California : Safety by City
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I’m going to tell you about Vallejo, California, on one condition — you have to forget anything negative you’ve heard about it.
This city straddles the east side of San Francisco Bay and has a long-standing reputation for being “so dangerous.”
That might be true, it might not be, but let’s explore the facts before we rely on hearsay.
Vallejo (pronounced: Vuh-LAY-oh) is a place locals go to escape the high housing prices of the Bay area and the hours spent commuting by car.
It was once the largest city in California to file for bankruptcy (it has since come out of bankruptcy).
True Crime junkies might remember the Zodiac Killer had several victims from this area as he terrorized Northern California.
It’s home to a Six Flags Theme Park, Mare Island (which is a former Naval Base redesigned for locals), and many outdoor attractions for hiking and fishing.
You’re also just 40 minutes from Napa.
Vallejo also loves to celebrate heritage and it shows through a variety of festivals throughout the year, so definitely check if there’s a festival happening during your visit.
Warnings & Dangers in Vallejo
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk here for a variety of factors we'll explore in this article. The crime rates are high, and after years of dipping, they popped back up in 2020 in some key areas.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
I'm going to say this first because it seemed like the biggest deal during my research. There is no Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station here. You can get to it using the Solano Express bus system. It also goes to Sacramento. There's also Soltrans, which will get you between Fairfield and Richmond. You can also ditch the car and take the San Francisco Bay Ferry to the city if you'd like, and there's even alcohol available on board. It saves an hour of sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, right? There's low risk with any option you take here, with the caveat of being low risk when you are on the transportation method. Waiting at the stops can get a little dicey, so always have your head on a swivel while waiting. Don't get buried in your smartphone with your briefcase on the ground.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM
Of all the crime categories that are going up, larceny/theft is the one that took a dip. There were 20 reports in 2020, but since it's a pandemic year, I went back to 2019. 43 pickpockets or purse snatching that year. The lower theft rate is the good news. The bad news is the violent crime rate is high. More to come on that. Either way, it's a medium risk, more for the potential than staggering high numbers.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Here are the risks listed on the Solano County Emergency Management website: Earthquake, Wildfire, Flood, Power Outage, Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS), Extreme Heat, and Air Quality. So..... medium risk for sure.
MUGGING RISK : MEDIUM
Robbery rates have dropped 32% in the past decade. 25% of the robberies in 2020 were "highway robberies", which are the most likely to impact travelers. While the numbers tell me to give it a low risk, there's another issue to be discussed shortly that will make you understand why it's medium risk.
TERRORISM RISK : MEDIUM
This is a large metro area, home to some of the best tech companies in the world, and the best military brains we have. Terrorists would love to strike San Francisco. There's a medium risk, but a lot of security planning to keep it safe.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
There are no outstanding scam concerns reported right now, and even the police department just links to an FBI website with common nationwide scams, so let's give this a low risk.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM
The rape percentages here are 41% higher than the national average and have been going up since 2017. While there's a one in 940 risks of being a victim, the increasing numbers, violent crime rate, and gang activity here make us give extra caution with a medium risk rating.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
Finally, a low-risk rating. The water here meets or exceeds all required levels from the state and EPA.
Safest Places to Visit in Vallejo
Military members and their families, or even military fans, will love the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum and the Mare Island Museum.
You’ll also get great views of the water.
This is also one of the lowest crime areas in the city.
The kids will love Children’s Wonderland, where they cross a moat and enter a castle into a world of fun.
There you can play like royalty all day and even ride in a Pumpkin Carriage.
Thrillseekers will want to check out Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and either ride the Dare Devil Chaos Coaster or stay on the ground with me at the Animal Nursery.
There are a handful of golf courses for those who want to get in 18 holes, and anglers can head to Mare Island Strait and catch some striped bass or white sturgeon.
The closest city to the wine country is Napa, which is 15 miles north.
Placess to Avoid in Vallejo
Here’s one Redditor’s response to this topic:
“But in all honesty, I would not say that there are any “good” areas in Vallejo.
This is due to the ghetto population, homeless problems, and the excessive amounts of street crime, gangs, etc. which pretty much affect all areas to various degrees.”
Then there’s this take, “I love living in Vallejo, sure it has crimes, but my experience overall is pretty good.
People will test you though, especially if you look like they can take you.”
I want to touch on that last comment for a minute because this seems to be a common thread in posts about Vallejo.
There’s an overriding sense of “if you go looking for trouble, you’ll find it” here and this isn’t the town to play “tough” with others.
This is a town with heavy gang activity weaved in for decades, no “tough-talking tourist” is going to change anything.
Neighborhoods that are littered with graffiti should be avoided, as that’s a clear sign of gang activity, especially if you see the number 13 spraypainted on buildings or meet people with 13s tattooed on them.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Vallejo
- I recommend you read the four pillars in their entirety before deciding if Vallejo is right for you. The Vallejo Police Department has started a project called Operation PEACE. It shows the many ways the community can work with police to help with crime and additional steps the department is taking to keep the area safe.
- While you’re there, check out the crime map. It’s a more updated data source of crime numbers than the 2020 statistics reported to the FBI, which as of this writing is the most available information. You can check out crime trends closer to the time of your visit and in the neighborhood where you’re staying.
- Just be prepared to add about 30 minutes to any trip you make on the interstate. Many complaints flood social media about the traffic on I-80. This complaint resonated in Fairfield as well. It’s a major artery to get into the Bay area and traffic is just bumper to bumper unless you go early in the morning or late at night.
- You can file a police report right on the Vallejo PD website. This is for non-emergency crimes like a car break-in, graffiti sightings, or lost/stolen purses.
- Before you book a place to stay, find out if it’s in a flood zone. This will bring an extra bit of research you’ll need to do ahead of time to make sure you’re prepared in case of a flood.
- Sign up for emergency alerts before you arrive through Alert Salona on the county website. You’ll get immediate weather, disaster, or civil emergency information right to your mobile device.
- Make sure you have your license plate number as it’s required for all transactions. If you’re going to be parking downtown or on the waterfront, you’ll be able to pay through the ParkMobile app.
- If you’re in a rental home during your stay, keep valuables in a safe or in a great hiding place when you leave, just in case. Home break-ins can happen in broad daylight, as criminals know you’re mostly like not going to be home for a while.
- If you plan on visiting Napa during your stay, see if your preferred winery has a shuttle. If not, get a rideshare to and from so you don’t risk getting behind the wheel when you’ve been drinking.
- Vallejo is home to the Solano County Fair, a Pirate Festival, the Mad Hatter Festival, and a Junteeth celebration, just to name a few. The city loves to celebrate its heritage and culture throughout the year, which could mean the 14 hotels in the city limits sell out quickly. Research these festivals ahead of time so you know if you’re visiting during a busier time.
So... How Safe Is Vallejo Really?
As of early 2022, one of the biggest challenges facing the Vallejo Police Department is having enough police officers.
The Vallejo Police Officer’s Association says officers are leaving for higher-paying jobs in nearby communities or retiring, while there aren’t enough cadets passing the entrance requirements to become an officer.
“Low staffing continues to surpass what is critical for the safety of the public and our officers,” said a press release by VPOA.
“Additionally, it severely hampers our ability to provide basic police service.”
At one point the staffing was just at 66% of budgeted staffing.
This is on top of an increase in homicides, rapes, assaults, auto theft, and arson in 2020, a pandemic year when many jurisdictions saw crime plummet due to lockdowns and closures.
For my money, staying in nearby Fairfield is a much safer option for anyone who isn’t used to crimes in a big city or gang activity.
I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, so I’m inherently used to a certain amount of crime.
Someone from a smaller, safer town might find Vallejo scary.
Another person from the south side of Chicago won’t.
The violent crime rate is what stands out to me, as I’ve researched crime statistics in dozens of U.S. cities.
Usually, I get a little hesitant when the violent crime rate goes under a one in 200 chance of being a victim.
In Vallejo, the chance is one in 104.
Much of that is gang-on-gang activity, so you have to take it with a grain of salt.
Until the police staffing issues are resolved, this wouldn’t be the city I’d recommend for a family vacation.
You can make your own decision about how safe you feel in a city like Vallejo, which does have a great location with beautiful bay views.
How Does Vallejo Compare?
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- Visas - Once you've entered through customs at the airport or port of entry, you are set for a trip to Vallejo. No additional identification is needed.
- Currency - You'll use the U.S. Dollar here and please don't carry a lot of it around with you. Everything you need can be purchased with a credit card or payment set up on your mobile device.
- Weather - Vallejo is a warmer side of the San Francisco Bay area. You'll get a little bit of a seasonal change. Winter lows get into the 30s, so a coat would be advised. Highs will be in the 50s, so dress in layers. Summers warm up to almost 80°(F) with lows still in the 50s. Vallejo also breaks that "foggy" stereotype of the Bay area by having 258 days of sunshine. Rain gear might be needed, but if you don't have room in the suitcase you can skip it.
- Airports - Oakland is going to have the closest airport, but it's still a 35-mile drive. San Francisco's airport is 42 miles away, but you get a gorgeous drive over the bay. San Jose's airport is 66 miles away, and it's a shorter drive to Sacramento's airport at 62 miles away. At least you've got a lot of great options to find the best airfare!
- Travel Insurance - With all the weather and disaster risks here, you're going to want travel insurance to protect your trip to Vallejo, California.
Vallejo Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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