What To Avoid In San Francisco To Stay Safe

Tips for staying safe and avoiding crime in the San Francisco Bay Area.

What To Avoid In San Francisco To Stay Safe
FACEBOOK Shelly Ross

San Francisco and the general Bay Area have gained a negative reputation over the last decade due to its general lack of safety for travelers and locals. The San Francisco Bay Area, like any other major city in the world, has an average amount of crime, generally more relevant than smaller cities. The city, however, suffers from a large homeless population due to the city’s mild temperatures all year round and a large wealth gap.

San Francisco trolley
San Francisco Cable Car. PHOTO: Amogh Manjunath

The city’s infamous district, The Tenderloin, has been a hub of crime and suspicious activity for decades since the city’s foundation. This area is actually where the homeless population receives health care, food, etc., so thus, there is a large concentration of the homeless population there. The Tenderloin, as well as Bayview-Hunters Point and Mission, all have higher rates of violent crimes, but these rates have actually decreased in the rest of the city.

A significant reason for the increased petty crimes in the city is a combination of a large homeless population and a law passed in 2014 that reclassified nonviolent thefts as only misdemeanors for anything stolen less than $950. So, property crime has been up two-fold in the last couple of years in the city versus the rest of California. Nevertheless, the city is still considered very safe, and you will stay out of harm’s way while visiting if you follow these tips.

Visit the safest neighborhoods.

This tip feels like a nonstarter, but finding the safest neighborhoods can be difficult sometimes. In San Francisco, Nob Hill is the safest neighborhood, and neighboring Union Square has more attractions and similar levels of safety. Additionally, Fisherman’s Wharf and Marina Hill are two more popular areas where pickpocketing is all you will have to worry about. Finally, if you are looking for a safe, budget-friendly part of town, visit Richmond District! You cannot go wrong with any of these areas.

Homeless man
Homelessness. PHOTO: Matt Collamer

There are definitely some areas to avoid.

As mentioned, you should avoid The Tenderloin, Bayview-Hunters Point, and Mission. These are very high-risk violent crime areas, especially at night. One should also avoid any parks at night in San Francisco, as most of the homeless population sleeps on park benches and grassy areas. These areas are also used for drug deals, gang meetups, and prostitution, so you will want to steer clear of them at all costs.

Fisherman's Wharf
Fisherman’s Wharf. PHOTO: Iago Godoy

Follow travel safety tips to a science.

San Francisco is like any other major city in that you must watch out for pickpocketing and other petty theft crimes as many thieves target travelers. Some tips for traveling around the city include: keep your belongings close to you (especially on public transportation), do not wear flashy jewelry or watches that make you seem like an easy target, don’t walk around waving your phone, do not carry a lot of cash on you, take money out of ATMs with caution, and take a cab after dark. You may also want to watch out for feces on the street as some of the homeless population has nowhere else to relieve themselves.

Watch your car.

city driving
City Driving. PHOTO: Paul Hanaoka

Some of the biggest complaints the city has received recently in the theft scene are car related. Drivers have reported being in their car after dusk and having someone break in. Thieves in the city can be relentless and try to break into a car even if you are stopped at a red light. Be aware of dark, empty streets and always be alert of your surroundings, even if you are in a car. In addition, public street parking is not the smartest idea if you are trying to stay the safest while on vacation. Many families have reported all their luggage, electronics, and personal belongings being stolen from car break-ins. You wouldn’t want to wear the same outfit for your two-week-long vacation due to a parking mishap, now would you!?

The news and social media can sometimes be misleading sources of safety information; San Francisco is a safe city. As long as you use common sense and follow the above safety tips, you should have a stress-free, adventure-filled trip to the Bay Area.

Paloma Vigil visited the San Francisco Bay Area in the Summer of 2022.

Paloma Vigil

A Miami native, Paloma is an avid traveler eager to put pen to paper and describe all of her adventures. Her favorite way to experience new places is with a fork in hand. Whether it is a tapas snack in Spanish bars or freshly caught raw fish delicacies in Japan, she is always ready for the next bite. Her dual Cuban-American identity drives her to explore how cultural differences can bring people across the world together in unexpected ways. She is always seeking to find innovative ways on approaching global interconnectedness through travel.

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