Colorado : Safety by City
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It’s hard to imagine that Thornton, Colorado – so close to Denver – was just farmland 75 years ago.
It’s now a city with more than 140,000 people with a suburban feel, but along the busy I-25 corridor for convenience.
Thornton is the typical suburb of America, with plenty of parks, basic shopping amenities – a mall, grocery stores, big box stores – and much quieter than Denver.
Visitors will find the only hotels available along I-25, which is a great way to get around while still keeping the bulk of the community residential.
There’s also a major outlet mall right off the interstate, so you can shop for great deals while enjoying the Denver area.
The city might be robust by the time you get there because hundreds of acres of land are still to be developed.
Since the city is one of the youngest in Colorado, it’s still growing in every aspect.
Thornton is also close to Denver International Airport, which means it’s on the city’s east side.
That also makes it one of the cities farthest away from the climb into the Rocky Mountains just west of Denver.
What Thornton might lack in excitement, it makes up for in safety and convenience.
You’ll also find more community-focused events and local festivals than major tourist attractions.
Warnings & Dangers in Thornton
OVERALL RISK: LOW
There's a low overall risk in Thornton, with a violent crime actually dropping in 2022 by 13% (as of September 2022). Property crime does have some hot spots, but in a highly residential area, that is not surprising.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
The Regional Transportation District, known as RTD, handles public transportation. There's an express route from Denver, through Thornton, up to the north end of the county. You can also take a shuttle to and from the airport. Rental cars are probably the best choice here, but taxis and rideshares are also available.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
There's low risk, with just eight pickpockets reported in 2021. The real problem here is car break-ins and car thefts. We'll dig into that a little later on.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
Thornton gets severe weather risk throughout the year, but when there's not a severe or winter storm pending, the air is dry, and the weather is nice (albeit in the winter.) The biggest risks are severe storms, tornadoes, winter storms, blizzards, ice storms, and extreme temperatures. In a category of its own are wildfires. When a fire is burning in Colorado, it can cause evacuations, flight delays, and air quality concerns.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
The robbery rate is about half the national average and just 16% of those happened on public streets. Be extra vigilant in the shopping areas, especially if you're carrying a lot of bags.
TERRORISM RISK: MEDIUM
Since it's part of the Denver area, which is a major metro center in the United States, there's a medium risk with a lot of security details to keep people safe. Domestic terrorists have been the bigger concern in Denver over the past couple of decades. Thornton itself is not a hard target.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
Residential scams are the worst ones here, so there's a low risk a tourist will face one. The vendors at the outlet mall might make a hard pitch for their products, especially at the kiosks, but just simply say "No, thanks!" and keep walking.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
The sexual assault rate here is two and a half times the national average, but I dug a little deeper into that. While women are 14% more likely than men to be a victim of a violent crime, only 16% of those happened against strangers. Add those pieces of data together, suggesting that the crime against women is usually a domestic matter. I would suggest being vigilant when walking through mall parking lots and not being distracted by headphones or mobile devices.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
The 2021 Annual Water Quality Report shows Thornton's water met or exceeded all required standards and was in full compliance with laws. The one note on this is that in the summer of 2022, the EPA lowered the level of acceptable standards regarding PFAS (the "forever chemical") in the water. Thornton's water was found to have PFAS levels 1,000 times more than the new standards. While this would only be a concern for pregnant or nursing women and children under five, using a water filter can reduce exposure. Thornton is working on an aggressive plan to lower the risk and eliminate PFAS. While this wasn't a water threat, a notice was issued to all residents.
Safest Places to Visit in Thornton
Thornton doesn’t have its own tourism website, but you can find a list of things to do on the city’s website.
There is also a section on Colorado’s official tourism site, Colorado.com, where you can learn more about the city and surrounding neighborhoods.
Denver Premium Outlets is at I-25 and 136th Street, but the shopping center and surrounding stores reach up to 144th Street.
You can explore discount shopping, get an inexpensive meal, or play in the children’s area.
This is also a great place to score the clearance racks if you forgot a piece of winter weather clothing or the temperatures change substantially during your visit.
Alright, that’s it! Thanks for coming.
Watch your step on the way out.
Ok, I’m exaggerating – but not by much.
Since Denver is such a huge area with so many things to do, there will be some areas that aren’t that exciting.
Thornton is, by design, a quieter neighborhood built for a sense of community.
To that end, you want to look for seasonal events like Thorntonfest and Harvest Fest.
The area around the Thornton Community Center is a large park with more than 170 varieties of art to see.
Some designs are wrapped around utility boxes, and other sculptures are spread throughout the park.
You might even be sitting on one of them, as even the benches are works of art!
Pelican Ponds Open Space is on the eastern edge of the city.
This is more than just a park with ponds and trails.
This space is the result of a long legal battle that once endangered the land and people here but ended up helping create green spaces like this throughout the Denver area.
(That’s a very watered-down version of the full story.
If you want to learn more, Google “Rocky Mountain Arsenal Lawsuit.”)
Barr Lake is just up the road to the northeast, with great wildlife viewing.
In fact, if you’re into birding, Thornton is a great place for you.
Yes, Pelican Ponds Open Space DOES have Pelicans.
There is an arts & culture center in Thornton, but as of this publication, it is closed for repairs.
You can call (720)977-5887 to see if it will be open for your visit.
You also have a few choices of golf courses here, with 25 parks in the city.
Is mini golf more your thing?
Head to nearby Northglenn to Boondocks Food & Fun.
It’s a massive entertainment center with arcade games, go-karts, water rides (in warm weather), bowling, and a huge ropes course – even the food looks amazing!
Places to Avoid in Thornton
What will really impress you about Thornton is the people.
It’s a welcoming and friendly community, and neighbors watch out for each other while being civically engaged in activism and volunteering.
Unfortunately, you can’t always assume nice people have good intentions.
Be nice, but don’t offer up too much personal information.
While there are no neighborhoods too dangerous to be in here, you should stick to the main roads and interstate to get around.
With such an engaged community, if you do get lost and sit in your car looking for directions, someone might either approach your car or call the police to see what you’re doing.
There’s a misconception sometimes that Denver and the metro area are full of mountains.
Denver, more importantly – Thorton – is pretty flat.
The mountains are located to the west, and it will take you about 90 minutes or more in traffic to get to Rocky Mountain National Park.
While you’ll get stunning mountain views, you won’t be in a mountain community.
Denver and Boulder are about 30 minutes away in different directions.
Again, this is complete suburbia if you are expecting something more.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Thornton
- The first thing you need to do when visiting Colorado is to sign up for CodeRED alerts. This will get you emergency notifications to your mobile device or email. You won’t miss a weather event, major incident, or road closure.
- T-Alerts are email notifications from the city, which will include community news and local events. You might want to sign up for this a few weeks before your trip to see what’s happening during your visit. The City Voice newspaper is another great resource.
- Thornton also offers 24/7 information or answers to questions through the TextMyGov program. This is especially helpful for those of you in different time zones researching the city. You’ll want to text “Hi” to (303)502-8398. From there, you’ll be able to ask questions.
- While the city isn’t in the mountains, it is at 5,300 feet above sea level, which could cause some altitude sickness. Symptoms should be minor at this elevation, but take a day or two to acclimate before you head into the mountains. You’ll notice even your regular morning run is a bit more challenging with the thinner air.
- You are very close to the airport in Thornton, and that could lead to an abundance of airplane noise. Several cities in Adams County, including Thornton, have been in ongoing legal battles regarding noise ordinance violations. If you have a noise complaint, don’t reach out to the city. The proper way to report a complaint is to call (303)342-2380. That goes right to the airport’s noise complaint hotline.
- For winter visitors, review the chain requirements for driving in the snow. If you are heading to the mountains, you’ll be required to have them from September 1 through May 31. If you don’t, even when the weather is clear, you won’t be able to go into the mountains.
- This is a very bicycle-friendly community, and it is legal here to ride on the sidewalks. That rule could change between different communities, so don’t take that as a Colorado law. It’s just for the city of Thornton. Bicycle safety has improved 40% over the past five years, with 2021 seeing just 15 crashes involving bicycles. When you are using a bike lane, treat all stop lights and stop signs with the same rules as if you were driving a car.
- Thornton has 32 roundabouts, and if these are new to you, please research how to use them before you arrive. When roundabouts are used correctly, the risk of serious accidents goes down dramatically. When not used correctly, you can immediately anger every other driver in the roundabout. There’s a “how to” video on the traffic section of the city’s website.
- If you plan on using RTD, download the RTD Mobile Tickets app. Be sure to look at the unlimited rides one-day pass, and there’s also an option that includes an airport trip in the fee.
- There are a lot of outdoor spaces in Thornton, but keep an eye on the sky. If a tornado watch or thunderstorm watch is issued, stick to local parks or indoor activities. The weather can quickly become intense, and you don’t want to get caught out in the open.
So... How Safe Is Thornton Really?
While it’s not a picture-perfect crime-free Pleasantville, it’s one of the safer areas you can visit.
However, since the hotels are along the interstate, that means there’s a lot of transient traffic.
This raises the risk of random acts of violence from people who don’t live here.
Violent crime isn’t your biggest concern, which is good news.
The bad news is that theft is rampant.
Vehicle thefts are 3.5 times more likely here than the national average – and that information is from 2021!
In May 2022, a car theft task force started up because the problem was getting worse.
If current data holds through the end of the year, Thornton will have seen more than 4,500 car thefts in the year – that’s 12 a day!
On top of that, the overall theft rate is nearly two and a half times the national average, but car break-ins make up 46% of that number!
No matter how safe a city appears to be, always lock your car door.
No matter what.
Don’t leave a car running to warm up unless you are sitting inside it.
Don’t leave windows cracked or personal items in the car.
Take your rental car paperwork with you inside the hotel.
You don’t want a thief to get all that personal information.
A vast percentage of car thefts or break-ins are due to doors being unlocked, windows being rolled down, keys left inside, or cars left running.
While it’s not the most exciting place to visit, it’s definitely among the safer stops on a road trip up or down I-25.
How Does Thornton Compare?
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You'll have to go through Customs at the Denver airport. This will require a U.S. Visa and a Passport. You will need to start the Visa application process several months early and use the U.S. State Department's Visa Wizard module to help determine the right one for your trip. Applying for the wrong Visa will get you rejected, and you'll have to start over.
The U.S. Dollar is the only currency that can be used here. Sticking to one credit card offers better fraud protection and an easy way to check your purchase history. Don't throw away receipts in public trash bins. Take them with you and ask the hotel to shred them.
You'll get all four seasons here, but winter can be brutally cold, so bring lots of warm layers and snow boots. You can get away with t-shirts and jeans in the spring and fall, but grabbing a jacket or hoodie is smart since it can still get cold. Bring the cold weather attire if you're in the mountains anytime from September through May. Don't forget the sunscreen. The elevation here makes the sun's rays more intense, even when it's cold outside.
Denver International Airport is "nearby," but it's still a 22-mile drive. DIA is really far away from Denver, but it's a great airport with plenty of shopping options and easy to navigate. It's a good thing because those Rocky Mountain storms can shut down the airport for days at a time.
Because of those storms and other risks, you should get travel insurance. Protect your travel investment, baggage, and health. You don't want to risk paying out of pocket for a broken leg at the ski resorts because U.S. healthcare is expensive without insurance and emergency room trips are exponentially more expensive.
Thornton Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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Colorado - Safety by City