California : Safety by City
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Welcome to the Heart of the Bay in Hayward, California, given that nickname for being centrally located to all of the big cities in the San Francisco Bay area.
I’m going to get ahead of this topic that you might have questions about regarding Hayward.
There is a fault line named after it.
A big one.
One that runs right through the center of Hayward.
The United States Geological Survey says, “The Hayward Fault is the single most urbanized earthquake fault in the United States.”
There hasn’t been a major quake on this fault line in more than 150 years.
Unfortunately, history shows this fault line has a major quake every 150 years on average.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit, it just means you need to be aware of earthquake safety.
Hayward is home to nearly 163,000 people and is among the more affordable (by Bay Area standards) parts of the region.
One of the other bonuses on this side of the bay is water on the west and mountains on the right with a lot of city stuff to do in between.
There’s just something for everyone in a diverse community that’s growing.
Warnings & Dangers in Hayward
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's low overall risk if you are good at protecting your personal safety and making smart choices. Some of these California cities are tough to grade because, for one person who grew up in a small town, it might feel very unsafe. For people like me who grew up in big cities, it's part of life to have a certain amount of dangerous crime. Know this is a bigger city in a HUGE metropolitan area, and it's going to have certain risks with many rewards.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
If you rent a car while you're here, budget money for parking and time for traffic. You also have Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and AC Transit as public transportation options. There are taxis and rideshares too. All those rides have a low risk, provided you aren't lost in your mobile device while wearing earbuds, going deaf and blind to the crowd around you.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
In the lot of 2850 larcenies, 41 pickpockets or purse snatching don't seem like a lot. You'll have a low risk if you keep cash out of sight, put your wallet in your front pocket, and don't carry around a big, bulky purse.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
We talked about earthquakes earlier, which are just always going to be an ongoing risk here. Tsunamis, flooding, and wildfires are also risks. While not very common, they are still big risks. Due to potential severity, we're going with a medium risk here.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
The robbery rate in Hayward is almost double the national average, and highway robberies totaled 40 of the 253 robbery reports. There's a low risk, but if a mugger does approach you, don't fight back. Don't risk your life for your stuff.
TERRORISM RISK : MEDIUM
The Bay Area in its entirety is a medium risk with a high population, tech giants located there, and a military presence. It is also highly protected, so you can feel a bit more confident knowing that.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
The Hayward Police Department lists a bunch of scams people should be aware of, but none of them target a tourist. They are all focused on scams against locals. There's a low risk.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
The crime numbers are pretty consistent across genders, so there's no overwhelming fear a female traveler should have. This isn't a place where you should be in a strange neighborhood at night or be walking around alone after dark, so if you follow that guidance you'll have a low risk here.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The utility company is in full compliance with tap water and there's a low risk of using it. California is in a drought and water conservation is just as important as water quality.
Safest Places to Visit in Hayward
Hayward has plenty of outdoor options and beautiful year-round weather, so let’s start there.
Explore the Hayward Regional Shoreline where the salt marshes once harvested for salt production are now in their natural state.
There’s an interpretive center on-site for hands-on exploring.
There’s a five-mile trail right along the water for morning runs or afternoon walks.
Five Canyons Open Space is a great way to explore several of the natural areas west of Hayward, which you can do on foot, bike, or horse.
You’ll see nearby cattle grazing the land and enjoy scenic rolling hills as far as the eye can see.
While you’re on that side of town, visit the Hayward Japanese Gardens.
The traditional art of a Japanese garden is more intricate than it might appear at first glance, so it really takes time to notice the specific details here.
Southland Mall is a good place to go shopping if you’re looking for a traditional American shopping mall experience.
Downtown Hayward has some shopping and dining options as well, but the real attraction is the mural art that started as a graffiti deterrent but has turned into a point of interest.
Buildings, schools, utility boxes, and even overpasses are decorated with unique work by Hayward artists.
There are 200.
Could you find them all?
Places to Avoid in Hayward
If you are going to find all the murals, do it with a map of the locations during the daytime.
This isn’t a city where driving around haphazardly at night is a good idea.
Stay on main roads, in well-lit areas, and bonus if you see surveillance cameras at the businesses you are visiting.
Crime maps show the incidents are spread pretty evenly throughout the city, with a noticeable increase along Mission Boulevard.
There isn’t that 100% safe part of town to visit, and there isn’t that “you’ll get hurt if you go there” part either.
It’s a tough city, yes, but it’s not a crime-ridden one.
California drivers can be especially aggressive and you don’t want to go flipping the bird or shouting through your window at a driver here.
Avoid any confrontation about driving.
Avoiding being in a rush is a good idea too.
There is a lot of traffic in Hayward any time of day since it’s so centrally located.
San Jose, San Francisco, the Silicon Valley, and the far inland East Bay are all just about 45 minutes away.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Hayward
- As with most bigger cities, there’s a drug problem in Hayward. If you see any signs of illegal activity, call 510.293.7047 or email HaywardPDNarcs@hayward-ca.gov. Your information will be anonymous.
- Study up on earthquake safety before you go. The fire department has a great list of FAQ’s so it’s not heavy reading, and there are things you should do differently if you are inside or outside when an earthquake hits.
- You should also know the difference between a “big one” and just a tremor. I say “just a tremor” because people who are in the San Francisco Bay Area are just used to a little rumbling here or there. I was once in Northern Nevada, which is also prone to tremors, and I was sitting at a light near the airport in my car that was old. It started shaking and I first looked to see if there was a big plane landing, and then I thought my engine was about to go out, but the light turned green, the car started, the rumbling was over and I went home. It wasn’t until I turned on the news to see “Minor Quake Rocks Reno” that I was like “Dang, that was an earthquake!” They can be devastating but mostly are over before you even realize what happened.
- There are times when PG&E, the utility company, turns off the power in what’s called a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS). This is done to mitigate wildfire risks or damage in advance of a windy storm or during extreme weather. The power could be off for days, so bring portable charges. This is another thing that people in the area are used to, but it can catch a tourist off guard.
- To be informed of all the emergencies that can happen in Hayward, sign up for AC Alerts. You’ll get weather and civil emergency information on your mobile device.
- Before you visit, check out the crime maps on the Hayward Police Department website. I can provide you with official data from 2010-2020, but the most accurate, specific safety information will come from the crimes happening before your visit.
- If you’re going hiking in one of the many outdoor areas, watch out for some natural hazards. There’s poison oak, which can cause a nasty itch on your skin. Also, do a full body check after a hike for ticks. If you have any of them on you, remove them by the head immediately. You are less likely to encounter both if you stay on the designated paths and keep your hands to yourself.
- Cattle don’t have to follow the trails, and they might come across your path seemingly out of nowhere. If you encounter these large animals, don’t aggravate them or approach them aggressively. You don’t want to be the person who got ambushed by a cow on vacation. Never walk between a cow and its calf either.
- For a visit to the shoreline, use your hands at the interpretive center, but other than that, leave the wildlife alone. Don’t feed the many birds that fly around the salt lands. It’s dangerous for you and them.
- More than 3500 car thefts were reported in Hayward in 2020. If that’s not a great reminder to lock up your car doors and keep valuables hidden, I don’t know what will be.
So... How Safe Is Hayward Really?
When I respond to this question, it generally comes after researching all the crime statistics from the past decade and then researching hundreds of threads on social media.
That generally helps me get a great picture.
Hayward is a mixed bag.
It’s one of those cities where most people are considering moving to get away from the high cost of living on the other side of the bay.
It’s also one of those cities where those same people want to know “is it really as dangerous as I’ve heard?”
There’s a caste system among residents in this region.
It starts with San Francisco’s elitists who can’t fathom living anywhere else, and it trickles down to the Silicon Valley neighbors and then seeps into San Jose and the East Bay region.
People go to East Bay cities like Hayward to get a bigger house for less money.
They brave long daily commutes so they can live in something larger than a closet.
Some of the elite might not think much of the East Bay, but the people who live there generally love it, and anyone who doesn’t quickly goes back over the bridge.
When you’re searching for answers, look for real estate videos on YouTube.
The agents are pretty transparent about the pros and cons of an area that is great for tourists to learn.
In that spirit, here are my pros and cons for Hayward:
- Central location to anywhere you want to go
- Many hotel options right off the major highways
- Plentiful public transportation
- Traffic. It’s bad. All the time.
- Larceny and robbery rates are above the national average.
- For a larger city, there really aren’t a whole lot of tourist attractions if you aren’t an outdoorsy person.
How Does Hayward Compare?
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- Visas - If you've gotten through customs, your Visa is good here and you don't need any other identification.
- Currency - The U.S. Dollar is the currency of the region. Credit cards are widely accepted and the safest form of payment for fraud issues. You don't need to carry cash here.
- Weather - There might be winter months here, but there's no winter. The coldest temperatures still come close to 60°(F) for the high and the lows are in the 40s. In spring, summer, and fall you'll see gradual warm-ups to a peak in September of 76°(F). Lows get into the 50s, even in the warmer months. It's always good to pack layers of clothes. You might start the day in a sweatshirt, then just a t-shirt, but put the sweatshirt back on at night.
- Airports - Oakland International Airport is 12 miles away. That's your closest option. San Francisco International is 24 miles across the bay. San Jose's airport is 26 miles south. These are all good options if you find a better airfare at one or the other.
- Travel Insurance - There are plenty of weather and environmental issues that could risk delays or cancellations, so getting travel insurance is a wise idea for a trip to Hayward, California.
Hayward Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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