Is Greater Wilmington Safe? Crime Rates & Safety Report

Updated On June 8, 2023
Greater Wilmington, United States
Safety Index:
45
* Based on Research & Crime Data

Wilmington, Delaware, offers a unique blend of rich history and vibrant modernity.

It sits along the Delaware River in a region known as the Brandywine Valley while being just 30 minutes from the metropolis of Philadelphia.

Have you noticed how many businesses have a Wilmington or Delaware address?

Wilmington is known as the “Corporate Capital of the World” due to its impressive privacy, corporate, and tax laws that you can’t get in any other state.

It’s not all business in Wilmington.

This area is steeped in history.

Wilmington is home to numerous landmarks and museums that tell the story of its past.

From the grandeur of Nemours Estate to the historic charm of Old New Castle, history enthusiasts get a cultural melting pot of charm.

The city’s revitalized Riverfront district is a bustling hub of entertainment, offering a vibrant mix of restaurants, shops, and cultural attractions.

Condé Nast called it one of the “Best Places to Go” in early 2023, touring its expansive culinary scene and mix of city life and “pastoral landscape.”

All that said, Wilmington has a reputation for being a dangerous place.

Let’s jump in to see what you can expect on a trip to Wilmington, Delaware, today.

Warnings & Dangers in Greater Wilmington

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK: MEDIUM

There's a medium risk. Crime rates are moving in the right direction but still double the national average. One benefit is the number of places to visit in safe, controlled environments. You won't be wandering around looking for something to do.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW

DART is the public bus system. Taxis and rideshares are available anywhere you need them. Rental cars are abundant too. It's really hit or miss with any of them as far as safety. Your own car gives you control, but car thefts, break-ins, and carjackings are all too common. DART could go through bad parts of town on your route. Taxis and rideshares might be your best option, but you can decide which options are safest for your trip.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK: MEDIUM

This is another medium risk, with several dozen reported each year. With the car break-in rates also considered, it's a town where you should use extra caution to keep valuables out of plain sight. Don't wear your pricey smartwatch here.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM

We have to give this a medium risk, too, as winter storms, nor'easters, and hurricanes are all possible. Flash flooding and extreme temperatures can happen. All the major weather risks come with plenty of warnings, but you have to choose to stay informed.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK: MEDIUM

About 70% of all robberies in 2021 and over the previous five years have been highway robberies, which happen on a street, sidewalk, or parking lot. That's an insanely high number compared to other New England cities. Treat it with medium risk and watch your back. Don't ever resist a robber. It's just not worth risking your life.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK: LOW

You have to worry about international terrorism potential being this close to Philadelphia and domestic terrorism in a place where gun activity is common. While there's nothing you can do to avoid it, you can be a vigilant and astute observer and report any suspicious activity. Homeland Security issues a Terrorism Advisory Bulletin several times a year. That's a great place to start to see the most current concerns.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK: LOW

Delaware sure has a lot of scams. The Delaware Attorney General always posts the top scams on its website. Most of the scams target locals. You'll be more susceptible to panhandlers. Don't ever give them money, and avoid homeless camps or groups of panhandlers on the street. At intersections, don't roll down your window and call 911 if anyone gets aggressive.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW

Female travelers should just use extra caution to not appear as an easy target. Keep your doors locked while driving with the windows rolled up. Get gas during daylight hours in safer parts of town. Go out in groups and stick together. Don't go to private house parties if you don't know people who live there.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK: LOW

In what has to be the most robust Water Quality Report I've ever seen, the City of Wilmington's 2021 publication shows no violations and full compliance. You can read the document to see what risks could be in the water. New reports are required to be out by June of each year.

Safest Places to Visit in Greater Wilmington

Visit Wilmington DE is the name of the tourism website.

The city’s website also has a visitor section with a free travel guide.

Just make sure you don’t end up on the Wilmington, North Carolina, website(s).

You can easily tell the difference because Wilmington, Delaware, has a 302 area code, and Wilmington, NC< has a 910 area code.

If you’ll be spending time downtown, use the DowntownWilmingtonDE.com website to get safety information.

There are some hit-or-miss neighborhoods here, but the riverfront is one of the safer areas.

Safe places to visit in Riverfront are:

  • Delaware Children’s Museum
  • “The Tall Ship of Delaware” Kalmar Nyckel
  • New Sweden Centre & Old Swedes Historic Site
  • Brandywine Tour Boat
  • Tiki Boat Tour
  • Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
  • Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park (learn about the Underground Railroad’s presence here)

There’s really an overwhelming number of things to do.

The historical society can help you with maps and locations for the various mansions and properties still open for tours.

The Delaware History Tour map is a great place to start.

Some of the most impressive options are:

  • Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
  • Rockwood Park & Museum
  • Amstel House Museum
  • Delaware History Museum
  • Dutch House

You can also head 20 miles south to Fort Delaware State Park, home of a Civil War prison.

During the high travel season, this becomes a living museum as if you were back in 1864.

Botanical lovers shouldn’t miss Brandywine Park or the Longwood Gardens, but just about every mansion will have impressive gardens on the grounds.

If you want to get closer to nature, consider the Ashland Nature Center, Brandywine Zoo, Delaware Museum of Nature and Science, or the Peterson Urban Wildlife Refuge.

Several scenic drives go through Wilmington, including Brandywine Valley National Scenic Byway, Delaware’s Bayshore Byway, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, and the Red Clay Valley Scenic Byway.

If you plan to visit the popular Rehoboth Beach on your trip to Delaware, plan for a 93-mile drive.

You can also get to the historic waterfront of New Castle in just 30 minutes.

Places to Avoid in Greater Wilmington

The east and northeast sides of town are known as the most dangerous areas.

At one point, even the organizations that help with community/police relations wouldn’t go into some neighborhoods because of safety risks.

You can use the interactive crime map on the police department’s website to look for areas of top trending crimes.

I would strongly recommend calling or stopping by the police department to ask for hot spots during your visit.

I’ve seen a lot of comments about people from Philadelphia or Baltimore saying, “It’s not that bad,” and by comparison, it’s not.

I’m from St. Louis, the “most dangerous city in America,” and I still would avoid these areas as a tourist.

It’s just not worth the risk.

While you likely won’t find trouble unless you go looking for it, there are enough strangers involved in crimes that it’s worth taking extra steps to avoid neighborhoods where you have no business being the first place.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Greater Wilmington

  1. You should have all the contact information for the police department added to your mobile device before you arrive. The Facebook page is @WilmingtonPolice. The phone number is (302) 576-3940.
  2. Sign up for a Nixle account and follow the activity of the police department and other emergency services. That will help you know what’s happening when you see policy activity, so you don’t have to walk up and say, “What happened?”
  3. If you have any information about a crime that isn’t an emergency, you can anonymously call Delaware Crime Stoppers at 1-800-847-3333. The WPD Tip Hotline is (302) 576-3990, and the Drug Tip Hotline is (302) 888-1800.
  4. Use the interactive Crime Mapping tool on the police department’s website to search for crime near your top hotel choices. For example, you can search for car thefts within a half mile of your hotel over the past month. You might also want to know how many homicides happened within a mile over the past six months.
  5. Use the ParkMobile app to find and pay for metered street parking in Wilmington. This is a much safer way to pay since you can be locked in your own vehicle or add money to the meter remotely.
  6. Nearly 50 intersections in Wilmington had red light cameras. These cameras are focused on drivers who don’t follow the “Right Turn on Red” rules. Some intersections allow you to turn right on red when it can safely be done and after the vehicle has come to a full stop. Others don’t allow it. A ticket will cost you $110, and yes, they can track down rental cars.
  7. Winter visitors should review the Snow Removal Plan from public works. Storms are classified into three categories, and you need to know which roads will be cleared and when, plus any parking restrictions that will accompany that removal plan. You can look at the interactive map of snow plow locations on the city’s website.
  8. If you’re renting a car, avoid getting a Kia or Hyundai if you can. Those are the most targeted in Wilmington, thanks to a social media trend that just keeps happening. A steering wheel lock will cost about $20, but it will pay for itself in peace of mind and theft deterrence.
  9. In April 2023, several incidents happened where a driver was rear-ended, with the goal being for the aggressor to get them out of the car and steal it or carjack the driver. Delaware Police encourage anyone with concerns about this to call 911 after an accident and remain in the car with the doors locked, and windows rolled up until an officer arrives.
  10. Don’t leave your car running while you run into a store or while you wait for it to warm up. Thieves here are waiting for this crime of opportunity. Even if you have a key fob, thieves can still drive the car away. It’s not until they shut the car off that they can’t turn it back on again.

So... How Safe Is Greater Wilmington Really?

It’s a wait-and-see game as of 2022 because the city once dubbed “Murder Town” in the mid-2010s saw signification decreases in violence after a record-setting 2021.

Violent crime was down 18% year-to-year.

Compared to 2016, the decrease for all crimes was 35%.

Homicides were down 58% in 2022, but that’s after a record-setting number of 40 in 2021.

There was a 30% decrease in shooting incidents and a 29% drop in shooting victims.

Most of that violent crime happens between people who know each other or people doing illegal activities, like drug dealing.

Still, in 2021, 28% of violent crimes happened against strangers.

It’s really important to know where the higher-risk neighborhoods are so that you can avoid them.

With an average of seven stolen cars each week, 45% of all thefts being related to car break-ins or accessory thefts, and 24 pickpockets or purse snatchings each year, you have to take extra steps to protect your stuff.

Get a car with an alarm and put a steering wheel lock on it.

Park with your wheels at an angle to make it harder to tow.

The crime rates are going in the right direction, but only time will tell if that’s a fluke or a welcome trend after years of hard work to reduce crime.

How Does Greater Wilmington Compare?

CitySafety Index
Greater Wilmington45
Dallas64
Memphis54
Orlando64
Las Vegas62
San Francisco61
Philadelphia60
Vienna (Austria)88
Hong Kong (China)70
Manama (Bahrain)54
Tianjin (China)67
Brussels (Belgium)60
Shanghai (China)66

Useful Information

Visas

Visas

You'll need a passport that isn't within six months of expiring and a visa or visa waiver. Only certain countries are eligible for visa waivers. Check the U.S. State Department website to see if you live in one of them.

Currency

Currency

The U.S. Dollar is the only currency you can use here, and don't wait until Wilmington to exchange currency if you can. The less cash you have, the better. Don't use public ATMs unless they are inside a bank during daylight hours.

Weather

Weather

Plan for all four seasons and bring comfortable walking shoes. There's nothing special you need to pack for Wilmington but consider the activities you'll be doing. Sunscreen and bug spray are helpful if you'll be outdoors or in the wilderness. A jacket with inside pockets can help conceal small purses and wallets.

Airports

Airports

Wilmington's airport (ILG) has direct routes to several Florida locations. Philadelphia International Airport is just 30 minutes away, but check New England 511 for traffic, as the interstate to the airport gets clogged easily.

Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is a wise investment in a place where winter weather, hurricanes, or nor'easters can easily ruin travel plans.

Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Greater Wilmington Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan 0° C
Feb 2° C
Mar 6° C
Apr 12° C
May 17° C
Jun 22° C
Jul 25° C
Aug 24° C
Sep 20° C
Oct 13° C
Nov 8° C
Dec 3° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
461117222730292518127
Low
°C
-4-316121720191583-2
High
°F
394352637281868477645445
Low
°F
252734435463686659463728

Delaware - Safety by City

CitySafety Index
Bethany Beach81
Delaware City74
Dover47
Fenwick Island79
Greater Wilmington45
Lewes72
New Castle71
Rehoboth Beach68

Where to Next?

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