California is a dream destination. Its 840-mile beach-covered coast, pristine national parks, and storied history with the stars create a unique allure that can’t be found elsewhere. As one of America’s most prosperous states, there is no shortage of exquisite cuisine and entertainment.
Nonetheless, crime rates, homelessness, and gun violence are a cause for concern for visitors, locals, and would-be residents. Despite its attractiveness, California’s issues are broadcast to the world, making many people think twice about visiting. Is California safe? In this article, we take a closer look.
Is California a Safe Place to Live?
As a whole, California is a safe place to live, with crime rates declining since the 1990s. While the U.S. has one of the highest gun crime rates in the developed world, the likelihood of being a victim is extremely low. That said, California ranks higher than the national average in several crime categories.
Naturally, above-average crime statistics might raise red flags about living somewhere. But, when you look closely at the statistics, some of your fears may be alleviated. Firstly, despite having a higher violent crime rate than other states, many major cities have much lower crime statistics than the national average.
Secondly, California is one of the few states that has experienced a net reduction in violent crime over the past few years. Finally, under the umbrella of violent crime, California reports fewer homicides and serious assaults by proportion than the rest of the U.S. So, your specific location within the state is a significant consideration.
Over 60 cities in California have populations of over 100,000 people. While some are safer than others, it’s always important to practice safe habits when living in a big city. Avoid flashing expensive items, carrying large quantities of cash, and be extra aware of your surroundings. Research the most dangerous areas and say well clear of them.
Safest Places to Live in California
Home invasions are uncommon in California but represent a higher percentage of violent crimes than in other states. The most common type of crime you’re likely to experience is larceny (stolen property).
Recently, there’s been an increase in packages stolen from doorsteps, largely driven by online shopping and home delivery. To combat this, people are now taking further measures to secure their homes, like sophisticated alarm systems and doorbell cameras.
These installations can improve your home’s security, regardless of where you live. However, if you’re looking for the safest places to live in the entire state, here are some of the standout locations:
- Danville (Contra Costa County)
- Rancho Santa Margarita (Orange County)
- Etna (Siskiyou County)
- Moorpark (Ventura County)
- Monte Sereno (Santa Clara County)
- Yorba Linda (Orange County)
- Aliso Viejo (Orange County)
- Lake Shastina (Siskiyou County)
- Laguna Niguel (Orange County)
- Thousand Oaks (Ventura County)
Thankfully, most popular beach towns near major cities are very safe. The same can be said for mountain cities, including the Mammoth Lakes, Lake Tahoe, and Big Bear. If you’re worried about safety in L.A., it’s often best to stay in the most renowned hotels (be warned, they can be expensive).
Is California Safe to Visit?
California is the most visited state in the U.S. Over 29 million people visit L.A. alone each year. Although no place is 100% safe to visit, tourists typically don’t need to worry about their safety in California, from north to south.
Just be sure to do your research ahead of a trip and avoid staying in notoriously dangerous neighborhoods. There is an abundance of information online regarding area safety and many reputable sites rank cities according to their security.
Although these precautions aren’t necessarily specific to California, here are some tips for your visit:
- Watch out for pickpockets: in densely populated areas, pickpockets are on the lookout for opportunistic theft. Pay particular attention to your belongings at major tourist attractions and on public transport.
- Beware of tour scams: if you plan on taking a tour, be sure to go with a reputable company. A few minutes of online research can help you avoid a scam and save you from paying extortionate prices.
- Avoid wandering at night: don’t walk around alone at night, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the area. Criminals may be looking for easy prey to mug or rob.
- Be careful with taxis: big city taxi drivers have been known to take advantage of tourists by taking long routes or switching off the meter and charging enormous fees. Research local routes and rates or stick to ride-hailing apps, like Uber.
- Don’t fall for street scams: street entertainment is often part of a fun vacation but you must be aware of scams. Petty criminals have tried and tested ways of scamming tourists. If you’re in congested areas, don’t ask strangers to take photos with your phone, be wary of people asking for the time, and avoid putting expensive belongings on show.
Is California Safe to Travel?
When traveling through the Golden State, the biggest threat is property crime or larceny. So, by exercising caution and taking care of your belongings, you lower the risk of experiencing crime. Most travelers enjoy their time in California without any safety issues.
In terms of intercity travel, the infrastructure in California is below the national standard. This is mainly due to the volume of traffic on major routes. Take your time and watch out for bumps and potholes when driving. Although the roads aren’t always in good condition, most attractions and parks are accessible by car.
If you’re traveling in Los Angeles, you can benefit from one of the finest public transport systems in the U.S. It’s also a low-cost way to get around. However, both of these factors mean that public transport is a hotspot for pickpocketers. As always, stay vigilant and keep your valuables out of sight.
Many solo travelers opt to carry some form of self-defense or safety equipment with them at all times. Pepper spray and safety alarms are useful and non-lethal protective items that are easy to carry on your person.
Is Tap Water Safe to Drink in California?
For the most part, tap water in California is safe to drink. Local government and the U.S. EPA have made significant efforts to set high standards all over the state. Schools, restaurants, and residential properties are typically supplied with water from a regulated system.
If you have any concerns, ask the property owner where the tap water comes from. To be extra safe, invest in a water filter to ensure any potential toxins are removed. Buying bottled water is another safe option, but it can be quite expensive.
Is California Safe from Natural Disasters?
The state of California falls into the high-risk category in terms of natural disasters. Located on the San Andreas Fault, it’s prone to earthquakes. Due to the extreme heat, lack of rain, and abundance of trees and nature, wildfires have become a serious issue in recent years.
Southern parts of the state, like San Diego, also experience tropical storms and hurricanes occasionally. However, despite these threats, emergency services and weather authorities monitor activities carefully and are constantly ready to act if an emergency incident occurs.