If you want to visit the Emerald City, asking yourself ‘is Seattle safe?’ is an important question. Between the pandemic, crime statistics, and media portrayals, there’s a lot of information to sift through to get to the truth about Seattle’s safety. This applies to both visitors and potential residents.
I’m a local who explores the city often, and I’ll walk you through the data and my take on the city’s safety. This way, you have the information you need before you book your trip.
So, is Seattle safe? In general, yes, Seattle is a safe city to visit. But keep reading and we’ll take a closer look at the details to back this up.
Table of Contents
- Is Seattle Safe?
- Things to Know About Safety in Seattle
- 7 Safety Tips for Seattle
- FAQs About Safety When Visiting Seattle
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Is Seattle Safe?
For the most part, Seattle is a safe destination for travel as long as you follow the basic safety tips that you would in any other big city. Visitors should be aware of property crime risks, the prevalence of homelessness, and health concerns related to the pandemic.
As far as crime statistics go, violent crimes in Seattle are low compared to petty crime and property crime. These are the types of crime that the city struggles with most.
Depending on where you are, you may see a significant population of homeless camps. You may also see people in various stages of mental crisis, including drug addiction. Some areas of the city are rough around the edges as neighborhoods and businesses recover from the effects of the pandemic.
That said, in comparison to the rest of the United States, Washington has a lower overall violent crime rate. Seattle is a very safe city for those worried about being a victim of violence. Seattle also has a high Covid-19 vaccination rate. Its weather is generally mild, albeit rainy, with little chance of natural disasters.
Things to Know About Safety in Seattle
Safe Neighborhoods and Areas in Seattle
The majority of the neighborhoods in Seattle are safe for tourists to explore, particularly in the daytime.
West Seattle, Magnolia, Fremont, Phinney Ridge, and Columbia City are some of the safest neighborhoods with lower overall crime rates. In addition, the main tourist attractions like Pike Place Market, Seattle Center, the Space Needle, and waterfront attractions are safe to explore.
There are no particularly dangerous and unsafe neighborhoods in Seattle that you should never visit. But there are areas you’ll want to steer clear of if you’re out alone at night time. Avoid downtown Seattle’s 3rd Avenue, particularly between Pike and Pine, and James and Yesler.
Pioneer Square, SoDo, the International District, First Hill, and certain parts of Belltown can be a bit sketchy. That said, visitors should exercise caution when exploring at night. Capitol Hill, Northgate, and Queen Anne have higher rates of property crime.
While the downtown core and areas adjacent are relatively high crime areas, they also contain some of the best things to do in Seattle. So don’t completely write them off! If you’re navigating these areas, just make sure you use common sense. Remain vigilant and aware of your surroundings and you’ll be perfectly fine.
If you’re worried about staying in the big city at all, Bellevue and Mercer Island are two neighboring suburbs with much lower crime rates. And if you’re still having trouble deciding where to stay in Seattle, check out my article for even more details on the most visitor-friendly areas.
👉 What About CHOP?: During the protests of 2020, Seattle made the news because of the creation of CHOP (Capitol Hill Occupied Protest). Media outlets portrayed this in different ways. Some indicate that CHOP encompassed the entire city of Seattle or that it continues to the present day.
In reality, CHOP was in a small area of the Capitol Hill neighborhood and lasted for a few weeks. It is no longer in existence, did not spread through the entire city, and all evidence of its existence is pretty much gone. Visitors will not encounter it on a visit to Seattle.
Covid-19 Safety in Seattle
Seattle was the first city in the United States to vaccinate 70% of residents ages 12 and up against Covid-19. King County has one of the highest rates of fully vaccinated people in Washington state. As of Summer 2022, around 76% of the population of Washington state is vaccinated compared to the national average of almost 68% of the population.
Most of Seattle is fully open, and the mask mandate was lifted in March 2022. Still, some businesses and places like healthcare, correctional, and senior care facilities have upheld mask requirements.
For updated stats on the Covid-19 situation, see this widget from Covid Act Now that automatically updates:
Crime in Seattle
Seattle’s crime rate has risen over the past few years and tends to be property crime rather than violent crime.
According to the crime dashboard from the Seattle Police Department, the most common crimes in Seattle are larceny, motor vehicle theft, and burglary. Car break-ins at King County hiking trailheads have been on the rise since 2022. There is legislation being proposed to deter this problem.
Seattle also has one of the highest rates of people experiencing homelessness compared to other cities in the United States. There is homelessness throughout the city, and while this doesn’t translate to criminal activities, certain travelers may feel uncomfortable in areas where this is most prevalent. These areas include Pioneer Square and parts of the International and University District.
Most criminals don’t specifically target tourists, and the majority of tourists will find Seattle is not a dangerous city. Still, if you’re particularly worried, booking travel insurance with World Nomads is a good idea. They have policies to protect you in case of theft or assault.
Common Scams in Seattle
There are not a lot of scams in Seattle, but that doesn’t mean they’re non-existent. If you’re visiting some of the downtown area’s tourist sites, you may want to be on alert for a few of the following scams, though they’re not unique to Seattle:
💿 CD/Mixtape Scam – If someone tries to stop you to hand you a CD or asks you to listen to their mixtape, just walk away. If you take the CD, they will pester you to pay them for it, hoping to wear you down for a few bucks.
📿 Monk Scam – If someone comes up to you claiming to be a monk and tries to hand you a bracelet, pamphlet, medal, or anything else, don’t take it from them. It’s not a nice, free gift. Once you take it, they will expect a donation.
💸 Panhandling – You may encounter people asking for money for gas, their baby, the bus, or any other kind of panhandling. Politely decline and move on.
Hazardous Weather and Natural Disasters
Seattle doesn’t have particularly hazardous weather, but it rains often. This can affect driving conditions and comfort when going out.
Seattle’s rainfall is not always a downpour, but it’s usually consistent. Make sure you’re comfortable driving in the rain if that’s your preferred method of getting around Seattle. Also, check out my Seattle packing list if you want to know what to bring to stay comfortable and dry.
Seattle summers are pretty, warm, and mostly mild, but heat waves and smoke from wildfires do roll through. Most homes in Seattle are not equipped with air conditioning, so you’ll want to make sure you stay hydrated and find places to stay cool. This especially applies if your visit falls in the middle of a heat wave or smoky and unsafe air quality conditions.
During winters, snowfall is not always guaranteed, but occasionally a big snowstorm will bring the city to a halt. Seattle is very hilly and most vehicles, drivers, and streets are not equipped to navigate the icy roads.
Bus routes change and businesses close while conditions remain precarious. You’ll want to exercise caution if you go out during or after a big snowstorm or be prepared to adjust your plans accordingly.
If you want more insight into what weather conditions to expect year-round, check out my article on the best time to visit Seattle next.
Solo Female Traveler Safety
Most solo female travelers will feel safe in Seattle. As with any solo female travel, there is a higher risk of being in an uncomfortable situation like catcalling or receiving unwanted attention.
To feel safe, employ the same safety measures you would in other cities. Be aware of your surroundings, avoid walking in dimly lit areas at night, stay vigilant while exploring, and try not to go out solo at night time.
If you ever feel like you’ve wandered into an unsafe neighborhood, don’t be afraid to leave immediately. Also, make sure you let someone you trust know where you are.
LGBTQ+ and BIPOC Safety
LGBTQ+ travelers will feel welcome in Seattle. There are a lot of queer-friendly spaces, especially in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Here, you’ll find the highest concentration of gay bars in the city. Dozens of other neighborhoods and spaces throughout the city welcome LGBTQ+ travelers. Seattle is often ranked as one of the top destinations in the USA for LGBTQ+ travel.
BIPOC travelers will also generally feel safe in Seattle. The local population of BIPOC people is not particularly high in Seattle as in other states. But the city leans more progressive and is generally welcoming to diverse groups. There are also several neighborhoods with more diverse populations where travelers who identify as such may feel more comfortable.
Is Tap Water Safe to Drink in Seattle?
Seattle’s tap water is perfectly safe to drink. It’s particularly delicious because it’s captured from rain and snowmelt from mountain watersheds. Because the watersheds are close to the city, there’s less chance for water to be contaminated.
Most travelers will find tap water better than bottled water. Seattle is serious about reducing environmental impact, so this is also a good way to cut down on plastic bottle usage.
7 Safety Tips for Seattle
Tip #1 – Don’t Leave Your Valuables In The Car
Since the most common crime in Seattle is property crime, make sure to not leave your valuables in your car. Lock your car doors, and don’t leave anything in plain sight, whether you think it looks valuable or not. While this may not completely deter the crime (your window could still get broken), at least you won’t have to replace something valuable.
Tip #2 – Always Have A Plan To Get Home
Make sure when you go out, especially in an area with a higher crime rate, that you have a plan to get home. Call an uber, take a taxi, ride the bus or light rail, and move with purpose so no one thinks you’re lost and tries to take advantage of this.
Tip #3 – Be Cautious When Driving In The Rain
If you’re not used to driving in the rain, be extra cautious on the roads. Don’t be afraid to go a little slower and be careful on hills. You can find tons of public transportation options in Seattle that you can use instead of driving yourself if that makes you feel more comfortable.
Tip #4 – Stay Out of Unsafe Areas at Night, Especially When Alone
Avoid making yourself a target by staying out of unsafe areas late at night, especially if you’re alone. Practice safety measures you would in any other city. Don’t take shortcuts through unlit streets and alleys, especially if they’re in some of the sketchier areas. This may apply in downtown Seattle and adjacent neighborhoods, SoDo, or the International District.
Tip #5 – Trust Your Intuition Around Others
You can safely assume that if someone approaches you, tries to give you something, or jostles you, they are trying to distract you in some way or get something out of you. Because of the infamous “Seattle freeze,” most locals are reserved and won’t bother you. If someone does, it’s more than likely that their intentions aren’t in your best interest.
Tip #6 – Hike Smart
If you do go on a hike near Seattle, make sure you come prepared or do the necessary research to avoid any danger on the trails and encounters with wildlife. Always bring first aid, have a map, a way to communicate should something go wrong, and pack comfortable and sturdy footwear. This applies whether you’re walking through Discovery Park, Rattlesnake Ridge, or trails further away.
Tip #7 – Know the Marijuana Laws
Washington is one of 19 states where the recreational use of marijuana is legal. If you’re planning to partake when here, make sure you know the laws, and be smart about where and when you use it. Don’t drive while high and avoid getting high in a place that feels unsafe or that you’re unfamiliar with. Buy from one of Seattle’s reputable dispensaries, and know you’ll have to use cash to make your purchase.
📚 Related Reading: Enjoyed these safety tips and want more Seattle travel tips? Save this article so you can read it next!
FAQs About Safety When Visiting Seattle
What are safe areas to stay in Seattle?
West Seattle, Fremont, Columbia City, Magnolia, and Phinney Ridge are some of the safest areas to stay in Seattle. The hotels around the downtown area are also safe places to stay and convenient because they’re close to the city’s best attractions.
Is Seattle dangerous right now?
Seattle is not too dangerous right now, and the majority of tourists will feel perfectly safe during the daytime and exploring the most attraction-dense areas. The crime rate in Seattle has risen over the past few years, and it is mostly property crime rather than violent crimes. As long as people take the proper safety precautions, avoid potentially dangerous areas at night, explore in groups, and stay aware of their surroundings, it’s perfectly safe to visit Seattle.
Is there a lot of crime in Seattle?
There is not a lot of crime in Seattle. However, Seattle’s crime rate has risen over the past few years like most cities in the USA. The crime the city faces tend to be property crime over violent crime. Despite the rising crime rate in recent years, it has not surpassed the peak of high crime that it between the 70s and 90s.
Equipped with this information, I hope you now know the answer to, “is Seattle safe?” You should feel reassured that you’ll find the city to be a comfortable and fun place to visit. If you’re visiting Seattle and want information about what to do or how to make the most of your trip, check out any of my other guides to the Emerald City next!
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