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Is Seattle Safe to Visit in 2024? | Safety Concerns

Is Seattle Safe to Visit in 2024? | Safety Concerns

Is Seattle safe to visit in 2024?

Mostly, yes. Seattle is considered a safe destination with a relatively low crime rate, especially when it comes to violent crimes. While non-violent property crimes like pickpocketing and scams do happen, they are not overly common. Despite the visibility of the homeless population in the city, it doesn’t pose a significant safety concern for visitors, and most of Seattle offers a safe and enjoyable experience.

Seattle, in the Pacific Northwest, is an excellent tourist destination for lovers of culture, nature, and anything alternative. The city that used to be too cool for school rebranded as a tech utopia, but its rebellious core is still there for visitors in the know.

Visitors to Seattle can take in iconic landmarks such as the Space Needle and Pike Place Market (home to the very first Starbucks). Learn about the city’s long musical history at the Museum of Pop Culture or take in a show while you are in town.

Visitors also love living as the locals do, attending shows, visiting galleries and boutiques, or taking part in the famous coffee culture. But while there’s enough to do to keep even the busiest tourist entertained, is Seattle safe to visit? Here’s our take.

Is Seattle Safe to Visit?

Pike Street Market and its famous red sign on a cloudy day in Seattle for a piece on whether or not the city is safe to visit

Seattle,Washington,usa. 02/06/17: beautiful Pike place market with reflection on the ground at night/Checubus/Shutterstock

Yes. Overall, Seattle is a very safe place to visit. It has a relatively low crime rate for a city of its size, and most of those are non-violent property crimes.

You will need to take some precautions as Seattle is still a big city, but you will likely have a fine time in Seattle. On a national level, Seattle has a reasonable crime rate.

According to U.S. News & World Report, Seattle has a crime rate that is 321.5 incidents per 100,000 people, which is lower than the national average. When you compare Seattle to other large or mid-sized cities, that number feels even smaller.

One fact that is also important for tourists is that Seattle has a very low violent crime rate. Crimes that do occur in Seattle are mostly non-violent, such as:

  • Pickpocketing
  • Scams
  • Break-ins
  • Robbery
  • Drug-related crimes
  • Vandalism

Due to media reports, there is this vision of Seattle as a dangerous city full of homeless criminals and anarchist delinquents. A lot of that is misinformation and media exaggeration.

During the 2020 protests, protesters in Seattle formed the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP), a 23-day long occupation of a central area in Seattle in protest of police brutality and the murder of George Floyd.

While many people are scared of visiting Seattle due to the perception of the city as a hotbed of anarchy, the so-called autonomous zone was very short-lived and didn’t even make it through an entire month.

Today, there are no real traces of it and the Capitol Hill neighborhood is back to normal. Another reason why some people think Seattle is more dangerous than it actually is has to do with the homeless population.

In King County, the county in which Seattle is located, authorities estimate that there are about 13,368 people sleeping rough, although some estimates put the homeless population as high as 40,800.

Those are high numbers for a city whose total population is only 733,919 people. There are a few reasons why Seattle’s homeless population is so high.

Seattle has an extremely high cost of living and high levels of income inequality, two factors that push poorer people through the cracks as soon as a crisis, such as losing a job, comes along.

Many homeless people in Seattle have jobs but cannot afford to find somewhere to live due to high housing costs.

Many visitors, especially those from smaller towns, are afraid to visit Seattle because of the large homeless population, but that is a misconception. The vast majority of homeless people, just the same as any people, are just people looking to live their lives.

Crime in Seattle

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

Crime is the biggest reason people are often afraid to go to new places. Luckily, the crime rate in Seattle is relatively low.

Although it is higher than the average crime rate for Washington state, according to Neighborhood Scout, that is because the crime levels for the state overall are some of the lowest in the nation.

The Seattle police department offers a helpful breakdown of crimes committed in Seattle by type. In 2022, 88.7% of the total crimes committed were property crimes, while the remaining 11.3% were violent crimes.

The total number of crimes committed in the city that year was 49,577. Property crimes are very common in Seattle.

The most common type is larceny or theft, which makes up 57% of total crimes committed in the city. Burglaries make up 17.5% of crime totals in the city, while motor vehicle thefts make up 14% of total crime in the city.

The most common violent crime is aggravated assault, similar patterns to crime nationwide. Aggravated assault makes up 7% of total crimes committed, followed by robbery, which makes up 3.6% of crime totals.

In 2022, Seattle only experienced 52 homicides, a low total for a city of its size. Seattle’s crime rate did rise in 2022 compared to 2021 and previous years, alarming locals.

The end of the year report from the Seattle Police Department warned that violent crime and vehicle thefts were at 15-year highs and that crime overall increased by 4% compared to 2021.

However, crime did slow down towards the end of 2022, indicating that the situation might get better moving forward.

Plus, looking at the raw data for Seattle, it’s clear that the crime rate is fairly low compared to similar cities. A crime rate increase is obviously never a good thing, but it shouldn’t be something that you as a tourist need to worry about.

Petty Theft

The most likely crime you as a tourist will encounter in Seattle is petty theft. Petty theft comes in many different forms, including pickpocketing, bag snatching, and scams.

The official Seattle government website has tips for visitors to help you stay safe while you are out and about. Most of these tips are common sense precautions that you probably follow wherever you are in the world, including at home if you live in a bigger city.

When you are out sightseeing, try to avoid looking like a tourist. If you get lost, step inside a business to check your map or ask for directions instead of wandering around looking confused and staring at your phone.

Keep your valuables tucked away in a purse or pocket instead of out in the open. Don’t flash valuables such as expensive cameras, jewelry, or lots of cash. Thieves often operate on public transportation or in crowded places.

When you are in these areas, make sure that you are carrying your valuables securely. Put your wallet in your front pants pocket instead of a back pocket.

If you have a purse, carry it across your body if possible and always hold it close to your body with one arm. That makes it much harder to snatch. While in Seattle, be mindful of common tourist scams.

People will approach you offering to give you a CD or mixtape, or someone dressed in monk’s robes will approach you with a prayer icon or bracelet. None of these items are free and you might find yourself being aggressively accosted for payment after you accept the “gift.”

In general, beware of someone that appears to take too much interest in you; Seattle locals are famously reserved and someone with good intentions is not likely to pay attention to you.

Vehicle Theft

As mentioned above, one of the crimes that has risen the most drastically in Seattle is the rate of vehicle-related thefts. Vehicle break-ins, car part thefts, and especially vehicle thefts are increasing in Seattle.

Again, the Seattle government has tips for avoiding being the victim of vehicle theft. Make sure that your doors are locked and windows are rolled up when you’re driving through unfamiliar areas, especially if you are stuck in traffic.

You don’t want to be the victim of a carjacking while you’re sitting in traffic. When you’re parking, make sure that you park in a secure area such as a well-lit street or a lot or garage with an attendant.

Never leave your possessions visible in your car, put them in a glove compartment, trunk, or under the seat instead. You should never leave valuable items, such as wallets or purses, in the car under any circumstances, even if you’re just stepping out for a few minutes.

Lock your doors and close all windows and sunroofs before leaving your car. These are simple tips, but you would be surprised how many people don’t follow them and regret it later.

Of course, you can also avoid vehicle theft by not driving in Seattle as thieves often target out-of-state license plates or rental cars. The public transportation is great, and the downtown core is very walkable, so you won’t even need a car to explore.

Avoiding Bad Areas

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

Seattle doesn’t have many bad areas, but there are some areas where you don’t want to get caught alone at night. Areas with large homeless encampments often get sketchy at night.

These areas include parts of University District and Pioneer Square. The largest homeless encampment, nicknamed “The Jungle,” is between South Dearborn and Yesler Street.

You should also be careful in parts of Belltown, Pike/Pine, and South Beacon Hill as those neighborhoods have some areas with elevated crime rates. Still, those are all places that are safe during the day.

Frequently Asked Questions

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

Jon Bilous/Shutterstock

Here are some common questions that you might have about Seattle:

Is it safe to go to Seattle right now?

Yes, Seattle is perfectly safe to visit right now. There is a slightly elevated crime rate compared to previous years, but it is nothing too drastic and unlikely to affect tourists.

Is it safe to walk around Seattle at night?

It is safe to walk around most Seattle neighborhoods at night and the city is actually well-known for its nightlife. Just double-check with your hotel receptionist or accommodation host about any areas that you should avoid.

Is Seattle safe to walk?

It is very safe to walk in Seattle. Not only is the crime rate fairly low, but it is very walkable and has great infrastructure that makes it safe for pedestrians.

Which is safer, Seattle or NYC?

Seattle is a lot safer than NYC. The crime rate is much lower in Seattle, and the violent crime rate is even lower compared to the overall crime rate. The crimes that do occur are not likely to actually harm tourists. It makes sense that Seattle feels safer since it is a smaller city, making it easier to control.

Is Seattle safe for female travelers?

Seattle is an excellent destination for female travelers. It has a low rate of crime overall, making it ideal for travelers concerned about safety. Plus, the overall progressive attitudes in the city make it unlikely that you’ll encounter lots of sexual harassment.

So, Is Seattle Safe to Visit?

Overall, Seattle is a very safe place to visit, despite the negative public perceptions. Its crime rate is low, and most crimes are non-violent property crimes. Be sure to take precautions to avoid theft, such as locking your car doors and hiding your valuables.

Read up on local advice, including the local government’s guidelines on how to stay safe in Seattle, but don’t let fear preoccupy you. If you take these precautions, you should have a great time in Seattle. Happy travels!