Is it Safe to Travel to Seattle in 2024? A Local’s Insight and Statistics

Is Seattle safe? In the past couple years, the news media have gone to great lengths to highlight crime and so-called lawlessness in Pacific Northwest cities like Seattle and Portland.

While there have been some notable incidents, much of the discussion about Seattle being unsafe has been exaggerated.

At the same time, though, crime here is on an uptick, and homelessness is a major issue across the entire city.

rainier seattle view

So is it safe to travel to Seattle right now? Let’s go over what the numbers say, along with my own personal insight from living in this city for the past several years.

Why is There a Perception That Seattle is Unsafe?

Statistically, Seattle has never been a particularly unsafe city. Rates of violent crime, especially, have always been far lower here than in cities like St. Louis, Chicago, and Detroit, to name a few.

Unfortunately, we live in a polarized society today, and images of crime are often glorified on partisan news outlets and on social media.

Seattle had some of the most fervent riots during the nationwide protests in 2020 after police killing of George Floyd. Police overreacted and sprayed tear gas on protesters, leading to several days of tension between police and residents.

Protestors then formed CHOP, a police-free zone in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. The self-declared autonomous zone lasted for nearly a month and was mostly a peaceful, community-centered festival-like environment, until a couple shootings eventually led to the zone shutting down.

The neighborhood had returned to normal by July 2020, but in some circles, a perception that Seattle is a lawless city lingered.

amazon spheres - is it safe to travel to seattle now

Seattle Crime Statistics

What do the numbers say? In 2022, the annual crime report from the SPD indicated a 4% increase in “violent and property crime,” with the overall total reaching a 15-year high.

But in 2023, violent crimes dropped 7%, and property crimes dropped by a whopping 17%. So that’s obviously good news.

The not-so-good news? Homicides in the past two years have risen from 41 to 52 to 73, an all-time high.

That rise may seem alarming. But 72 murders in a year is still low for a large city. Compare that to other cities:

Number of homicides in select U.S. cities, 2023: (source)
Chicago 617
Philadelphia 410
New York City 386
Los Angeles 327
Seattle 72

You might say that those cities are much larger than Seattle, and logically should have more homicides. Well, that’s true. So let’s look at homicide rate, which adjusts for population.

Homicides per 100,000 residents for those same cities, 2023:
Chicago 23.4
Philadelphia 25.9
New York City 4.3
Los Angeles 8.6
Seattle 8.9

Seattle’s rate of 8.9 is higher than NYC and slightly higher then LA, but way behind Chicago and Philly. The Seattle rate compares favorably to a lot of large U.S. cities.

Compare that to the most dangerous cities, by murders per 100k: Memphis (63.1), New Orleans (51.2), St. Louis (50.3), Baltimore (45.6), Detroit (42.6.)

downtown seattle pike place covid-19

So, yes, in comparison to other places across the country, it’s safe to travel to Seattle.

Property crime numbers have been released for Seattle last year. Car thefts were up a lot, while arson, burglary, and larceny were all down:

seattle property crims statistics

Homelessness and Perceived Lack of Safety in the City

Aside from lingering memories of rioting during the 2020 protests, the number one reason why many perceive Seattle as unsafe these days is because homelessness has continued to spiral out of control.

Massive tent cities keep popping up all over the city. Drug use is common. So is mental illness. It is not unusual to see a homeless person screaming at no one in particular as they walk down the street, even in nice neighborhoods.

That’s the sort of thing that makes people feel uncomfortable, and even unsafe.

I lived for years in Chicago, which has a lot of homeless folks. But West Coast homeless are on a different level. They can be more aggressive at times. They sometimes even panhandle inside fast food outlets, something that was unthinkable in Chicago.

But that’s the exception. Most homeless folks do not pay any attention to passersby and are simply trying to survive another day.

As long as you understand that you will encounter homeless folks during your visit, there is no reason to feel unsafe in the city.

is it safe to travel seattle coronavirus

Is It Safe to Travel to Seattle? The Local Perspective

Yes. It’s just as safe (or safer) than any large American city.

Here’s something telling. When I first moved to Seattle, I asked my friend, a long-time resident, “What are the dangerous neighborhoods that I should avoid?” His response: “There aren’t any.”

That was a surprising reply. Doesn’t every city have dangerous areas that the media refers to using code words like “inner city” and “ghetto?”

Now that I’ve lived here for awhile, I can confirm he was correct. Some parts of Seattle do have higher levels of crime, but none qualify as areas where you would be scared to drive through.

I would recommend avoiding Third Avenue downtown at night. And perhaps Rainier Beach and Pioneer Square at night. More dense areas like Capitol Hill and the U District have higher levels of theft and property crime.

Otherwise, it’s a perfectly safe city. The 700,000-plus residents of the city continue to go about our business as usual.

Here’s a photo from a “Shakespeare in the Park” live theater performance I attended last week. We, the residents of Seattle, are living our lives normally.

is seattle safe - theater in the park

Basic tips for safety in Seattle: Don’t keep valuables in your car, and be aware of your surroundings, as you would in every big city.

Conclusion: Should I Visit Seattle Now?

That’s up to you, but there’s no compelling reason to avoid visiting the city. You can walk around the city, you can take public transportation, and you can enjoy Seattle’s attractions and activities.

If you stay home, you’ll miss the Space Needle, Pike Place, the Gum Wall, Whidbey Island, the Jimi Hendrix statue, and the chance to see Mount Rainier.

Ready to visit? Check out my itinerary for one day in Seattle, and my road trip guides for driving from California to Seattle, and for driving from Denver to Seattle. And here’s a list of the best guided tours in Seattle.

space needle seattle coronavirus

Would you visit Seattle right now? Leave a comment and let us know!

Looking for a Seattle hotel? Check out these great options:
Hilton Motif – Excellent views from upper floors and great downtown location
CitizenM – Upscale lodging in the historic Pioneer Square neighborhood
Ace Hotel – Modern and trendy hotel in Belltown
Green Tortoise Hostel – Budget lodging with dorm rooms downtown