San Francisco holds the glory as the Bay Area city, but it’s actually only one metropolis in the area. Across the bay from this legendary city sits Oakland: a city large enough that it has its own international airport.
Home to many San Fran commuters, Oakland itself has plenty to offer in the way of arts, culture, and sports. However, louder than the crowds at the Oakland Coliseum are the jarring crime stats.
Is Oakland Safe To Visit?
Statistically speaking, Oakland is not a safe place to visit. In 2020 it was listed at the 12th most dangerous city in the United States and only coming ahead of cities like St. Louis, Memphis, Nashville, Albuquerque, Stockton, San Bernardino and Detroit and Milwaukee
It frequently ranks among the top cities in the nation for robberies, shootings and homicide per capita.
Based on a crime index in which 100 is the safest location possible, Oakland received a 1, meaning it is arguably the least safe. This is a scale for rating individual cities, though, not comparing them.
This means that Oakland isn’t the most dangerous city in America. It is, however, safer than only 1% of American cities, meaning that it is very high on the list of dangerous cities, if not one of the most dangerous.
In Oakland, your total chances of being a victim of a recorded crime of any nature is only 1 in 12. A very small and easily imaginable figure, this statistic throws the seriously high levels of crime into the spotlight.
There are 12.94 counts of violent crime per 1,000 residents, meaning that the chances of being a victim of violent crime in Oakland is 1 in 77. That’s less people than fit in your average movie theater.
Violent crime includes assault, murder, rape, and robbery. All of their rates are higher in Oakland than the national average. The odds of being a victim of robbery is 6x higher than the rest of the country. Assault is twice as common.
There are 65.78 counts of property crime per 1,000 residents, meaning that the chances of being a victim of property crime in Oakland is 1 in 15. That’s less people than fit in some elevators!
Property crime includes burglary, theft, and motor vehicle theft. In comparison with the country as a whole, the rate per 1,000 people of theft in Oakland is 3x higher than the national average.
Their rate of motor vehicle theft is also one of the highest in the country.
How much crime is there in Oakland?
According to statistics recently released by the FBI, Oakland had the 13th highest violent crime rate in the country in 2020, 1,299 incidents per 100,000 residents.
In 2020, Oakland reported 102 murders, which is a 36% increase from 2019. Oakland also register 3,263 aggravated assaults (19% increase), 198 rapes (2% decrease) and 2,374 robberies (16% decrease).
As of October 2021, there already have been 106 homicides reported in Oakland, which is the highest its ever been since 2013. In September alone there were 17 homicides.
*Crime rate is calculated by dividing the number of reported crimes by the total population; the result is multiplied by 100,000. For example, in 2020 there were 9,407 violent crimes in Milwaukee and the population was 577,222. This equals a violent crime rate of 1629.70 per 100,000 general population.
Here’s a breakdown of all the crimes in the city for 2020:
|2019||2020||Percent Change||5-Year Average||2020 vs 5-Year Average|
|Motor Vehicle Theft||6,479||8,550||+32%||7,231||+18%|
**All data is from the 2020 Oakland Police Crime Stats Report**
Here is a map showing you all the violent crime that was reported in the city.
Here is a map of reported homicides from 4/8/2021 – 10/5/2021
Oakland’s Crime Index vs San Francisco’s Crime Index
Violent crime consist of four offenses: murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.
Property crime consists of burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson.
**The crime index range from 1 (low crime) to 100 (high crime) and is based on FBI crime data.**
|Oakland||San Francisco||United States|
Looking at the data, while Oakland and San Francisco share a similar property crime rate, the violent crime rate is almost double in Oakland and more than triple the national average.
According to a report by Safe Wise, a company used by the government to collect crime rate statistics, the safest city in California as of 2021 is Danville – only 20 minutes away from Oakland.
The irony is not lost on us that the safest city in California is a mere drive away from one of the most dangerous cities in the entire country.
The worst neighborhoods in Oakland
|Rank||Name||Violent Crime (Per 100,000)||
The difference from Nat. Avg.
*Based on data by AreaVibes
Driving tour of Oakland’s worst neighborhoods:
Is Downtown Oakland safe?
You may have noticed that Downtown Oakland is not on our list of most dangerous neighborhoods in Oakland – a reassuring thought. Therefore, if you’re visiting the city for a short period of time, or want to book a place there when visiting San Francisco, you shouldn’t hesitate.
There are great bars and restaurants in the area, with lots of tourists and locals regularly out and about. That being said, many do recommend ordering a taxi or ride share to get home at night.
When you’re unfamiliar with an area, it’s best to get from door to door safely rather than end up accidentally wandering into unsavory neighborhoods.
Residents of Oakland say that you should stay clear of going too far west of Downtown, as you will find yourself in one the most crime ridden areas.
One specific place to watch out for that local highlight is the Coliseum area: if you go to attend a game, don’t hang around the area much longer at night.
If you want to stay out after the event, move on to other areas for post-game celebrations (or commiserations).
Safest neighborhoods in Oakland
When looking at a crime map such as the one on Neighborhood Scout, the safest neighborhoods appear to be ENE of Oakland. In descending order, the safest neighborhoods in Oakland are:
- Montclair, from Piedmont to Eastport
- Piedmont Avenue, Temescal, Shafter, Rockridge
- Lakeshore, Trestle Glen
- Upper Rockridge, Glen Highlands, Forestland
- Jack London Square: trendy area near downtown
What do Residents of Oakland say about its safety
- Unless you’re deep in the worst parts of Oakland, you should be perfectly fine. Hide your valuables and hide your cash. And just use common sense.
- Oakland is like any other big city. There are good parts and bad parts.
- Most of Oakland is totally safe and the dangerous parts of Oakland is noticeable and easy to avoid. However the dangerous parts of Oakland are way worse than the bad parts of most cities.
- The dangerous parts of Oakland are far east and far west around the projects.
- The bad parts of Oakland are primarily concentrated in East Oakland (southeast Oakland and from Fruitvale down) and West Oakland (west of downtown).
- East and West Oakland is ghetto as hell. You will encounter problems around there if you don’t belong. Anywhere else is cool: the lake, downtown, Jack London, Montclair, Rockridge, Piedmont.
- Although there are exceptions to this rule and if you are unfamiliar with the area, stay North of 580 and East of Telegraph will simplify life. Not all of the neighborhoods in the excluded area are bad, but all the the worst neighborhoods tend to fall in that region.
- The difficult thing about Oakland is the neighborhoods change rapidly from block to block. Temescal is great but go one block West and the neighborhood takes on a markedly different tone. High St & Fruitvale is pretty sketchy until you get East of MacArthur. West Oakland it also known as a tough area until you pass 40th and then you’re in Emeryville, home of Pixar, Leep Frog etc.
- I would stay away from West Oakland and I’m male and well versed in bad neighborhoods
- Stay away from West Oakland. They have the City Towers projects, the Acorn projects and Mohr House projects all crammed next to each other. There is a lot of crime and not enough police around.
- The areas between Seminary and Brookfield Village were dubbed “The Killing Zone” or “The Killing Fields”
- West Oakland – between North Downtown to the old Army Base and East Oakland – from South 73rd ave to the border of San Leandro have more violent crime than other areas of the city.
- There’s a saying in Oakland, "Anywhere by the lake, and you’re fine. Elsewhere… – eh, ask a friend."
- I was born and raised in Oakland and it has always been rough, however the homeless problem is really out of control. It feels like the crack days of the 80s. All around my job are homeless camps. You can’t go to a store without someone strung asking for money.
Is Oakland safe at night?
Without a doubt, there are certain neighborhoods you do not want to be out at night in – especially some of the ones listed above.
As with most cities, the general consensus is that the more people that are out at night in certain areas, the more likely you are to be safe.
This goes for Jack London Square, Downtown, and Uptown – the more touristy areas.
The issue you’d be most likely to face here is pick pocketing, common in touristy areas. Simply don’t carry your phone in your back pocket and you’re already more likely to hold on to all your belongings.
If you’re visiting Oakland it’s unlikely you’ll be out too late. If you make it to closing time at the bar we salute you, but just remember that alcohol and unfamiliar settings don’t mix well.
Chase a night out with a taxi and you’re more likely to be safe than walking home.
Is it safe to visit alone?
With many colleges and universities in the area, as well as young professionals starting out, there are many men and women who live alone in the city without fearing for their everyday existence.
Oakland can be a safe place to visit alone as long as you keep your wits about you.
While nobody dissuades women from visiting Oakland alone, many caution them on their travels especially at night.
- Download a ride-share app, even if you don’t usually use them. When visiting a new city that you’re unfamiliar with, it’s easier to get home quickly and safely even if it means spending a fiver.
- If you need to walk somewhere at night, check your route before you head out. Come up with something to help you remember your route, like a song or rhyme, in case you can’t check your phone for whatever reason. Even know which is the wrong way, so that if you see that street sign, you know you’ve made a bad turn.
- Buy a portable phone charger. It’s a pain to carry around one with a wall plug, especially if you won’t have a chance to use it! Going to a concert or sporting event is unlikely to give you an option to charge your phone and we all know what a pain it is to ask the bartender to do it. A portable charger ensures you’ve got enough battery to find your way home or back to your friends if you get split up.
- Stay on well-lit pathways. If you don’t live there, you have no idea if that short cut is a good idea. It’s better to take a longer way around if it’s well lit and more people are walking it.
- Do your research. This article only scratches the surface of safety in Oakland. If you know certain event spaces, restaurants, or friends’ houses you’re going to, look up more info on the neighborhood. You do want to sit back and relax when you’re on vacation (even if it’s a work trip), but it’s good to be in the know on which neighborhoods should have you on your guard.
- Walking alone at night is always a risky activity in an urban area.
- Familiarize yourself with the layout of the city. Know which parts are good and which parts to avoid.
There is no doubts about it, Oakland has a crime problem. Year after year, it ranks high on the most dangerous cities in the United States list. However this does not mean that you will be robbed, stabbed or shot if you set foot in Oakland.
Much like any other big city, there are areas that are relatively safe and there areas that you should avoid at all cost.
If you learn the layout of the city, stay out of the bad areas, stay cautious of your surrounding and apply common sense you can mitigate your chances of being a victim and have a relatively safe visit.