Is Wilmington Safe? Crime Rates & Safety Report

Updated On January 17, 2022
Wilmington, United States
Safety Index:
* Based on Research & Crime Data

The laidback Southern style ebbs and flows down every street, riverwalk, and beach.

It’s a slower pace of life here.

The tea is sweet and the people are sweeter.

Most activities here cater to coastal adventures.

From laid-back beachcombing to high adrenaline surfing, the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean provide a great backdrop for any energy level on a beach vacation.

Plenty of shopping and dining opportunities are inland and right on the water.

It’s a great area for history buffs.

There’s a Battleship North Carolina that dominates the skyline and Fort Fisher State Historic Site.

You can also hear tales of pirates looking for treasures who ended up on the shores of this city and don’t forget to ask where Cape Fear got its name from when you visit.

You can also venture down streets lined with Victorian homes that tell stories of times gone by.

You’ll even get a fair share of ghost stories on your trip.

Warnings & Dangers in Wilmington

Overall Risk


Overall there is a low risk here. The city makes nearly $700 million off of tourism and needs to keep the popular areas safe to encourage more visitors. 2020 brought a nearly 7% decrease in crime to Wilmington.

Transport & Taxis Risk


We give this a low risk but do advise you to strongly consider getting a car here. While there are taxis and shuttles, several of the big tourist draws are spread out and many of the historical areas are walkable. You'll want a car so you won't miss a thing during your trip to Wilmington, North Carolina.

Pickpockets Risk


There's a medium risk of pickpocketing, especially during the busy summer travel months. Big crowds and distracted tourists can be a gold mine for would-be thieves. If you follow good personal safety rules, you shouldn't have much to worry about. The theft rate from 2019 is 2055 per 100,000.

Natural Disasters Risk


The biggest risk here is hurricanes. From June - November, there's a medium risk just because it's Hurricane Season. November - May there's a low risk.

Mugging Risk


Robberies were at a crime rate of 101 per 100,000 in 2019, giving this a low risk. The Wilmington Police Department does advise anyone who is the victim of a robbery to give over the goods and don't fight back and risk their life. The homicide rate is up, but police say most of those involved a domestic situation, not a random act of violence.

Terrorism Risk


There's a low terrorism risk here. There are no hard targets nearby and it's a smaller community surrounded by even smaller towns. Of all the things you can worry about, this isn't one of them.

Scams Risk


There is a low risk of scams here if you are not a sucker for a sob story that involves you taking out money or being lured into giving away personal information. Just because it's the South and people are friendly doesn't mean you should give out anything that risks your personal information or identity theft. The city offers an easy online fraud form if you happen to be a victim.

Women Travelers Risk


Women traveling have a low risk here provided they follow basic safety guidelines. Bars are open until 2 am in Wilmington, so be careful if you are heading to a hotel that late at night. Stay on lighted walkways and don't venture down dark, unknown streets.

Tap Water Risk


There's a medium tap water risk here, mostly based on a concerning agent called GenX. This dangerous mixture is a fluorochemical that has been in the Cape Fear River for years, and that river supplies drinking water to this area. Steps have been taken to remove the agent from the water, including $43 million spent in 2020 to add high-tech filters that target GenX. That said, the 2020 Water Quality report showed the drinking water passed state and federal standards for consumption.

Safest Places to Visit in Wilmington

There are six districts to visit in the Wilmington area.

Downtown is full of history and runs along the Cape Fear River.

There’s plenty of shopping and dining here and the World War II Battleship North Carolina rests on the water.

The National Register Historic District takes you back to the past.

More than 230 blocks are adorned with homes and businesses showcasing the history of this port town.

The Brooklyn Arts District is the place for church architecture and art.

St. Andrews Church dates back to 1888 and is now home to a live music venue.

The South Front District is the electric side of Wilmington and the premiere dining hotspot.

Warehouses renovated into eateries draw in thousands of foodies each month.

The Castle Street Arts & Antique District is filled with live music and unique shopping finds.

This is also where you’ll find the best farm-to-table restaurants.

The Cargo District is a more modern side of the Southern town.

It’s the newest neighborhood and you can also tour a distillery while you’re here.

Places to Avoid in Wilmington

If you’ve done some searching and got a little freaked out by “Murder City, USA” being in Wilmington, don’t worry.

That’s Wilmington, Delaware, which is said to have that reputation.

That’s nowhere near our hamlet of Wilmington in North Carolina.

Locals advise you to take the main streets when traveling between the tourist areas, especially into downtown, to avoid any wandering in a potentially bad part of town.

That said, there’s no one “crime central” part of this community.

The Wilmington Police advise visitors to stay on well-lit, main roads as well.

Other safety advice from the police in any neighborhood is to always keep a full tank of gas in case you get lost, park under street lights, and if you do become a victim of a crime, don’t fight back and stay calm.

Wilmington Police and the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office collaborate on land, horses, sea, and sky to keep people safe.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Wilmington

  1. Before you go, download the Wilmington Police Department app. You can easily submit a crime tip and remain anonymous if you’d like. If you don’t want to add the app, you can text 847411 using the keyword WPDNC.
  2. Hurricane Season runs from June 1 – November 30. If there is an approaching storm, the area might be evacuated. You cannot fight against an evacuation order or argue your way into staying. If you are told to evacuate, do so.
  3. Be Southern. The South has courtesy and language all its own. When people say “ya’ll”, that means “You all.” If you order tea, it’s going to be sweet tea unless you request otherwise. If someone tells you to get a toboggan, they don’t mean a sled. They mean a knit hat. The list goes on. Brush up on the southern language nuances before your visit.
  4. Wilmington is one of the top cities for opioid abuse in the country. Police there now carry Naxoline to help save lives should they come across someone overdosing. While this won’t impact the average tourist, you should know it’s one of the challenges of this otherwise pristine community.
  5. As laid back as the culture is here, the traffic can be insane. Especially during peak tourism times in the summer, getting to the beaches requires a lot of patience. Just know ahead of time there might be some traffic jams, even in small-town North Carolina.
  6. Check the flags before going in the water at the beach. There are color-coded flags that warn of any water dangers. Rip currents are one of the biggest concerns. A double red flag means the water is closed to the public.
  7. Swim at a beach with a lifeguard. The Wrightsville Beach Ocean Squad is certified by the United States Lifesaving Association (USLA). Your chances of drowning are one in 18 million when a USLA lifeguard is present, according to USLA.
  8. You are going to see surfers hitting the waves as this is one of the most popular surfing spots on the East Coast. If you haven’t surfed before, it’s worth taking a lesson for safety, and so the whole beach doesn’t watch you repeatedly wipe out. This writer tried to teach herself to paddleboard solo and ended up getting applause and ribbing from beachgoers as she fell time and time again. Take the lesson. It’s better than a nose full of saltwater.
  9. The endangered plant Venus Flytrap is native to this area. You can only see it within 100 miles of Wilmington in its natural habitat. Check it out at Carolina Beach State Park just outside Wilmington. Don’t worry, they won’t hurt humans. You could hurt them, however, so look, but don’t touch them.
  10. Something might seem familiar in Wilmington. That’s because it’s known as “The Hollywood of the East.” Some called it Wilmywood. Dawson’s Creek, One Tree Hill, Firestarter (1983), Iron Man 3, The Conjuring, and Under the Dome are just a sample of some TV shows and movies that were shot here. You can take a tour of the Hollywood locations in Wilmington. One fun fact? While the movie (and remake) of Cape Fear were both based here, they were not shot here.

So... How Safe Is Wilmington Really?

Wilmington, North Carolina, sees crime rates on par with the state average.

The most violent crimes are generally in a domestic situation.

The biggest worries for tourists are petty crimes like larceny and theft.

The city of Wilmington has a crime report database on its website if you want to search the neighborhood where you’ll be staying.

Businesses in town can have their employee go through Robbery Training so they know how to best handle a dangerous situation.

There are also many community watch groups in the different neighborhoods to keep everyone safe.

Patrols on horseback, road, and water help keep area recreational and business areas under the close watch of law enforcement.

You’ll also have police officers and the county sheriff’s deputies watching out for your safety.

How Does Wilmington Compare?

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

Useful Information



There's no special requirement to get into Wilmington outside of the Visa process you'll take care of at the airport.



Wilmington and North Carolina use the U.S. Dollar as currency and there aren't any other currencies accepted. Well, this is the South—smiles are also a sort of currency here.



The winters are mild with highs averaging in the 50s. Lows can get into the 30s and 40s. Summer can be warm, if not hot, with a July average high of 90°(F). A shawl or jacket is always advised for those ocean breezes, and be sure to pack sunscreen.



There is a smaller airport in Wilmington with connecting flights to east coast hub cities. It's located on the north side of town. Some people choose to fly to Charlotte's airport, which is a major airline hub. That's about 215 miles away and a 3:30 drive.

Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance

A hurricane or rogue winter storm can cause travel disruptions that ripple through the east coast. It's smart to have travel insurance on your trip to Wilmington, North Carolina.

Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Wilmington Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan 9° C
Feb 10° C
Mar 13° C
Apr 17° C
May 22° C
Jun 26° C
Jul 27° C
Aug 27° C
Sep 25° C
Oct 19° C
Nov 14° C
Dec 12° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec

North Carolina - Safety by City

CitySafety Index
Chapel Hill81
Elizabeth City79
High Point62
Hope Mills53
Kill Devil Hills77
Kitty Hawk79
Morehead City78
New Bern77
Rocky Mount52

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