Places to Avoid in California: Dangerous Cities

Nadia Podrabinek Nadia Podrabinek

Written by Nadia Podrabinek

Police patrol in California

Heading to sweet, sweet California on your vacation this summer? Before you plan on crashing in the waves and frolicking through the ocean, you should probably think about how to keep yourself safe. You might be wondering: what are the most dangerous cities in California?

Some parts of California have a higher crime rate than other cities, and we want to make sure you’re protected out there. There are certainly some places to avoid in California. You should only have to worry about having the time of your life, so we did the tough work for you! Here are the 21 most dangerous cities in California.

Key Takeaways

  • There is more property crime than violent crime in California.
  • The violent crime rate in California averages 495 per 100,000 people.
  • Poverty, culture, education, drugs, and mental illness are the main contributors to high crime rates.
  • The most dangerous cities in California are Emeryville, Oakland, and Commerce.
  • Danville has the lowest crime rate in California.

What people say on Reddit

When was the last time you went to eureka? Place has gone to shit. They don’t call it ‘eurtweaka’ for nothing.

That said, this really isn’t the best way to look at crime statistics. Big cities have large, very nice areas that balance out the shitty parts, where smaller towns are likely to be more homogenous in their shittiness. But you’re certainly safer anywhere you go in eureka or Santa Cruz than you are in the bad parts of Stockton or Modesto or San Francisco.


Exactly this. I’m planning a move to Oakland and everyone who doesn’t live in the Bay is acting like I’ve just announced that I’m going to head on over to war and make sure I’m shot. It’s ridiculous. Oakland is actually really beautiful if you know where to go and where not to go.


I recently visited Eureka for a few days. It’s a beautiful area, but I was surprised by the number of sketchy-looking people wandering around. It seemed like every tenth person I saw appeared to be on meth, was homeless, or there was something that seemed off about them. I left with a pretty bad impression of the city to be honest.


Fresno. Awful. I spent 5 miserable years in that dusty place that had two seasons: Fog and boiling hot. Gangs, dirt, rednecks, dust, shitty economy, dirt, poop smell… and so much more! Traffic, zero public transportation, I could just keep going. It is just awful.


A Map of Most Dangerous Cities in California

Crime Rates

Committing crime

In 2021, things took a bit of a turn in California. The violent crime rate in California went up. Not exactly the kind of thing you want to hear! Robberies did see a slight dip of 1.9%.

Aggravated assaults shot up by quite a bit though, at an 8.9% increase. Both homicides and rape increased by 7.7% and 7.9%, respectively. In 2021, the majority of reported violent crimes were aggravated assaults, making up a total of 67%. Robberies came in at 24%, rape at 8%, and homicides slightly behind at just 1%.

Back in 2020, California’s violent crime rate was already higher than the national rate. In fact, it was ranked 16th across the country. It reached its peak back in 1992 with a major rate of 1,115 per 100,000 residents. Since then, it’s gone up and down but basically stabilized.

In the past decade, it’s stayed between 428 and 466. This was pretty much where it was in 2010 when California implemented some important criminal justice reforms. California’s violent crime rate went up by around 6% from 2021 to 2022. It went from 466 per 100 000 people in 2021 to around 495 in 2022.

Of course, these statistics for 2023 aren’t quite available yet, but you can expect these general rates to still apply. Don’t worry, we’re going to break these numbers down per city in just a bit.

Factors contributing to high crime rates


When people are feeling hopeless with their financial and living situations, they often become desperate and might turn to violent crime as a way to survive or escape their situation.

Studies have shown that areas with high poverty rates tend to have higher violent crime rates. A dangerous city can become even more dangerous when poverty levels are high. Property crimes can also be influenced by poverty.

When you compare crime rates in impoverished areas to the national average, you’ll often find higher rates of crime. The poverty rate in California is around 11.7%, contributing majorly to a higher crime rate. I say, do your part to keep California safe! If you find ways to help poverty-stricken people along the way, do it.

Culture and Education

A lack of education can certainly impact crime rates, and it goes hand-in-hand with poverty. The culture you grow up in and your education (or lack thereof) plays a major role in your choices and behavior. Some cultural norms can even glorify violence as a way of gaining respect and power, resulting in higher violent crime rates.

When you have limited access to quality education, you end up having a problem with finding credible opportunities for success. This leads to feelings of frustration and hopelessness, pushing some people towards activities like property crime and aggravated assault.


Drugs can be a major contributing factor to high crime rates, both violent and property crimes. Drug addiction can lead to some pretty desperate attempts to fund one’s drug habits. This is also linked to poverty and mental health, as these are contributing factors to drug use. Desperation like this can drive people to engage in violent crimes, like robberies or assaults.

The drug trade itself can be a breeding ground for violence. There are arguments about territory, snitching, and rivalries that can escalate into violent crime. Addicts might resort to theft or burglary to get some cash to buy drugs.

Mental health problems

When people have mental health issues, it can sometimes lead to higher rates of violent crime and property crime in a dangerous city. When people fail to get proper mental health support or treatment, their behavior could turn unpredictable or impulsive. This could increase the chance of committing a violent crime such as aggravated assault or even murder.

People with untreated mental health disorders can also struggle to find stable jobs or housing, which could lead them to commit property crimes as a means of survival or coping.

Useful Video

Most Dangerous Cities in California: Detailed Analysis

1. Emeryville

Emeryville is the most dangerous city in California. It’s in Alameda County and not home to that many people. With a population of just over 10,000, Emeryville stands out for its concerning crime rates. The property crime rate is 165.71 incidents per 1,000 residents and the violent crime rate is 11.24 incidents per 1,000 residents.

Emeryville’s high crime rate is mainly because it has a dense population and a commercial nature. There are tons of retail and business centers, which just adds to criminal activity. Steer clear if you can, and try to limit your time in these retail spaces.

2. Oakland

Oakland is the eighth-largest city in California, and it’s well-known for its relentless crime problems. It has a violent crime rate of 12.99 per 1,000 people and a property crime rate of 52.49 per 1,000 people.

Oakland has been working hard to combat crime by using strategies like community policing and targeted interventions for at-risk young people. While these measures have had some results, the city still faces challenges with lowering crime rates.

It is important that you prioritize your safety if you find yourself in Oakland. Be aware of your surroundings, especially in high-crime areas, and trust your instincts. Don’t walk late at night, especially if the neighborhood is less busy or badly lit, and don’t walk alone!

3. Commerce

Commerce is the third most dangerous city in California. This city has a crime rate of 119.5 criminal activities per 1,000 people. The chances of becoming a victim of either violent crime or property crime in Commerce are quite high, with a one in 9 chance. In terms of violent crime, your chance of becoming a victim in Commerce is one in 92.

This highlights the importance of taking precautions and being aware of your surroundings when in the city. Property crime is also a big problem, with a one in 10 chance of becoming a victim, meaning there are around 95 incidents per 1000 people. Commerce has one of the highest crime rates of auto theft in the country.

Make sure you secure your vehicle by parking in well-lit places, locking your car, and installing anti-theft gadgets, like an anti-theft steering wheel lock. It also helps to not show off any fancy or expensive jewelry or phones when in public, especially at night.

4. Stockton

Stockton has seen a fair amount of challenges, including bankruptcy in 2012. The city has had quite a bit of crime, with a crime rate of 98.7 cases per 1,000 people. The violent crime rate in the city is 9.71 instances per 1,000 residents, while the property crime rate is 46.39 instances per 1,000 residents. Stockton’s post-bankruptcy financial difficulties have impacted the city’s resources for policing and social services.

Despite these obstacles, Stockton has taken a proactive approach to crime control. The city has put in place unique measures, such as the Advance Peace responsibility, which tries to minimize gun violence for the youth. Be more cautious in crowded bars and malls, where shootings are more likely to take place.

5. Anaheim

Anaheim has a population of 353,915 people with a high rate of recorded violent crime. Anaheim has a violent crime rate of 316 cases per 1,000 population, with 1,120 violent crimes recorded yearly. Each year, there are around 8 homicides, 141 rapes, 396 robberies, and 575 violent assaults.

Adding to the troubling violent crime figures, Anaheim also has a high rate of property crime. With a rate of 28 incidences per thousand people, your chances of becoming a victim of a property crime in Anaheim are one in 36. The most commonly reported crime in the city is property crime.

It is vital to be safe if you’re planning a stop at Anaheim. Make sure that your accommodation has proper safety precautions in place, such as strong locks and good lighting. Lock up your belongings if possible.

Instagram Review

6. San Bernardino

San Bernardino is a city in Southern California with a crime rate of 110.8 cases per 1,000 people, showing some serious crime problems. The violent crime rate in the city is 11.05 incidents per 1,000 people, while the property crime rate is 45.99 incidents per 1,000 residents.

San Bernardino’s bankruptcy filing in 2012 has a long-term influence on the city’s economic stability. These economic difficulties have contributed to the city’s high crime rates. Due to a lack of resources for law enforcement and social services, addressing the core causes of crime in the community is quite a struggle.

When you’re driving around the city, always check inside before getting into your car. Lock your doors and keep the windows up, and never pick up hitchhikers here!

7. Eureka

Eureka is a California city with a crime rate of 112.7 activities per 1,000 residents. In Eureka, the odds of becoming a victim of a violent or property crime are fairly high, with a one in 19 chance. In Eureka, your chances of becoming a victim of violent crime are one in 146.

While this is kind of troubling, you should still know that the majority of California cities have lower crime rates than Eureka. In Eureka, your chances of becoming a victim of property crime are one in 22, with 45 cases per thousand people.

Avoid talking to strangers for too long, and plan your itinerary in advance so you don’t end up in strange places!

8. Barstow

The crime rate in Barstow is 107.3 incidences per 1,000 people. Within this, the recorded violent crime rate is 3.79 cases per 1,000 people, while the reported property crime rate is 38.83 cases per 1,000 people. Property crimes are more common in Barstow. Look after your belongings and cars here, specifically. Car break-ins and thefts are widespread in some spots, so secure your car and don’t leave valuables visible.

9. Signal Hill

The crime rate of Signal Hill is 104.2 cases per 1,000 people living there. The odds of becoming a victim of a property crime in Signal Hill are quite high, with a one in 15 chance and a rate of 68 cases per thousand people.

The number of violent crimes per 1,000 people is 7.96. When visiting Signal Hill or any new city, it is important to keep your cool and confidence to make you look like you belong. You can lessen the sense of weakness by showing confidence.

10. Marysville

Marysville has a crime rate of 102.8 cases per 1,000 people. In Marysville, the chances of being a victim of a violent crime are around one in 89, while the chances of being a victim of a property crime are roughly one in 22. The recorded rate of violent crime is 11.29 incidents per 1,000 people, while the reported rate of property crime is 46.11 incidents per 1,000 people.

To stay safe in this city, try talking to the community to learn more, Positive interactions can help to create a safer atmosphere.

It’s way better to check out the city during the day when visibility is better and foot traffic is higher. When driving around, park in well-lit, safe places and avoid leaving valuable and expensive items out in the open.

11. Vallejo

The crime rate in Vallejo is 99.4 cases per 1,000 people. Vallejo, with a population of 122,657. The city has had 1,037 documented violent crimes. This results in a violent crime rate of 8.45 per 1,000 persons in the city.

Vallejo has about 12 homicides, 138 rapes, 336 robberies, and 551 violent assaults per year. Property crime occurs at a rate of 34.18 per 1,000 people.

12. Red Bluff

Red Bluff has a crime rate of 115.2 cases per 1,000 people. In Red Bluff, your chance of becoming a victim of a property crime is approximately one in 20, with a rate of 49 cases per one thousand people. When it comes to violent crime, the rate stands at 10.08 incidents per 1,000 people.

13. Inglewood

Inglewood has a crime rate of 81.6 cases per 1,000 people. Inglewood has a violent crime rate of 6.19 incidents per 1,000 people and a property crime rate of 35.6 incidents per 1,000 people.

Compared to the national average property crime rate of 35.4 incidents per 1,000 residents, Inglewood is slightly above average.

14. Modesto

Modesto is a city with a crime rate of 95.3 reports per 1000 people. With a population of 216,542, Modesto recorded 1,758 violent crimes. This results in a violent crime rate of 812 occurrences per 100,000 persons in the city. Property crime happens at a rate of 27.32 incidences per 1,000 residents.

15. Salinas

Salinas, with a crime rate of 92.1 incidents per 1,000 people, faces challenges in both violent and property crimes, with violent crimes ranking significantly lower. Violent crime rates stand at 498 incidents per 1,000 people. The property crime rate of 24 incidents per 1,000 people is higher than the national average.

16. Antioch

The average crime rate per 1000 people in Antioch is 89. When it comes to violent crime, the rate is 575 per 1000 people. For property crimes, you’re looking at an average of 26,53 per 1000 people. It’s more likely that residents suffer a violent crime than a property one.

17. Bakersfield

Bakersfield has an average crime rate of 80,9 per 1000 people in the city. The violent crime rate is 4.94 per 1000 residents, and the property crime rate is 42,8 per 1000 residents. This puts Bakersfield above the national average when it comes to property crimes, which are much higher than the violent crime rate in the city.

18. Merced

Merced’s crime rate is 85,5 per 1000 people. The violent crime rate is 37,2 per 1000 people, while the property crime rate is 47,1 per 1000 people. This means that your chance of being the victim of a violent crime is significantly less than that of a property crime.

19. Fresno

Fresno’s overall crime rate per 1000 people is 83,1. The city’s violent crime rate is 5,94 per 1000 people, while the property crime rate is 24,7 per 1000 people. This means that even though your risks of being a victim of a violent crime are pretty low, you do have a chance of being a victim of property crimes.

20. Sacramento

The overall crime rate in Sacramento is 82,7 per 1000 people. The violent crime rate is 3,75 per 1000 people, while the property crime rate is 19,87 per 1000 people. Again, your chance of suffering a violent crime is quite lower, even below Fresno, but property crimes still remain an issue.

21. Richmond

The crime rate per 1000 residents in Richmond is 86,6. The violent crime rate is 4 per 1000, while the property crime rate is 36 per 1000 people. The violent crime rate is much lower than property crime, but always remain vigilant when out and about in the city.

7 Safety Tips for Visiting California

Since California is a big tourist attraction, there is, unfortunately, a high risk of being scammed by criminals wanting to take advantage of unsuspecting tourists.

So, to ensure you remain safe while visiting the beautiful coast of California, here are 7 safety tips for your upcoming trip:

  1. If you are staying at a hotel, use your credit card instead of a debit card. This prevents the likelihood of card information being stolen.
  2. California’s tap water has been linked to certain diseases, so it’s best to stick to bottled water. This isn’t exactly crime-related, but your health is important here, too!
  3. There are tons of cases of petty theft in California, particularly in Southern California. These mainly happen in crowded areas. Try wearing a moon bag or money belt to keep your valuables close to your person.
  4. Do a background check on your accommodation provider – pop their name into Google, and always check the reviews. It’s the best way to ensure a safe stay.
  5. Whenever traveling to an unfamiliar city, it’s important to remember to never walk alone at night. In general, try not to walk around alone, as it puts a target on your back, particularly if you are a woman.
  6. The most common crime in California is property crime, such as burglary or pickpocketing. Speak to the locals around your age to get some insider advice on the best traveling routes.
  7. There are tons of public transportation options in California, and the local bus system is fairly safe to use. If you take an Uber, check the driver’s information properly.

Frequently Asked Questions

What city is the safest in California?

Danville is the safest city in California, in terms of both violent crime and property crime.

Is NorCal or SoCal safer?

Southern California is definitely safer than Northern California.


And there you have it in the bag (but keep your bags close!). California certainly has some worrying crime rates- and even though violent crimes are quite low in most areas, they are still a concern. Property crimes, however, almost always beat out the violent crime rate in most cities, so keep your belongings on your person.

I wish you the safest travels, and enjoy your time in sunny C, whether that be Southern California or otherwise. You deserve a safe break!

My Other Posts About California


17 replies on “Places to Avoid in California: Dangerous Cities”

My experience in Eureka was quite different from what’s described here. It’s a city with problems like any other, but also with a lot to offer.

It’s great to hear that your experience in Eureka differed from the description. Every place has its unique aspects, and it’s important to see both the challenges and opportunities in a city.

I visited Anaheim last summer and felt safe during my stay. It’s all about being cautious and aware of your surroundings, just like in any other city.

Glad to hear you had a safe visit to Anaheim last summer. Staying aware of your surroundings is always a smart approach, no matter where you go. 🙂

Thanks for sharing. This is a well-researched article. It’s important to have a balanced view and understand the challenges faced by different cities.

You’re welcome! I’m glad you found the article valuable. Balancing perspectives is key to addressing urban challenges effectively.

I wonder how the crime rates in these cities compare to others across the US? It would be interesting to see a broader comparison

Hi, Nadia! I’m planning a visit to San Bernardino. Are there particular areas I should avoid?

Hi, Fien! While San Bernardino has many great places to visit, it’s advisable to exercise caution in some parts of the city, particularly in the downtown area and certain neighborhoods. It’s always a good idea to check with locals or do some research on specific areas before your visit to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip. 🙂

I lived in Sacramento for a few years and while there were certain areas I avoided, I also found some vibrant communities and beautiful spots

That’s great to hear! Sacramento has a mix of neighborhoods and attractions, and it’s wonderful that you discovered vibrant communities and beautiful places during your time there.

For those considering a move to Marysville, there are community watch groups and local forums where residents share safety tips and updates.

Are there neighborhoods in Oakland known for being safer or more family-friendly? I’d appreciate your recommendations

Yes, in Oakland, neighborhoods like Montclair, Rockridge, and Piedmont are often considered safer and more family-friendly due to their lower crime rates and good schools. However, it’s important to research and visit these areas to find the best fit for your specific needs and preferences.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Become smarter traveler in just 5 minutes!