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By Karen

Updated January 22, 2024.

San Francisco Crime - Tips from a Local

Is San Francisco safe for tourists?

Many visitors read about crime in San Francisco and wonder just how safe it is to travel here. 

There are many opinions on this, and I have my own after living here for many years, but I also wanted to give a more objective and balanced view of this subject.

I collected data on San Francisco crime (and other cities for comparison) from the local police department and FBI statistics.

It's not a pleasant subject, but I think it's important for someone who lives here to share candid information on this issue, along with some safety tips. 

Hint: it's not as bad as you've heard...except for the car break-ins!

Also, San Francisco's woes with dirty streets, drug addicts and homelessness have been in the news a lot, too. More on that later.


The scoop on SF crime

I want our visitors to have a great experience when they travel here. And with a few safeguards, travelers can enjoy the city without undue worry.

Key takeaways:

  • With some precautions, the odds of being a victim of violent crime in San Francisco is quite low.
  • The risk of having your car broken into is high...especially if you leave bags or valuables in view.

Most likely, nothing will happen! But forewarned is forearmed. Sorry for the morbid statistics that follow;)


San Francisco's Crime Rate

First of all, how dangerous in San Francisco? Looking at crime rates can help answer that.

Important aspects of SF crime:

  • Violent crimes are concentrated in limited areas, mostly not near the tourist areas.
  • Crimes most likely to affect tourists are the car break-ins (somewhat preventable).
  • San Francisco is not particularly dangerous when compared with other cities, especially U.S ones.

Of course, being a city, San Francisco's crime rate is going to be worse than what you'll find in suburban or rural areas, but it's sort of low to intermediate when compared with other U.S. cities.

And the crime rate in San Francisco varies tremendously by neighborhood, as you would also expect.

There are a handful of areas that seem to produce the lion's share of the crime statistics. Some of these areas are near (but not in) prime tourist spots and others are in areas that tourists rarely see.

Just recently, there were series of muggings near Alamo Square (Painted Ladies) and in Noe Valley, where women were robbed of their cell phones, but it appears that the perps have been identified and arrested (and hopefully will be sent away!).

Those dratted car break-ins!

The most annoying aspect of crime for most people in San Francisco is the car break-ins.

They subsided quite a bit during the lockdown, but have risen again due to more people being out and about, including a return of tourists to the city. 


For more details on where the crime in SF is, and crime maps, including the worst car break-in spots, jump to sections on:


Are you planning a visit to San Francisco and want to find a safe place to stay in the city?

I created a guide to the safest areas to stay in San Francisco, with maps of the areas and recommendations for highly-rated hotels in each area.

See safest places to stay in SF.  Also recommendations for first-time visitors, visitors with families, and traveling with and without a car. Plus some fun choices.


2023 crime rate changes?

The San Francisco crime rate for 2023 has changed a little from last year, but not that much.

It's mainly an increase in various forms of theft, including car break-ins and shoplifting, which have been in the news quite a bit lately. Robbery has dropped a little.

SFPD data in chart for  crimes in 2022 and 2023Source: SFPD data

For more details, updated weekly, see the SFPD website.


San Francisco Crime Maps

The Highest-Crime Areas

Coit Tower Mural section of City Life by Arnautoff, 1938From City Life, by Victor Arnautoff, 1938

The Depression Era, Coit Tower murals include a scene of some unfortunate being robbed at gunpoint. Not very common in most areas of the city now, fortunately. San Francisco has had crime problems since it's beginning; it's quite tame now, by 19th century standards!

It got so bad during the Gold Rush period, some citizens organized a Committee for Vigilance to take matters into their own hands. The word "vigilante" has its origins with this group. The city government was seen as too corrupt to bring various murderers and robbers to justice. See the Wikipedia article about the Vigilantes' activities.

Here are the neighborhoods that generate the most crime reports:

  • The Tenderloin District
  • Market Street/South of Market
  • The Mission District
  • Western Addition
  • Bayview/Hunters Point

Here is a map that shows the relative incidence of violent crime in these areas.

I chose robberies to illustrate it; this is the pre-Covid pattern. 

Map showing numbers of robberies in high crime areas of San Francisco in 2019Numbers of robberies in higher-crime areas in 2019, pre-Covid


Robberies for the first 7 months of 2023 show a similar pattern, with perhaps somewhat fewer south of Market and the Bayview, but still highest in the Tenderloin, followed by the Mission District and Western Addition.

Robberies map for San Francisco 2023Robberies in high crime areas Jan-July 2023

The Tenderloin

The Tenderloin District of San Francisco has the unfortunate honor of being the worst in the city for both violent crime and property crime.

There's a concentration of seedy residence hotels, and many low income residents, along with a higher incidence of prostitution, drug dealing and drug use. 

In spite of this, in the daytime even the Tenderloin isn't particularly dangerous in terms of violent crime. At night, it's a different story.

Is there any reason to go there? There are some good restaurants in this area, and some popular music venues. The Great American Music Hall and the Warfield Theater are in the Tenderloin. 

Also, the San Francisco theater district near Union Square sits on the edge of the Tenderloin; the Curran Theater and the Geary Theater (ACT performs there) are two major theaters located about a block west of Union Square.

Many of San Francisco's most popular hotels are in the Union Square area, just a block from the Tenderloin, but the crime doesn't seem to spill over.

Where is the Tenderloin? It sits in kind of a wedge where Market Street and Van Ness Avenue come together.

The unofficial borders are Market, Van Ness, Geary, Mason and McAllister Streets.

Union Square is one block east and the Civic Center area (SF City Hall, SF Symphony, & SF Opera House) are just to the south.

Map of Tenderloin & Civic Center areas

Map of Tenderloin and civic Center San FranciscoThe Tenderloin, Civic Center and Mid-Market areas

The area on both sides of Market Street, between 5th and 8th streets (Mid-Market), also has a lot of crime.

Tenderloin robberies...

Map showing number of robberies in Tenderloin District in San Francisco in 2019Location of robberies in the Tenderloin, first half of 2019


Update post Covid: Tenderloin robberies Jan 1-Jul 27, 2023.


The crime in the Tenderloin in 2023 looks similar to 2019, maybe worse. This is the location of many of the open air drug markets that the city has been struggling with.

It appears that public pressure has created more of a willingness by the powers that be to deal with the problem. We shall see.

Map of robberies San Francisco 2023

Please don't be freaked out by this map! I included it to illustrate that this is not a great area to wander around in at night. 


Other areas with higher crime rates

Attractions in these areas

Western Addition: the main attraction in this area is Japantown, several city blocks of Japanese restaurants and shops, most of which are in the three enclosed malls. Even though this area isn't the greatest, Japantown itself is generally very safe.

Getting there: there are buses that stop right at Japantown, and there are two parking garages in Japantown that are reasonably safe. Parking in adjacent neighborhoods isn't a good idea, however. See Japantown for more info.

The historic Fillmore Auditorium, and the Fillmore District, are also in this area, as well as some popular restaurants like State Bird Provisions.


The Mission District. This neighborhood is a lively, interesting area, mostly Hispanic, with lots of popular restaurants and cool shops. It used to have a higher crime rate, but it's currently "in transition". It's been attracting artists, writers, and, dare I say, hipsters, and is starting to gentrify.

Someone I knew got mugged in the Mission District, coming home from work one evening. He lived in the district, and was young and athletic-looking, and Hispanic, but he was still targeted. But that was about 20 years ago, when it was a rougher neighborhood. About ten years ago, an Irish tourist was murdered during a robbery when he went to withdraw money from an ATM at 2 am on Mission Street; something to be avoided!

There is a lot of night life here, and it isn't all that dangerous in the evening on the main commercial streets (Mission, Valencia, 24th St.) because of all the people out and about, but later at night, and in less-frequented areas like alleys and side streets, it could be a problem. It still has the third-highest crime rate in the city.

Getting there: street parking is challenging, but there are parking lots and garages available. Just try to pick one that isn't too isolated. 

BART stations: the two BART stations in the area are not very safe at night, unfortunately: 16th & Mission and 24th & Mission (16th & Mission is worse). 


Market Street/South of Market. Not all of Market Street is sketchy.

The area from Powell Street (where the cable cars start) down to the Ferry Building is not that bad. The rough area is Market Street between 5th and 10th Streets.

The Orpheum Theater and the Civic Center BART & Muni station are located in that area, on Market between 7th and 8th Streets.


The Bayview/Hunters Point area is a lower-income, residential and industrial area not generally visited by tourists.

Candlestick Park, the baseball and football stadium (torn down in 2015), was is in this area.


General tips about venturing into these areas:

  • During the daytime, it's much less risky, but don't pull out wads of cash or walk glued to a smart screen.
  • If you attend a performance in the evening, there will be lots of other people around, arriving and leaving, so there's safety in numbers.
  • If you don't want to walk several blocks at night from a bus stop or BART, taxis, Uber or Lyft are a good option.

Citywide crime levels

Violent crime does tend to concentrate in certain neighborhoods, while most of the city is relatively free of it.

Here's a map showing all the robberies in the entire city during the first six months of 2019 (the pre-Covid pattern).

Map of robberies in San Francisco in the first half of 2019Robberies from Jan-June, 2019

Current Robberies in SF: 2023

Pretty much the same problem areas show up in 2023.


Map of robberies in San Francisco in 2023Robbery incidents in San Francisco in Jan-July 2023

Data source for above maps: the city has a mapping system for reported incidents of crime.


The SF Police Department makes an interactive map available to research crime incidents in the city.

You can filter by neighborhood, type of crime and time period, and zoom in for more details. See interactive crime map.

See city crime for current SF crime stats.


Is Golden Gate Park safe?

Safe for people, yes. Safe for cars, not so much. 

See more about crime in Golden Gate Park and whether you should go there at night. 


But the odds are in your favor!

Before you decide not to come here (!), remember that over 800,000 people live here, and that San Francisco had about 25 million visitors in 2018, so the numbers aren't as bad as they look. The 2023 visitor count is almost up to pre-Covid numbers now.

The odds of being one of those numbers are really very slight!

Based on the map stats, there were around 1400 robberies in the first six months of 2019 (pre-Covid, closer to the current 2023 pattern). And there were around 12.5 million visitors during that same period, so there was about 1 robbery for every 10,000 visitors. And most of these robberies did not involve tourists, so the odds are much lower than that.

I included this map to show the variation among the neighborhoods. And most of the violent crimes happen after dark, as you would guess, and many involve drug use, drug dealing, and gang conflicts, which don't affect visitors directly.


That being said, there have been several, high-profile assaults on residents recently by mentally-ill, homeless people which have highlighted the apparent inability or unwillingness of the city to protect its residents from their aggressive behavior.

The mentally ill have to have eight episodes in a year of being found to be a danger to themselves or other people before they can be forced into treatment. 

An interesting article discussing the high rate of recidivism among SF criminals and the low incarceration rate.


Pickpockets on the Buses

You're not likely to be mugged on San Francisco buses and trams, but there is a problem with sticky fingers. Be especially observant during busy times of day, when lots of people are packed on.

Keep your purse close to your body, in front of you, and guys, keep your wallet in a front pocket. Keep an eye on mobile phones in purses or pockets. Thieves take advantage of closely packed conditions and purses sitting unguarded. 

Sneaky fingers exploring your purse or pockets are much more common on public transit than an open snatch and grab of purses or mobile phones.

The exception: BART passengers.

Be Careful on BART

BART is having an upsurge in robberies with people having their mobile phones or laptops grabbed out of their hands. This typically happens to someone sitting near the door; just as the train is about to leave, the thief grabs the device and runs out of the car, and the car leaves the station.

So be aware while using mobile devices and laptops on BART (or maybe avoid using them if you can, especially while the train is in the station).

Here's an article about BART robberies, and which stations are the worst.


The main risk in SF: car break-ins

Even though the odds are very low of being a victim of violent crime here, unfortunately there is a very high risk of a car break-in. Another good reason to use public transportation.

Auto burglaries have skyrocketed over the past few years and have become an epidemic. Residents are plagued by these, as well.

In 2017, there was a record 31,000 auto burglaries in the city; 2018 was a little better, at 27,000. 2019 was a bit lower at 23,000, but that's still very high. And a discouraging statistic is that only 2% of these resulted in an arrest. And when they are arrested, the sentences are light; not much of a deterrence and very frustrating for us locals!

The actual numbers are probably quite a bit higher because many people don't bother to report them since usually nothing comes of it.

The break-ins dropped in half during the Covid lockdown in 2020, but they are climbing back up again, now that people are out and about again, and tourists have returned to the city.

Here's an article about the return of break-ins from 2021.

No wonder San Francisco has the highest rate of property crimes of any U.S. city. Our previous District Attorney had campaigned for less incarceration, and followed through on that, but was recalled by the voters in 2022. The current DA is somewhat tougher on prosecuting crime, but it's an uphill battle with SF judges and juries. Hopefully things will start to turn around at some point.

According to the police, most of these are committed by organized gangs; one guy does a quick break-in and another guy is waiting in the getaway car. They're especially hoping for laptops and tablets, and now mobile phones also, so they grab any backpacks or bags they see.

The solution: don't leave anything valuable or visible in your car. Unfortunately, the thieves target cars in the tourist areas.

Good to know: some thieves now have scanners that can pick up Bluetooth signals from electronic devices in the car, so hiding a phone in the glove compartment or a laptop in the trunk won't protect it. You can block the Bluetooth signal by powering down the device or putting it in airplane mode, but it's better not to leave it there at all. See more details on the wired.com article.

Hot spots for car break-ins: Union Square, Fisherman's Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, the Embarcadero (especially near Alcatraz Landing), Golden Gate Park, Lombard Street, Palace of Fine Arts, the Painted Ladies at Alamo Square, Lands End parking lots, and the Cliff House are the prime spots for break-ins.

The SF Police Department just released a report on the worst spots for car burglaries in San Francisco (see below for list of worst intersections).


SF Car Break-ins: Jan 2018-Jun 2019.

These were the pre-Covid patterns of car break-ins, which we seem to be returning to now that more targets are available. The problem areas are pretty much the same in 2023.

Eastern half of SF

Map of car break-ins in San Francisco, 2018-2019Break-ins in eastern half of SF

Western half of SF

Data source: the SF Chronicle has an up-to-date map of auto burglaries in the city. See SF car break-in map for current numbers. 


Car Break-ins 2023

You can see the hardest hit areas are about the same: Fisherman's Wharf, Embarcadero, Tenderloin/Market Street, Golden Gate Park, Western Addition, Mission District, Noe Valley and out by the Cliff House.


June 2023 Car Break-ins

This will give you an idea of break-in patterns during the high season when San Francisco has the most visitors.

The maps below show data from last summer (2023).

Eastern side of San Francisco

June 2023 car break in San Francisco east side mapJune 2023 car break-ins, east side of SF

The tourist areas are some of the hardest hit, especially Fisherman's Wharf.

Western side of San Francisco

June 2023 car break-ins west side of SFJune 2023 car break-ins on west side of SF

Latest on where not to park

Or at least, where to be extra careful about leaving nothing in your car!

The SF Police Department released a list of the intersections with the largest number of auto break-ins in the past year (July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023).

The top ten SF intersections for car break-ins (and what they are near), and # of break-ins:

  1. North Point St. & Larkin St. (Ghirardelli Square) 374
  2. Francisco St. & Montgomery St. (Alcatraz Landing) 291
  3. Steiner St. & Hayes St. (Painted Ladies, Alamo Square) 248
  4. Kearny St. & Francisco St. (Alcatraz Landing) 205
  5. Taylor St. & Beach St. (Fisherman's Wharf) 199
  6. 9th Ave & Lincoln Way (Golden Gate Park entrance) 174
  7. Mason St. & Beach St. (Fisherman's Wharf) 167
  8. North Point St. & Powell St. (Fisherman's Wharf) 162
  9. Post St. & Buchanan St. (Japantown) 160
  10. Columbus Ave. & Leavenworth St. (Fisherman's Wharf) 153

See SF Chronicle article on these hot spots.


Car break-in map from SFPD data for 2024

The city map produced by the SF Chronicle below shows all the auto burglaries in San Francisco, for a 30-day period up to mid January 2024.

Map of car break-ins in San Francisco in January 2024

The SF Chronicle gets their data from the SF Police Department and updates their crime data daily.

You can go to the SF Chronicle website and look at car break-in patterns for any time period from 2018 until the present.


How does SF compare with other cities? 

Overall, I don't think San Francisco is a particularly dangerous city.

There is crime here, but comparing SF's crime stats with other U.S. cities puts it in perspective. 

I used FBI data for 2019 for ease of comparison, from the FBI website.


U.S. Cities. Homicide rate in 2019 per 100,000 residents

New York City

3.81

San Francisco

4.51

Boston

6.02

Los Angeles

6.43

Oakland, CA

17.9

Chicago

18.22

Washington, D.C.

23.71

New Orleans

30.71

St. Louis

64.67


But San Francisco (at 4.5) doesn't do too well compared to many European cities (2017 data):

  • Berlin, 2.6
  • London, 1.3
  • Madrid, 1.2
  • Rome, 0.7.

But then there's #1 for 2017: Caracas, Venezuela, at 122.


Unexpected dangers in SF

Aside from crime in San Francisco, there may be some other safety considerations. 

Coyotes have gotten the word that there is nothing to fear in San Francisco, from humans anyway, and they have moved in.

They mainly hang out in the large nature-like areas of Golden Gate Park and the Presidio, but they've now become bold enough to walk down city sidewalks in broad daylight, especially in the western parts of the city. My neighbors saw a couple of them casually strolling along the sidewalk, headed for Pine Lake Park near our houses.

They have been aggressively preying on people walking their dogs, even in the middle of the day. Otherwise, they generally ignore humans, so it's unlikely you'll need to worry about them.

coyote warning sign in Coit Tower parking lotCoyote warning sign in Coit Tower parking lot

The city often puts up signs alerting people when coyotes have been seen in an area.

There have been periodic sitings of mountain lions (!) as well in the city limits.

A couple of times cameras have caught the lions prowling around Lake Merced, in the Sunset District (a couple of blocks from my house!) as well as up on Diamond Heights above Noe Valley and the Castro. Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, reportedly saw a mountain lion on his security cameras near his house in the exclusive Sea Cliff neighborhood, near China Beach.

Pretty amazing for such a densely-populated, urban environment! Fortunately, there haven't been any attacks on humans from mountain lions here.


My own experiences with crime in San Francisco

I've never experienced violent crime during my 30 years in San Francisco, but my car has had a bit of a hard time (until I moved out to the Sunset District and got a garage).

When I was living in Noe Valley, my car was broken into four times in one year! Usually after dark. This was awhile ago, when the thieves liked to pull people's stereos out of the dashboard.The main targets nowadays appear to be luggage, backpacks and laptops.

Driving around now, I'm careful never to leave anything in the car, and so far no more break-ins (hope this mention doesn't jinx it!). I mainly use my car to get around the city, and it's parked outside a lot, so I believe the precautions make a difference in reducing the risk. Friends I know that have had their cars broken into had left something visible in the car, like a bag or backpack. Just anecdotal, I realize.

Another time, I was visiting some friends who lived a block from Dolores Park (okay area in the daytime, iffy after dark). When I went to leave, no car! It had been stolen. The police found it the next day, abandoned in another part of the city. Intact, but there was a sewing kit from the Hilton Hotel inside. Never did figure that out.


Homelessness in SF

As you've probably heard, there is a huge problem with homelessness in San Francisco. This is a big topic that I'm not going to attempt to cover here, but the subject often comes up in connection with crime.

In general, the homeless in SF aren't dangerous. Many suffer from mental illness, drug addiction or alcoholism (or some combination of these).

Homeless man in San Francisco beggingNear Union Square. Good sense of humor!

Occasionally some can be belligerent, but generally they are not a threat. The problem is more that large numbers of people living and sleeping (and other things) in the streets have created a health hazard for both residents and visitors.

The city hands out around 400,000 hypodermic needles per month to drug users (yes, per month) and lots of these get thrown into the street. The problem gets worse every year, but the elected officials have been unable to handle it. Nuff said. 

But many of the homeless are concentrated in areas away from the tourist areas.

Exceptions: visitors heading into the Tenderloin/Mid Market areas for the theater and concerts will see them, and a number can be seen in the Union Square area as well.

There seem to be fewer in the Fisherman's Wharf area, and not many at all in the western areas of the city near Lands End, the Cliff House and Ocean Beach.



So don't worry, be happy...and savvy. Have a great time in San Francisco!