Washington : Safety by CityUnited States - safety as a country Washington - state review
Can’t decide if you want to go to a place with a shoreline, mountains, or forests?
Why not visit Seattle, Washington, where you can have it all?
Tourists must be okay with traveling on the water if they want to enjoy the full scope of the region, as ferries are almost as common as taxis here.
The Space Needle stands as the city’s focal point and signature asset, with a progressive and eco-responsible population of more than 700,000 people underneath it.
Seattle pays a large amount of respect to the Native Americans that first inhabited this land, with the tourism website even offering this message among all the modern attractions, “The city of Seattle resides on the traditional land of the coast Salish peoples, past and present.
We honor with gratitude our shared land and waterways, as well as the history and heritage of our indigenous neighbors.”
The Emerald City, as Seattle is often referred to, is also home to more than half a dozen Fortune 500 companies.
Travelers might care to know that this is the home of Alaska Airlines, which might offer more international flight opportunities.
Seattle is also a major port for Alaska cruises.
Seattle is also rich in music, art, and performance cultures, one being the grunge capital of America when that style was popular.
I cannot tell you how much I have loved researching safety in Seattle.
This city – more so than any other city of the hundreds I’ve researched – makes data and safety information so easy to find and digest.
When the biggest safety concern in a city is the unknown, Seattle really gets ahead of it in every way possible.
Warnings & Dangers in Seattle
OVERALL RISK: MEDIUM
There's a medium risk in Seattle, yet it's not among the most dangerous cities in America. Since this is a large area with increasing gun violence, it's worth adding a bit of extra caution. That said, there's no reason to reconsider a trip because of the crime rates.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
NOT using a car is very popular in Seattle to reduce emissions, and there's a robust system to get you anywhere you'd like to go. Using the Transit GO Ticket app, you can purchase tickets for ferries, light rails, buses, and streetcars. The Seattle monorail is another popular option that is ideal for tourists as it goes between the more popular parts of the region. Taxis and rideshares are also available. All options come with low risk, but use standard safety procedures when using public transportation.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
Of nearly 27,000 thefts in Seattle in 2021, just 104 of those were pickpockets. I even checked the Port of Seattle data with just 4 pickpockets there. Even while using the transportation system, the biggest safety concern is drug use, not pickpockets. While this is technically a low risk - treat it with a medium risk to keep those numbers low.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: LOW
On the city's Emergency Management page, you can use the Seattle Hazard Explorer interactive map - in English and Spanish - to see the biggest natural disaster risks in the place you'll visit and stay. The potential incidents include earthquakes, tsunamis, liquefaction, landslides, flooding, and even climate change.
MUGGING RISK: MEDIUM
The robbery rate is three times the national average, so treat that with a medium risk. While just 26% of those are in the category most likely to be against tourists, a total of 51% happen in public places and businesses.
TERRORISM RISK: MEDIUM
The port, population, and prominent business and military presence will require us to consider Seattle a medium risk. It's also a socially conscious city known for protests that could trigger acts of extremism. A city document states, "The terrorist threat in Seattle comes from multiple sources. Al Qaeda and related jihadism, the extreme right, and radical environmentalism have been the most frequent causes." A robust emergency management plan is in place should the worst happen, but there's an elevated level of security you'll see on the streets and some that you'll never know are happening behind the scenes.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
I went to local social media pages to get an answer about this, as law enforcement lists the standard scams that impact every city. The overwhelming message is "Don't stop and talk to anyone." Whether it's someone trying to force their latest music CD into your hands, then demanding payment, or a social activist pressuring you to sign a petition, many people are looking to get your attention. Say not and confidently walk away.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
Statistically speaking, women have a 37% chance of being victims of violent crime, making men much more vulnerable. The sexual assault rate is one category below the national average. You'll still need to use caution when enjoying the nightlife or walking around at night, but it's nothing more than basic personal safety steps.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
Seattle Public Utilities has some of the best-tasting and cleanest water in America. The utility also explains on its website why drinking tap water is better than drinking bottled water. The 2021 Water Quality Report backs up these statements with full compliance all federal and local standards. You can call (206)615-0827 if you have water quality questions closer to your visit.
Safest Places to Visit in Seattle
VisitSeattle.org is the official tourism website.
We like to point out the tourism sites backed by visitor and convention bureaus because it means you can feel safe using a secure website with little to no risk of being scammed or getting viruses on your devices.
You can also check out Visit Seattle TV if you prefer to learn about a city through videos instead of reading.
Seattle has 21 neighborhoods to explore, so we’ll be unable to dive deeply into each one here.
We will talk about some of the biggest and safest places to see.
Of course, everyone wants to see the view from the Seattle Space Needle, built in 1962 for the World’s Fair.
Standing more than 600 feet in the sky, you can get some great views on a clear day with an elevator ride up that takes less than a minute.
Smith Tower and the Sky View Observatory at Columbia Center are two other locations with dynamic views.
If you’re traveling with kids, you have some great options to explore indoors.
The Seattle Aquarium is full of sea life from Puget Sound and beyond, plus several performances are put on each day for the crowds.
The Pacific Science Center is an exploration of imagination and innovation, complete with two IMAX theaters and a planetarium.
The Seattle Pinball Museum is another show-stopper for all members of the family.
You can explore the waterways around Seattle through ferry trips to Bainbridge Island or Bremerton or rent a kayak/SUP for chartering your own route.
A 19th-century schooner known as Seattle’s Tall Ship does tours seasonally that gets you a little slice of everything in the Pacific Northwest environment.
Tours are available from the sky on a hot air balloon, floatplane, or helicopter, with different lengths and adventures included in each one.
Food, wine, and nightlife tours are also available, which is a safe way to explore different areas in the comfort of a large group with a local leading the way.
For those of you coming to Seattle for a cruise, the tourism website has a section called “Pre & Post Cruise Activities” you can explore to make the most of your time.
There are communities here with cultural and historical experiences for the first peoples, Asians, Scandinavian, Latino, and African American influences.
A city this rich in culture has far too many to list individually, but each neighborhood and culture is detailed on that tourism website.
Of course, first-timers shouldn’t miss Pike Place Market, where the bounty of the Pacific Northwest is on full display with fresh fish, flowers, and farm-to-table food.
Keep a tight grip on your purse or wallet here, as more than 10 million people visit this market every year.
When you see Rachel the Piggy Bank, get an Instagram shot, but drop some spare change in to help a local charity.
This is also where the original Starbucks is located, but with so many non-corporate coffee shops here, it might be better to try a local shop.
Places to Avoid in Seattle
In the 2021 Seattle Police Department 2021 Crime Report, the city offers a “heat map” of the top spots for gun crime in the city.
Of course, those numbers were escalating in 2022, but it gives a great look at the more violent neighborhoods in the city.
One major hot spot is near the Chinatown International District.
Another hot spot is south of I-90 and east of I-5, with a higher penetration just east of the King County International Airport (not to be confused with SEATAC, the major commercial airport).
In the Sodo neighborhoods, residents expressed the highest fear of crime, according to a Seattle University study in 2022.
The Alki neighborhood saw violent crimes double between 2020 and 2021.
While downtown Seattle is one of the higher crime neighborhoods, it also has more people.
Any downtown area worth visiting will have increased crime rates because there are more things to do there.
Seattle Police want to get ahead of your concerns in different areas by publishing a whole website section called “Visitor Safety Tips.”
Safety Tips for Traveling to Seattle
- One of the first things you should do the day before you arrive in Seattle is sign up for Alert Seattle notifications. You’ll get weather alerts, civil emergency information, road closures, and any other important and disruptive information.
- The Seattle Police and local leaders have a zero-tolerance policy for hate crimes. Look for the rainbow-colored badge with the words “SAFE PLACE” on local businesses to know that the location supports inclusive and diverse communities while also being a place a person can go if they are the victim of a crime. The signs are available in six different languages and are very easy to see.
- The police department offers interactive crime mapping in two categories; calls for service and crime data. You can look for specific types of crime in a certain neighborhood. For example, you might want to know about robberies in a two-mile radius of your hotel in the past month.
- You can get email updates from the Seattle Police Department, which are different than emergency alerts. These emails could involve new safety measures, a speeding crackdown, or a community event.
- Washington has legalized marijuana use, but there are more restrictions than you’ll probably realize. Be sure you comply with the law and don’t use it publicly. You also can’t bring marijuana into the state or country. Review the city and state rules before considering using marijuana in any form.
- When you look at maps of the city as you plot your adventure, be sure to turn on the topography layer. Seattle is a very hilly city, and you could find yourself facing a steep climb to get between locations. If you’re driving during winter weather, you might want to avoid driving. Check out YouTube videos called “Sliding Cars in Seattle Snow” to see just how risky it can be in some neighborhoods.
- Pike Place Fish Market is a great place to visit, but for those with sensory sensitivities, it’s good to know this is a loud place. Especially when the famous “fish throwers” start chucking fish back and forth, hundreds of people can stand and cheer, making it even louder.
- Bring some bags with you to carry around trinkets or if you plan to do some light grocery shopping. The city has banned plastic bags and strongly encourages reusable bags. I have a stash of Home Goods bags I take with me everywhere. They fold nicely into a small space, even a back pocket, but they are nice-sized and sturdy.
- Businesses here can be fined if recycling isn’t done properly, so help them out by sorting your trash into the right bin and asking a store manager for guidance if you aren’t used to extensive recycling. It might be a great habit you take home at the trip’s end!
- Anglers will need a fishing license from the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife. To cover fresh and salt water, get a combination license. That will also cover harvesting shellfish. To catch crab, you’ll need an additional license.
So... How Safe Is Seattle Really?
Seattle saw a surge in crime in 2021, and not based on a 10 or five-year trend.
That was just for the year between 2020 and 2021.
Now some of that is explained away by the COVID restrictions loosening and more people being out.
- Crime overall was up 10%.
- Violent crime was up 20%.
- Property Crime was up 9%.
- Violent crime reached a 14-year high.
- Shootings and gunshots were up 40%.
- Shootings and gun crimes related to homeless people were up 122%.
At face value, that sounds rather intimidating.
However, it’s a surge many cities are seeing in America as drug crimes and illegal guns wreak havoc in some communities.
This is just a sample of the information you can get from the SPD 2021 Crime Report.
All that said, a community survey showed just 43% of people were fearful of crime.
This is based in part to improved community relations between citizens and law enforcement.
“Much of the fear of crime is just a perception of how safe people feel about their environment,” said Jacqueline Helfgott, Director of Seattle University’s Crime & Justice Research Center, “and there’s definitely research to support that the more social cohesion there is for people in a community, the more they feel they have some control over what’s happening to them, and the more that decreases fear of crime.”
Considering all that, the city is still not in the top 100 most dangerous cities in America.
A tourist must use street smarts, common sense, and situational awareness.
With 53% of all thefts related to car break-ins, you can easily reduce your risk by using public transportation or locking your car without leaving personal items inside.
With only 17% of violent crimes happening against strangers, there’s a good chance you won’t notice any of the crime happening aside from an occasional panhandler.
However, 75% of violent crime happens outside of public homes, so if you stay out of dangerous neighborhoods and avoid any tense situation, you should be able to exponentially lower the existing risk.
How Does Seattle Compare?
|Santiago de Chile (Chile)||71|
|Hong Kong (China)||70|
You'll need a U.S. Visa and passport whether you arrive by a cruise ship, cross the border in Canada, or fly to the airport. The Visa process can take several months, and you will have to do an in-person interview at the U.S. Embassy in your country.
The U.S. Dollar is the only currency accepted here. You can exchange cash at the airport or a local bank. Don't use public ATMs, especially at night. Limit cash usage and bring a credit card for purchases. Buying tickets or transportation fares ahead of time will help keep you financially safer since you won't be pulling out your wallet.
It can be rainy and gloomy in Seattle, but if you use an umbrella, you'll stand out as a tourist. People here dress in rain jackets and waterproof shoes, but the rain rarely falls hard enough that you'll need an umbrella. Dress in warm layers but always have waterproof outer layers and a hat to keep your hair from getting messy or wet. Winter storms aren't common here, but check the forecast just in case. For all those hills you'll be walking, bring comfortable shoes.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEATAC) is just 15 minutes from downtown, but that's without traffic. Plan for 30 minutes. The cruise ship terminal is four miles from downtown.
We recommend you purchase travel insurance as soon as you book your flight or cruise. Plan to spend about 5% of the travel costs on insurance and go for the deal that covers your transportation, baggage, and health.
Seattle Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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Washington - Safety by City