Is Rapid City Safe? Crime Rates & Safety Report

Updated On April 8, 2024
Rapid City, United States
Safety Index:
57
* Based on Research & Crime Data

Rapid City, South Dakota, is often referred to as the “Gateway to the Black Hills” and is known as the “City of Presidents.”

Both of those nicknames are likely what brought you to this article in the first place.

Indigenous tribes lived on this land long before settlers arrived.

Formally established in 1876 during the Black Hills Gold Rush, the city grew rapidly as prospectors and settlers flocked to the area in search of fortune and opportunity.

Today, it’s the appeal of the city closest to a slew of outdoor attractions, as it’s perched on the foothills of the Black Hills, that brings in more than five million visitors annually.

One of the city’s most notable attractions is the “City of Presidents” project, which features life-size bronze statues of every past U.S. president placed along the streets of downtown Rapid City.

That’s just the appetizer for Mount Rushmore National Memorial, one of the most famous landmarks in the country.

The memorial features the faces of four U.S. presidents—George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln—carved into the granite face of the mountain, symbolizing the nation’s growth, development, and ideals.

The city’s name comes from Rapid Creek, which flows through the center of town.

While it’s not impressive on its own, you’ll notice a series of rapids along its path that led to the natives calling it Rapid Creek.

While smaller communities fill gaps in the public lands nearby, Rapid City is the focal point for entertainment and attractions across this entire section of the state.

It’s the second largest in South Dakota, yet still an urban island among this relatively unpopulated region of the United States.

Warnings & Dangers in Rapid City

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK: MEDIUM

There's a medium risk in Rapid City, but I'd be much more worried about that if you were moving here than just visiting. An abundance of things to do in safe places mixed with a specific area where crime mostly occurs makes this a place where you might not even notice the crime.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW

Check out Rapid City Transit to see if that fits your needs. My only advice would be to avoid a route that takes you through the north side of town. Taxis, rideshares, and rental cars will be plentiful. All risks are low, provided you use basic safety practices.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW

Despite an incredibly high theft rate, pickpockets and purse snatchings average about 1-2 a year, with none reported in 2021 or 2022. There's a much higher risk of your car being broken into.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM

This is a medium risk and I strongly recommend you review the Pennington County Emergency Management website section. The site details the specific risks in an easy-to-read format. Threats range from spring tornadoes to summer wildfires to intense winter storms.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK: LOW

The robbery rate is about 10% higher than the national average, with about one in five being a highway robbery. Most crimes here tie back to gang or drug activity, meaning your risk is lowered if you aren't involved in those activities. At the same time, drug users and gang members can be unpredictable, so it's wise to keep your guard up, especially downtown after dark.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK: LOW

The Ellsworth Air Force Base to the east and Mount Rushmore to the southwest is going to put this city at medium risk. However, you should find comfort in knowing that extra security and a strong military presence negate much of that risk.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK: LOW

I would definitely check the latest scam reports through the city, police, and local Better Business Bureau. While there aren't high-profile tourist scams, it will help to know what types of scams are trending. Also, don't look for deals that are too good to be true. For example, you can only buy a national park pass through the park service or at approved vendors.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: MEDIUM

Women will have the same medium risk as anyone else, and avoid the northern part of town. You don't need to let that risk worry you, as the places most commonly visited by families, couples, and solo travelers are far away from any high-risk areas.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK: LOW

Not only is the water here safe at low risk, but Rapid City has also been given the South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources Secretary's Award for Drinking Water Excellence.

Safest Places to Visit in Rapid City

VisitRapidCity.com is the tourism website for the city and surrounding attractions.

You can also use the Travel South Dakota website to see different regions of the state.

When it comes to seeing the natural wonders near Rapid City, it helps to know which entity oversees them.

For example, the National Park Service (nps.gov) is in charge of Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park, Wind Cave National Park, and Jewel Cave National Monument.

The U.S. Forest Service oversees Black Hills National Forest, which is a separate entity from the National Park Service.

TRAVEL TIP: Invest in the America the Beautiful interagency pass.

This will get you and a passenger carload of people onto all federal lands with a one-time fee of $80.

It covers more than 2,000 locations for a full year.

Custer State Park is under the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish & Parks.

That holds for the Recreation Areas down by Angostura Reservoir.

The Crazy Horse Memorial is privately owned land and has its own website, crazyhorsememorial.org.

Downtown Rapid City is a mix of history, art, cuisine, and nightlife.

You can learn more at downtownrapidcity.org.

A walking guide map and audio tour app are available to help you find the best places to explore that fit your interests.

The Journey Museum is a fascinating Rapid City museum and heritage center that covers three billion years.

From dinosaurs to Indigenous tribes to settlers and even to space exploration, there is truly something here for everyone.

If you’re here for a convention, the museum is right next door to the Monument (convention center).

The Heritage Center showcases the work of local Native American artists.

Everything from paintings, textiles, pottery, sculptures and so much more honor the Lakota traditions.

More than 10,000 pieces of art have been collected, and it’s growing every year.

Dinosaur Park is a seasonal attraction on a sandstone ridge near the Black Hills.

You can learn more about the dinosaurs that roamed this area thousands of years ago.

Right next door is Skyline Wilderness Area Park, which is a public park with trails for hiking and mountain biking trails, and the perfect spot for sunrise or sunset views.

One of the trails leads to a petrified forest.

Places to Avoid in Rapid City

The main part of town to avoid is the north side, specifically near Knollwood Drive and Maple Street.

This is a part of the city where several large apartment complexes and townhomes meet.

“That area of town is our primary hotspot.

Just Sage Place apartments alone, over the last three years, had 157 violent instances.

Most other apartment complexes of similar size average about 43.

So you’re looking at a huge discrepancy there,” Rapid City Police Chief Don Hedrick said in early 2023.

“Many folks engaged in violence are using methamphetamine or dealing it or have it with them, along with guns, which is a very concerning issue.”

“Very unique situation.

Three large apartment complexes right next to each other share a lot of friends, family and, unfortunately, a lot of crime issues.

The last few years, unfortunately, have just been a struggle,” Lt. Darren Soucy of Rapid City Police Department added.

The drug/gang/homeless issues can also spill into the nearby areas, including downtown.

The best thing you can do is stay aware of your surroundings and avoid interacting with anyone you don’t know outside of tourism-related activities.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Rapid City

  1. Rapid City has a local police department. You can follow them on Facebook @RapidCityPD. Call (605) 394-4131 if you have specific safety questions.
  2. The police department offers an interactive crime map on its website. This tool is so helpful since you can search for the types of crime in specific areas and timeframes. For example, you might want to know how many thefts happened within a mile of your hotel in the past 30 days.
  3. You can also help submit crime tips without having to go to the police station. Use the Tip 411 app or text ‘RCPD’ and your tip to 847411.
  4. Rapid City and Pennington County use the Everbridge program to send out emergency alerts. You can sign up online and choose if you want phone calls, text messages or emails. The service is free, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
  5. Winter visitors can take that a step further. Look for the “Public Impact and Snow Text Alerts” section of the Pennington County website. You can choose which types of snow alerts you would like to get (interstate closures/travel ban advisories/parking bans, etc.) The Impact Messages can also be used year-round for wildfires, major road closures/auto accidents, and other public safety threats.
  6. Use SD DOR (sd511.org) to check road and highway conditions throughout the region. You’ll be able to see live cameras, get real-time traffic, see construction zones, and search for alternate routes. Set up an account, and you can customize route alerts for your trip.
  7. Find an app you like for air quality (I use IQ Air) to check the status each day, as Rapid City is known for poor air quality fueled by dust. Also, use caution on high wind days, as dust and allergens will increase.
  8. Also, regarding the wind, read all weather alerts to see if travel is safe on interstates. High winds can make driving treacherous for you or high-profile vehicles you share the road with. I live in Nebraska and am actually writing this on a day when we have sustained winds around 40mph with gusts up to 70mph.
  9. The extreme temperatures here, combined with freeze/thaw cycles, can do damage to the roads. Save the number (605)394-4152 to report potholes or dangerous road sections if you see them. Don’t assume someone else has reported it.
  10. Any hunting or fishing in South Dakota requires a license from the State Department of Game, Fish, and Parks. Be sure to get a nonresident license. There’s a special license for those under 18 years of age.

So... How Safe Is Rapid City Really?

As a whole, Rapid City doesn’t look safe at first blush.

Violent crime is twice as high as the state average and 90% higher than the national average.

About one in five of the violent crimes happens against a stranger, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a tourist.

A lot of the crimes can be connected back to the north side.

I would, by and large, avoid that area.

Theft is 148% higher than the national average, and 18% is car break-ins.

About nine cars are stolen each week, on average.

You can reduce that risk by locking your car, taking the keys with you, and removing personal items from inside.

One of the signals of the violent nature in parts of the community includes attacks against police officers.

Olivia Siglin, a deputy state’s attorney and liaison for law enforcement in Pennington County, addressed this concern in 2023.

“The South Dakota attorney general’s office releases crime statistics each year, which show that police in Rapid City and Pennington County are assaulted at a much higher rate than in any other jurisdiction in South Dakota.”

There’s also the fact that when you’re looking at crime statistics, notice how many calls for service there are.

Local police departments across America deal with staffing shortages, which means fewer officers to make arrests.

When staffing improves, the arrest rates can go up.

Overall, treat Rapid City as you would in any big city that’s known for higher crime rates.

The south and west sides of the city are safer while being closer to the Black Hills and other attractions.

Just use common sense and stay out of the north side.

How Does Rapid City Compare?

CitySafety Index
Rapid City57
Oakland57
New Orleans57
Baltimore56
Boston67
Washington DC56
New York City67
Phnom Penh (Cambodia)61
Niagara Falls (Canada)87
Calgary (Canada)82
Buenos Aires (Argentina)60
Vancouver (Canada)82
Cordoba (Argentina)61

Useful Information

Visas

Visas

A visa or visa waiver is required for all international travelers, paired with a passport that isn't within six months of expiring.

Currency

Currency

The U.S. Dollar is the only currency accepted. With limited options to exchange foreign currency, you might opt to do that at your home bank before your trip. Credit cards are widely accepted. Be sure to see if you'll get charged a foreign transaction fee.

Weather

Weather

Pack for cold winters and warm summers, with the season in between requiring various layers since weather can fluctuate often. Wear comfortable shoes and bring bug spray when it's warm outside.

Airports

Airports

Rapid City Regional Airport is on the southeastern outskirts of town, just about 10 miles from downtown. That's the best option in the region, and any other airport will require a long drive. For example, the Denver Airport is six hours south.

Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance

We recommend comprehensive travel insurance to cover all the potential risks and offer maximum benefits.

Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Rapid City Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan -3° C
Feb -3° C
Mar 2° C
Apr 7° C
May 13° C
Jun 19° C
Jul 24° C
Aug 23° C
Sep 17° C
Oct 10° C
Nov 3° C
Dec -3° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
3381318253029231593
Low
°C
-9-8-417131716114-3-8
High
°F
373746556477868473594837
Low
°F
161825344555636152392718

South Dakota - Safety by City

CitySafety Index
Brookings80
Deadwood80
Hill City83
Mitchell81
North Sioux City70
Pierre81
Rapid City57
Sioux Falls76
Spearfish80
Sturgis80

Where to Next?

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