Is Sturgis Safe? Crime Rates & Safety Report

Updated On April 16, 2024
Sturgis, United States
Safety Index:
80
* Based on Research & Crime Data

Sturgis sits at the edge of South Dakota’s Black Hills and is renowned as the host of the legendary Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

The town was first settled in the late 1870s during the Black Hills Gold Rush.

Sturgis quickly grew into a vibrant community, attracting settlers, miners, and entrepreneurs.

The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, now an iconic event, had humble beginnings.

In 1938, the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club organized the first rally, drawing just a handful of participants.

Over the decades, the rally steadily gained momentum, evolving into the world’s largest motorcycle gathering, attracting an average of 500,000 riders from around the globe.

Visiting Sturgis during the rally is a sensory overload of roaring engines, live music, and camaraderie.

Motorcycle enthusiasts descend upon the town, transforming its streets into a vibrant spectacle of chrome and leather.

This does impact all the communities of the Black Hills, as the 70-mile loop covers the best scenic views offered.

Sturgis isn’t JUST about motorcycles, as it’s a four-season destination.

Outdoor enthusiasts love the surrounding Black Hills, offering endless opportunities for adventure, from scenic rides through winding mountain roads to exploring iconic landmarks like Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial.

In full transparency, Hill City is the most central location to all the national parks and the national forest, while Deadwood is much more vibrant in the Old West lifestyle (though some would call it a tourist trap).

We have compiled safety articles on all the major Black Hills communities so you can choose the one that suits you.

Now, let’s rev our engines and take a ride through the safety of Sturgis.

Warnings & Dangers in Sturgis

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK: LOW

There's a low risk in Sturgis, but not a lot to do if you're not here for the motorcycle rally.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW

If you see a listing for the Sturgis "Da Bus," it's only for the motorcycle rally. You can look at the Prairie Hills Transit website to see if that suits your needs. Rideshares are now legal to operate in Sturgis as of 2024. Taxis are available, too, but a rental car offers the most flexibility. Whatever you do, don't drink and drive, as cops here are relentless in taking drunk drivers off the road.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW

Only two pickpockets have happened in the past five years, which is a low risk in an almost odd-defying way. Be protective of your stuff and only carry what you need.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: LOW

Severe weather risks here run the gamut, from tornadoes to wildfires to debilitating winter storms. You can read the emergency planning and safety advice on the city or county website and always have a way to receive emergency alerts. I've got a suggestion a little later on.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK: LOW

Only about one robbery happens each year here, so this is another low-risk. Just don't let that allow you to put your guard down.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK: LOW

This is another low risk, as a small town in the middle of a remote region. If you see suspicious activity, especially during the rally, please don't intervene. Just report it to the local police.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK: LOW

Those visiting during the rally need to watch out for home rental scams. Other reports of fraud are pretty run-of-the-mill, like utility scams or someone posting as a fundraising firefighter. The risk is low if you know the common signs of a scam, and that information is available on the city's website.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW

While the violent crimes here aren't that prolific, it's worth noting that women were the victims in 68% of cases in 2022. I would use extra caution if you're visiting during the rally, and don't go to the bars alone. This is a wonderful town, but it can also be a little rough for first-time visitors who aren't familiar with motorcycle culture.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK: LOW

It's great to see how many cities have received the Secretary’s Award for Drinking Water Excellence from the South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Sturgis is one of them, with nearly 20 years of ongoing safe public water.

Safest Places to Visit in Sturgis

You can use the Sturgis Chamber of Commerce, Travel South Dakota, or Black Hills Badlands websites to get more information through official tourism sites.

There are plenty of third-party websites, but those above are the “official” options.

Downtown Sturgis is off of Main Street, with a fairly traditional type of architecture you’d expect in a small town.

By comparison, Sturgis isn’t as preserved and touristy as places like Deadwood.

One of the biggest draws downtown is the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame, which showcases vintage bikes, memorabilia, and stories of legendary riders.

Another option for car lovers is the SAAB Museum, which is open seasonally with dozens of specialty cars on display.

Situated just a few miles northeast of Sturgis, the Fort Meade Recreation Area spans over 29,000 acres of picturesque landscape.

The area was once part of Fort Meade, a U.S. Army cavalry post established in the late 19th century.

The recreation area has fishing, hiking, camping, and picnic areas.

Next door, the Old Fort Meade Museum is open seasonally, from mid-May through mid-December.

Bear Butte State Park is just outside Sturgis.

This sacred site holds spiritual significance for Native American tribes, and visitors should be respectful of any ceremonies or worshipers on the mountain during their visit.

Hiking trails offer stunning views of the surrounding plains and the iconic Bear Butte formation, made of igneous rock.

I do recommend taking time to visit Deadwood, with more things to see and do, especially since Sturgis is heavily focused on motorcycle fans.

Sturgis has some of the most famous biker bars, but they are limited to those 21 and up.

Places to Avoid in Sturgis

Sturgis isn’t an unsafe town, and you don’t need to avoid various neighborhoods or worry about the “bad” part of town.

However, when the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally comes to town, the atmosphere changes.

I certainly don’t want to offend any honest-to-goodness motorcycle lovers who come here for camaraderie and good times with epic rides, but there are some dangerous people in that group.

Motorcycle gangs, drug dealers, and criminals can be mixed in with the large crowds.

A simple Google search will show many results of shootings or other dangerous situations at the rally.

This likely won’t be the most family-friendly time to visit Sturgis, and the event runs for 10 days in late August.

I will caution you that when doing research for your trip, the city of Sturgis and the motorcycle rally get easily confused in the search engines.

Since they are both referred to as “Sturgis,” you want to ensure you’re looking at the right information.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Sturgis

  1. Sturgis has a local police department. Follow them on Facebook @sturgispolicedept or call (605) 347-5070 with specific safety questions.
  2. Outside the city limits, Mead County Sheriff’s Office is in charge of law enforcement. They have a Facebook page @meadecountysheriffsoffice and the phone number is (605) 347-2681.
  3. Since several highways intersect in Sturgis, including I-90, you also want to follow the South Dakota Department of Public Safety (@SDPublicSafety) and South Dakota Highway Patrol (@SDHighwayPatrol).
  4. Sturgis uses the CodeRED system to send out emergency alerts, and it’s easy and free to sign up. You will get information about severe weather, road closures, and public safety threats immediately. Dial 211 at any time if you have questions about an emergency situation.
  5. The police department has a list of crime statistics from the most recent year, plus a separate list of incidents during the rally. You can review this to see what safety concerns are most prominent.
  6. Those wanting to go fishing or hunting need a license from the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks. Please carry that license with you while taking part in the activity, as you can be asked to show proof at any time.
  7. During the motorcycle rally, driving can be somewhat dangerous, especially if you aren’t paying attention. Despite the fact that speed limits are lowered and new stoplights are installed, nearly a dozen people died in 2023. Some of those accidents involved passenger vehicles.
  8. In addition to the risks of motorcycles en masse, about a dozen drivers were busted for DUI and 40 drug arrests were made each day of the rally. With the drug epidemic in the U.S., please do not take drugs or use drugs, especially with the risk of a lethal dose of fentanyl inside.
  9. You can check road conditions, real-time traffic, and weather reports through the South Dakota 511 website or app. It’s especially important if you’ll be traveling to locations further away, like the forest or national parks.
  10. This area is filled with deer, and the animals are known to jump out across roads quickly, causing accidents and even deaths. Stick to the speed limit and keep an eye on the side of the road. Deer are especially active during the fall rut.

So... How Safe Is Sturgis Really?

Sturgis has a violent crime rate 17% higher than the state average and 11% higher than the national average.

However, that data is determined by raw crime data into a formula that matches “per 100,000 people.”

Those people are residents, and crime data doesn’t account for the 500,000 people who attend the motorcycle rally and the millions more who visit the region.

As more comforting statistics, just 17% of violent crimes happened against strangers in the past five years, and 66% happened in private homes between people who know each other.

Theft rates per 100,000 people rank 13% higher than the national average but are nearly inconsequential when you figure in the millions of tourists.

The raw number shows about two thefts a week.

More than half of those thefts are in the “Other Thefts” category, meaning things from yards, construction supplies, or other thefts that don’t fit into a predetermined category, like car break-ins.

Speaking of which, 20% of thefts were car break-ins over the past five years, which is about 10% lower than the national average.

I would recommend that anyone visiting during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally does some research on the number of deaths, crimes, and drug busts that happen during the 10-day event.

Crime rates soar and make up for the bulk of annual crime in the region.

You need your best safety skills when walking, driving, or enjoying the attractions, but you should do that in any tourist town.

How Does Sturgis Compare?

CitySafety Index
Sturgis80
Boston67
Washington DC56
New York City67
Detroit56
San Diego67
Miami55
Buenos Aires (Argentina)60
Vancouver (Canada)82
Cordoba (Argentina)61
Toronto (Canada)81
Melbourne (Australia)80
Montreal (Canada)81

Useful Information

Visas

Visas

All visitors from outside the U.S. need a visa or visa waiver. Only certain people will qualify for the waiver, but you can check your eligibility on the U.S. State Department website.

Currency

Currency

The U.S. Dollar is the only currency accepted here, and most places accept credit cards. Check with your bank to see if there's a foreign transaction fee for your purchases. Getting currency exchanged can be done at an ATM, but your home bank will offer the best value.

Weather

Weather

Sturgis has cold winters, but there's not a month when the temperatures stay below freezing. However, wind chills and snow storms can make it bitterly cold. Plan ahead by packing lawyers. Winters will be hot, with highs near 90°F. Pack casual, comfortable clothing, with well-worn walking shoes and hiking boots, plus bring bug spray and sunscreen.

Airports

Airports

Rapid City Regional Airport (RAP) is 35 miles away, and while it's not the largest airport, it's the best option from the Black Hills.

Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance goes into effect as soon as you purchase it, so get it early in case of a last-minute cancelation or emergency at your end. Look for plans that cover weather delays, cancelations, health issues and rental cars. If you don't have car insurance, you can buy it when you rent the car.

Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Sturgis Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan -4° C
Feb -3° C
Mar 3° C
Apr 8° C
May 13° C
Jun 19° C
Jul 23° C
Aug 22° C
Sep 17° C
Oct 10° C
Nov 2° C
Dec -3° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
3491520263130251784
Low
°C
-10-9-41612151492-4-9
High
°F
373948596879888677634639
Low
°F
141625344354595748362516

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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