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Is Seattle Safe? | Travel Tips & Safety Concerns

Is Seattle Safe? | Travel Tips & Safety Concerns

Seattle is one of the most exciting and beautiful cities in the Pacific Northwest! The city is famous for the Space Needle, the technology industry, Starbucks, craft beer, and much more. 

With a population of over 700,000 and millions of visitors annually, safety is a concern for everyone. Despite the city’s size, population, and tourist traffic, the city is relatively safe when considering how many people there are and how many tourists visit. 

The vast majority of people traveling to Seattle have a carefree experience with no safety issues coming into play.

That being said, things can happen anywhere, even in the safest cities. As you plan your trip to Seattle or anywhere, it’s best to be vigilant. Here are some safety tips to think about before you go.

Is Seattle Safe to Visit in 2022?

Seattle police patrol car in the downtown area for a piece titled Is Seattle Safe to Visit

Seattle, Washington / USA – June 10 2020: Patrol car in front of the Seattle Police Department West Precinct/VDB Photos/Shutterstock

Everyone has a different definition of what it means to feel safe or if a city is safe, but Seattle is generally a safe place to live and visit.

Compared to other major cities in the United States, the crime rates are relatively low, and the vast majority of all reported crimes are nonviolent or property offenses. More often than not, people fall victim to pickpocketing or theft when visiting Seattle.

While this can be stressful and scary, it’s considered a nonviolent or property crime and usually isn’t anything more than you missing a few bucks, your purse or wallet, or jewelry. 

Crime in Seattle

As population rates increase and more tourists visit the city, it’s normal for crime rates to rise. Even still, in 2021, there were only 47,843 crimes reported in the city of Seattle.

Only 5,389 of those cases were violent crimes, while 42,454 were nonviolent or related to property damage. Violent crime encompasses homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Nonviolent crimes are considered arson, car theft, larceny-theft, and burglary.

Here’s a look at the 2021 crime statistics in Seattle: 

  • Homicide: 41 cases
  • Rape: 294 cases
  • Robbery: 1,751 cases
  • Aggravated Assault: 3,303 cases
  • Arson: 225 cases
  • Car Theft: 5,324 cases
  • Larceny-Theft: 27,097 cases
  • Burglary: 9,809 cases

Over the last few years, larceny-theft has been the highest crime reported in Seattle. So, while you need to be cautious about violent crimes, you’re more likely to have something stolen from you or your vehicle than to fall victim to a violent crime on your vacation in Seattle.

The reported homicides dropped between 2020 and 2021 from 53 to 41 cases. Crime rates in Seattle have been steadily on the rise since 2019.

The total number of crimes reported in 2019 was 42,463, with the vast majority of crimes being larceny-theft. This crime accounted for over 50% of all crimes in 2019. There were a total of 43,330 crimes reported in 2020.

Residents in Seattle saw an uptick in burglaries, with more than 10,000 cases, about 3,000 more cases than the previous year. Overall, larceny-theft was still the most prevalent crime.

As you can see, the vast majority of crimes in Seattle over the past few years have been theft. As a tourist, you’re naturally an easy target for people to steal from you. Being vigilant and watching your surroundings will help prevent you from falling victim to theft. 

Human Trafficking

A major fear for women and people traveling with children is the concern of human trafficking. As a port city, Seattle is a significant hub for finding women and children to force into trafficking.

While they might not stay in the city, it’s a hub for locating and kidnapping these individuals. This is a scary thought, but roughly 500 to 700 minors are forced into human trafficking rings yearly in Seattle.

It’s difficult to track human trafficking statistics, but Seattle is working to fight this issue. While this is a scary statistic, it’s still unlikely that you or your children will fall victim to this in Seattle. 

The best thing you can do to keep you and your children safe when traveling here is to stay vigilant. Keep an eye out for suspicious activity and never let children out of your sight or let them speak with strangers, even if they’re women or other minors.

Gang Violence

Seattle isn’t known for gang violence anymore, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Back in the 1990s, gang violence was at an all-time high in the city when crews were establishing their territories.

Now, it’s much less prevalent to see gangs fighting in the town, but that doesn’t mean it still does not cause concern. Gun violence has been on the rise in Seattle, and many times it’s reported that two rival groups were shooting at one another.

You’ll often see it in lower-income neighborhoods where people are, more often than not, “defending their territory” rather than being violent for the sake of being violent. 

The best thing you can do to keep yourself safe from gang violence in Seattle is to avoid walking alone at night downtown, avoid unsafe neighborhoods and areas, and if you see something, say something. 

Avoid Bad Areas of the City

Homeless camp in Seattle for a piece titled Is Seattle Safe

Seattle, Washington, July 4, 2021: Homeless Tents lining the streets of Seattle/JJava Designs/Shutterstock

Even in the best neighborhoods, crime can happen. While Seattle is generally a safe place to visit, there are certain areas of the city that are known for higher crime rates, especially at night.

Some of the neighborhoods or areas of Seattle you might want to avoid are: 

  • “The Jungle”: Between South Dearborn and Yesler Street is a prominent homeless camp, which is best to avoid if you’re concerned about pickpocketing and other crime.
  • The road between Lake Washington and Puget Sound: This road on the I-5 has had its fair share of robberies, assaults, and homicides. 
  • The area around Pike and Pine Street: While this area is great during the day and at night, there have been reports of violent crime.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Way to South Boeing Access Road: This area has an exceptionally high violent crime rate. 
  • Between Blanchard and Bell in Belltown: This is a lively area, and there have been reports of assault, robbery, and drugs, especially at night.

For the most part, you’ll probably avoid these areas anyway since they’re not in the major tourist areas of Seattle.

For example, you probably won’t be walking around “The Jungle” because it will have tents and makeshift homes on the streets and not much for a tourist to do. Some of these areas, specifically Belltown and near Pike and Pine Street, aren’t cause for too much concern.

There are great restaurants, bars, shops, and many locals live and hang out in these areas. You need to be the most aware of your surroundings late at night.

As always, stay vigilant and be mindful of your surroundings at all times. The best way to avoid accidentally ending up in these areas is to do your research before arriving in Seattle or in your hotel before adventuring out for the day or night.

Knowing where you plan on going and if you cross paths with these areas can help you avoid putting yourself in a potentially unsafe situation. 

Safe Areas of Seattle

Certain areas of Seattle have the lowest crime rates in the city. If you’re interested in staying in some of the safest areas or want to spend time in them, you’re not alone.

These are considered some of the safest neighborhoods in Seattle: 

  • Queen Anne: This neighborhood is in an excellent location for some of the city’s best landmarks like the Space Needle and several other museums worth checking out. 
  • Waterfront: This is one of the most family-friendly areas of the city. Walking, hopping on public transportation, and seeing great city views are accessible in this area. 
  • Capitol Hill: This is one of the coolest areas of Seattle. It’s just north of downtown and has a friendly atmosphere with great restaurants, shopping, and music venues.

Much of Seattle is still a safe place to be, so you don’t need to limit yourself to only these three neighborhoods during your stay. If you only stick to these three areas, you won’t be disappointed, though, as there are plenty of things to do and see. 

Earthquakes

Almost everyone knows that the United States’s west coast is prone to earthquakes. While Seattle is on a fault line and can experience earthquakes, it’s doubtful that you’ll experience one during your visit. 

Fault lines are constantly moving at a very slow rate, but Seattle rarely feels the brunt of these natural occurrences. There are an estimated 1,000 earthquakes in the state of Washington each year, but many of them are too small to feel, and they are rarely a significant concern. 

The last significant earthquake to affect Seattle was in February of 2001. A deep earthquake began in the Nisqually Delta near Olympia, officially named the Nisqually Quake.

A deep earthquake occurs between 18 and 43 miles in the crust, which can cause significant damage. The Nisqually Quake was a magnitude of 6.8, making it just shy of being classified as a significant earthquake.

It affected the entire Puget Sound area, including Seattle. It only lasted for 40 seconds and caused $1 billion in damage. The Nisqually Quake hit Pioneer Square particularly hard during this earthquake. 

While you most likely won’t experience an earthquake when you’re in Seattle, if you do, there are a few things you can do to keep yourself as safe as possible: 

  • Hide under a study desk or piece of furniture
  • Avoid glass and windows
  • Hold onto the study piece of furniture until the quake stops 

Things to Consider

Knowing Seattle’s safe and less safe areas is essential, but it’s not the most important thing to know when traveling there. Crime can happen anywhere and at any time.

Here are some other things to consider to keep yourself safe when traveling to Seattle: 

  • Never leave valuables, purses, or wallets visible in your car
  • Keep your wallet in your front pocket or your bag across your body
  • Make a photocopy and picture of your driver’s license and/or passport
  • Never leave your personal items unattended
  • Avoid looking flashy or like a tourist
  • Know distraction techniques from pickpockets and robbers
  • Stay aware of your surroundings
  • Report any suspicious behavior to authorities 
  • Be careful when pulling out money at ATMs
  • Don’t walk alone if you can avoid it (don’t walk alone at night in less crowded areas if you can’t avoid walking alone)

Frequently Asked Questions

The Bell Street Bridge at night in Seattle for a piece titled Is Seattle Safe to Visit

Jon Bilous/Shutterstock

When it comes to your safety when traveling, you can never be too prepared. If you still have questions about safely traveling to Seattle, these frequently asked questions from other travelers should provide you with the answers you need. 

Is Seattle safer than Portland?

When comparing the crime rate of Seattle and Portland per 100,000 people, Portland is technically safer than Seattle. Seattle’s crime rate is 5,499, and Portland’s is 5,262, so while it’s safer, it’s only ever so slightly.

Why are there so many homeless people in Seattle?

In 2020, there were almost 40,000 people experiencing homelessness in Seattle. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people became homeless, which put a lot of strain on the shelter system and pushed them to homeless encampments.

Is it illegal to feed the homeless in Seattle?

Avoiding feeding the homeless in Seattle is a great way to prevent crime or pickpockets targeting you. While it’s a great way to avoid falling victim, it’s only illegal to feed the homeless if you’re feeding people in a group of five or more.

Do you need a car to visit Seattle?

No! You don’t need a car when you visit Seattle. If you’re staying in the city, it’s very walkable. Plus, they have public transportation, and rideshares are prevalent. If you plan on traveling to areas outside the city during your stay, then renting or bringing a car is a good idea.

Is Seattle safe for the LGBTQ+ community?

Seattle is very safe for members of the LGBTQ+ community. There are neighborhoods with rainbow sidewalks, pride flags, and establishments that are welcoming to everyone, so people within the community tend to feel safe traveling to Seattle.

Is it safe to walk around Seattle at night?

Generally, it’s safe to walk around Seattle at night. You shouldn’t feel unsafe walking around at night if you avoid the more dangerous neighborhoods and stay vigilant even in the best communities.

What is the safest city in Washington?

According to the FBI’s ranking, the safest city in Washington is Snoqualmie, Washington. Snoqualmie is a small suburb of Seattle, with only two violent crimes reported in 2017.

So, Is Seattle Safe to Visit?

For a large city, Seattle is relatively safe for travelers. With less than 50,000 crimes reported annually and only 11% of those being violent crimes, tourists shouldn’t have to worry too much about being a victim of a crime during their stay. 

As long as you avoid the more unsafe neighborhoods, be mindful of your surroundings, and keep your personal items on you at all times, you should have a carefree experience in the beautiful city of Seattle. Happy travels!