Diego. According to the site, 83% of all crimes committed in the city are property crimes while the rest, 17%, are violent crimes.

The violent crime rate is actually lower than the California and national crime rate. The most common violent crime is assault ,which makes up 71% of all violent crimes committed, followed by robbery, which makes up 19% of all violent crimes committed.

Homicide numbers in San Diego are very low; in 2021, the city experienced only 118 murders, which is very low for a place with a population of over one million.

Property crime statistics are slightly more concerning. The property crime rate is slightly above the national average, but still below the average for the state of California.

You have a 1 in 52 chance of being the victim of a property crime in San Diego, most likely theft. Even for property crimes, the statistics are optimistic. Most forms of property crime are at historic lows in San Diego.

The only major exceptions are motor vehicle theft, which is up 20%, and motor vehicle parts theft, which is up 71%. San Diego does have some problems with gang violence, which is normal for such a big city, especially one that is fairly close to the southern United States border.

However, gang activity is not that prevalent throughout San Diego.

Some neighborhoods may see elevated gang activity, but these are neighborhoods that tourists usually don’t frequent and even then, there is nowhere near crime on the same levels as you might expect for a big city.

Petty Theft

The most common crime in San Diego is theft. Pickpockets and bag snatchers like to take advantage of anyone, local or tourist, that gets a little careless with their possessions.

Thieves are rarely violent, and it is easy enough to prevent being the victim of theft if you take some basic precautions. The problem with San Diego is that it feels so safe that people get lulled into complacency.

The pickpocket risk may not be as high as if you’re traveling to Egypt or Bangkok, but you should still make sure that your phone, wallet, and ID are in secure places.

Put your valuables in your front pants pocket instead of your back pants pocket and opt for a zippered bag instead of an open tote bag that a thief can easily reach into.

Make sure that you have your hands on your valuables at all times, especially when you are out in a crowd where someone can easily rob you under the guise of just bumping into you. You should be particularly careful when you are on the beach.

Thieves in San Diego like to take advantage of beachgoers for one simple reason — the beach makes people careless. People look at the beautiful sandy shore and rolling waves and forget that someone else on the beach might not have the same pure intentions of frolicking in the ocean

Be careful that while you are swimming, someone doesn’t take advantage of your inattention to help themselves to your valuables.

Always leave your credit cards and other valuables at your accommodation and never leave your bags unattended. Try to go to the beach in groups and take turns to see who will watch everyone’s stuff.

Incidents of theft in San Diego sometimes turn violent, although this is a rare occasion. If you do get mugged, don’t resist. Some people recommend carrying a decoy wallet with a few bills that you can give to the mugger while you keep your cards and ID.

Focus on getting away safely. Luckily, muggings in San Diego mostly occur in sketchy areas at night. Don’t explore unfamiliar parts of town after dark and stick to well-lit, bright streets.


Break-ins, both vehicle break-ins and accommodation break-ins, are reasonably common in San Diego. The good news is that with a few precautions you don’t have to be one of the victims.

So many people, including locals, get lulled into complacency by the low crime rate that they are a great target for criminals. Always lock doors and windows to your hotel room, rental apartment, or car.

So many thieves are able to get away with break-ins in San Diego because they don’t have to actually break into a place, they just have to open an unlocked door.

A small barrier to entry will usually do enough to deter thieves (even criminals in San Diego get a bit complacent). Another tactic is to not provide any temptation for criminals.

Don’t leave your valuables sitting on the front seat of your car while it is parked far away from you. Always put things in your trunk or glove compartment.

Better yet, make sure that you take anything you would be devastated to lose with you every time that you leave your car. You would be surprised how many people neglect these simple precautions and later regret it.

Avoiding Bad Areas

Angled view of the blue skies behind the Little Italy sign in San Diego

San Diego, CA, USA – November 05, 2016. Welcoming arch in Little Italy/Gabriele Maltinti/Shutterstock

San Diego doesn’t necessarily have bad areas, but there are neighborhoods where you should take extra precautions. Downtown San Diego used to be a very sketchy part of town, but it has since cleaned up its act a lot.

There are still some places where you should be careful, especially in the eastern end near 11th street and the I-5 freeway. During the day this area is fine but it looks a little sketchy after dark.

East Village is another area that had a bad reputation but is on its way to cleaning up its act. The neighborhood does have a very large homeless population. Many people are frightened of the homeless, but this is a mistake because most people are just down on their luck.

East Village is not the most pleasant place to walk around at night, but during the day it is fine and many people go to games in the new Petco Ballpark.

Pacific Beach is not dangerous, but it is known as the party area of San Diego. After dark things get pretty rowdy, so expect potential bar fights or even thieves looking to take advantage of inebriated college students.

Women walking alone might get harassed by drunks, so it’s worth avoiding. East San Diego is definitely a sketchier part of town, especially the parts around Lincoln Park, Valencia Park, and Market Street.

This is the area with the most gang activity. However, the area is safer during the day and many non-residents safely venture to East San Diego since it has some of the best food in town.

Finally, if you look at crime statistics for San Diego, you’ll notice something ironic — some of the most crime occurs in the wealthiest, “safest” parts of town.

Thieves aren’t dumb, they’re going to go to places where they know there are lucrative targets. No matter where you are, just remember that you are in a big city and use basic precautions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Dusk view of Balboa Park pictured with lights behind the water in the fountain and lighting up the street by the stucco buildings


Here are some other questions that people wanted to know before visiting San Diego:

Is it safe to walk in San Diego at night?

The answer depends a lot on your neighborhood. In tony areas like La Jolla, it is safe to walk around at night, but in other neighborhoods you should be careful.

Is San Diego safer than Los Angeles?

Yes, San Diego is much safer than Los Angeles. The crime rate is lower and it is much safer to walk around during the day and at night.

Is it safe to walk Downtown San Diego?

After a revitalization effort, downtown San Diego is now mostly safe, although you’ll still see a lot of homeless people. During the day it is safe to walk around, but at night there are certain areas that you should avoid.

What is the safest part of San Diego?

Pretty much anywhere in central or western San Diego is safe, but some of the safest neighborhoods include the Gaslamp Quarter, Normal Heights, and Rancho Bernardo.

Where should you not stay in San Diego?

The most dangerous parts of San Diego are in East San Diego, specifically South East San Diego. Other neighborhoods where you don’t want to be at night include Imperial Beach and University Heights.

So, Is San Diego Safe to Visit?

San Diego is one of the safest big cities in the United States. As long as you take basic precautions like you would in any big city, you will have a great time. So what are you waiting for — book your trip today!