San Francisco goes by many names: San Fran, Golden Gate City, City by the Bay, Frisco, Tiny Rita (I made the last one up) . Whatever you call it, this densely populated peninsula boasts a whole ton of diverse neighborhoods, with big crowds and many popular tourist sights and attractions to match.
Originally established by Spanish colonists, San Francisco experienced massive growth during the Gold Rush in 1849. Today the city is a liberal, open-minded place, where history and the present day collide in an explosion of culture, flavors and, unfortunately, problems.
With the rise of Silicon Valley businesses setting up camp nearby, a sharp rise in the cost of living in the city has resulted in gentrification and added to the already sizable homeless population of the city. Other issues, such as drugs and crime related to thefts, add to this.
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How Safe is San Francisco?
San Francisco has a higher crime rate than the rest of California, at about 15% more per capita. This is likely due to many reasons – too many to delve into in this article.
Inequality in wealth distribution means that while those who can afford it live in relative luxury while others are left without homes or struggling just to make ends meet. For this reason homelessness – which isn’t illegal but does violate city law – is found all over town (and yes, even inside some parks). But don’t get too scared yet! With proper precautions you’ll be able to enjoy your time here as safely as anywhere else.
San Francisco Crime Rate 2020
The San Francisco crime rate in 2020 is about the same as it was in 2010. It’s been falling for the past four years, but that doesn’t mean there are no problems here! A recent study found a correlation between poverty and violent crime rates – though not causation – so while we have seen some improvement, police still have their work cut out for them. The nationwide trend of rising homicide rates also means more violence on city streets than before.
Here are the SF Police Department crime stats for Jan through Sept 13, 2020, compared to the same time period last year:
-Homicide: up 37.9%
-Robbery: down 17.7%
-Rape: down 52.1%
-Burglary: up 42.3%
-Arson: up 53.4%
-Car theft: up 32.3%
Places to avoid in San Francisco
Due to the massive gap between rich and poor in San Francisco, there are a few “ghetto-like” areas that you should definitely avoid. While you should always watch out for pickpocketing and petty theft, these areas show an increase in violent crimes such as gang activity so it’s best to stay away at all costs. Avoid these places if possible:
- The Tenderloin: This is an area with especially high crime rates which doesn’t normally see tourists but they still need to be aware of where you are.
- The Mission and Hunters Point: Both areas show significant crime rates so it’s best to avoid them, especially at night.
Safety Tips for Traveling to San Francisco
Want to know how to stay safe while traveling to San Francisco? You’ve come to the right place! Here are some tips that will help keep you out of harm’s way.
- Don’t leave your belongings unattended – They will almost certainly go missing
- Be aware of your surroundings and keep your belongings close to you on public transport – More on this later, but know that certain lines are more renowned for this than others
- Don’t walk around with flashy jewelry – Looking rich could easily make you a target for an opportunist thief
- Keep your money safe by using a money belt. Personally, we’re super impressed by the active roots security belt.
- Try to blend in – Though a city of many tourists, it is best to try to blend in as much as possible to avoid pickpocketing and generally being a victim of crime
- Don’t walk around with your phone unnecessarily – Phone snatching does occur
- Steer clear of biohazards – Such as human waste and needles; you may see them, but do not go near them
- Don’t carry around wads of cash with you – If you need to pay for something, and someone sees you have a wallet stuffed with bills, you may be targeted
- Careful taking money out at ATMs – It’s best done in daylight hours, and preferably indoors (in a bank, a mall, etc.)
- Don’t walk around deserted areas – Especially at night time and/or by yourself; chances of crime happening are low, but you should take care in areas you don’t know after dark, or avoid them altogether
- Take a cab after dark – Though not a must, it is more advisable to do this than walk (especially alone)
- Don’t put your bag on the back of a chair/under a table at a restaurant/cafe – It may disappear from under your nose
- Know the local drug laws – Cannabis may be legal, but you can’t smoke it in public or at public events. You also have to be over 21.
- Keep away from illegal drugs – Anything that isn’t cannabis is illegal and you risk arrest.
- Don’t leave anything unattended in your car – Leave nothing on display, as theft from vehicles is a problem; it’s best to have nothing valuable in your car
- Avoid parks after dark – Many of the city’s parks are used for drug deals and prostitution at night, so they may be best avoided
- Be aware of the homeless population – They are mostly harmless but he SFPD recommends that should “avoid all confrontations and maintain a safe distance”
- Know what to do in the event of an earthquake – Though unlikely to occur, it is still good to know what to do
- Get a local sim card – If you’re not from the US, getting a local sim will help you get around the city, and contact people in an emergency
San Francisco is a great place to visit, but it also has one of the highest crime rates in California. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy yourself while exploring the city. In fact there are plenty of ways for tourists and locals alike to make sure that they’re not only safe from criminals on the street, but other potential dangers such as homelessness or poverty. One way would be by visiting our website! We have all sorts of resources about travel safety tips for visitors who want to spend time here without worrying too much about their own personal safety. So come explore and learn more with us today!