Las Vegas is known around the world for its glitz, glamor, and sin city reputation. The bright lights of the Las Vegas Strip, late-night casino action, and endless entertainment options paint a picture of an adult playground. However, behind the façade of showgirls and slot machines is a major American city where people live, work, and raise families. This begs the question – how safe is it really to call Las Vegas home in 2023?
The reality is that Las Vegas has higher rates of violent and property crime compared to the national average. News headlines often highlight brazen casino robberies and violence on the Las Vegas Strip. However, there are also large sections of suburban Las Vegas where residents feel safe and secure. Like any major metro area, safety depends on being aware of one’s surroundings, avoiding high-crime zones, and taking sensible precautions.
Overall, Las Vegas provides economic and lifestyle benefits that make it an appealing place to live for many people despite higher crime rates in certain areas. By choosing neighborhoods wisely, taking safety measures, and getting to know the community, it is quite possible to make Las Vegas a safe city to call home.
- Las Vegas has higher violent crime and property crime rates than the national average
- Neighborhoods near the Strip tend to be less safe, while suburbs like Summerlin and Henderson have lower crime
- Practicing basic safety precautions can greatly improve security
- The city offers perks like economic growth, entertainment options, and no state income tax that balance out higher crime rates
- Prospective residents should weigh pros and cons to decide if Las Vegas fits their needs
According to the FBI, in 2021 Las Vegas had a violent crime rate of 834 incidents per 100,000 residents, compared to the nationwide rate of 387 per 100,000. The property crime rate was 2,117 per 100,000, significantly higher than the national average. This data shows that while crime has trended downwards over the past couple decades, Las Vegas remains above average for both violent and property crimes compared to the rest of the country.
In the violent crime category, aggravated assault makes up the bulk of offenses in Las Vegas, accounting for over 5,000 incidents in 2021. Robbery, rape, and murder occurrences numbered in the hundreds. For property crimes, larceny theft was far and away the most prevalent, with over 19,000 cases. There were also thousands of incidents of burglary, vehicle theft, and arson last year.
Within the Las Vegas metro area, crime rates can vary significantly by location. For instance, the Las Vegas Strip itself has by far the highest concentration of crime, particularly larceny theft and violent assaults. In 2021 there were over 15,100 larceny cases and 1,700 violent crimes on the four-mile Strip section of Las Vegas Boulevard. This amounts to over 46 larcenies and 5 violent crimes per day on average.
Downtown Las Vegas, with its casinos and Fremont Street attractions, also sees higher crime numbers including robberies and aggravated assaults. By contrast, suburban communities such as Summerlin and Green Valley tend to have property crime rates at about half the overall metro area average. These areas have newer housing stock and higher household incomes.
Reasons for High Crime
Criminologists have proposed several explanations for Las Vegas’ higher-than-average crime rates relative to other U.S. cities:
Las Vegas has significant income disparity, with 15 percent of residents living below the federal poverty line. Financial instability can drive people to commit crimes as a means of financial gain, particularly property crimes. Poverty also creates conditions like unemployment, homelessness, and mental health issues that can be contributing factors.
With over 42 million visitors per year, Las Vegas has a uniquely high rate of tourism. The constant influx of tourists staying in hotels, visiting casinos, and patronizing entertainment venues creates a target-rich environment for criminals. Tourists also are more likely than locals to engage in behaviors that increase their victimization risk, like excessive drinking or flashing cash.
The fact that casinos, bars, clubs, and restaurants in Las Vegas stay open all night can lead to higher occurrences of alcohol-fueled violence and impromptu altercations. Darkness provides more opportunity for crimes. The “city that never sleeps” reputation also attracts more transient visitors prone to criminal behavior.
Las Vegas has been home to branches of national gangs like the Crips and Bloods since the 1990s, as well as local gangs like the Cloud9 Crew. Gang violence and competition over drug trade are major contributors to violent crime like homicides, drive-bys, and beatings. Law enforcement has had success disrupting gang activity but it remains an issue.
Las Vegas has an organized crime history dating back to the mob era when the likes of Bugsy Siegel built the early casinos. Though the mob’s power has waned, organized crime maintains a presence through activities like drug and human trafficking, money laundering, and extortion. Their sophisticated criminal networks perpetuate ongoing issues like illegal drug markets fuelling gang violence.
Taken together, these factors create conditions ripe for criminal behavior to proliferate in Las Vegas compared to other locales. However, the city is not uniformly dangerous. There are many neighborhoods where ordinary citizens can live securely with proper vigilance.
While some parts of Las Vegas may be hotspots for criminal activity, there are steps residents can take to protect themselves and live safely:
Avoid certain areas at night
It’s best not to linger around downtown Las Vegas or the Strip after dark unless you’re inside a well-populated casino or hotel. Dark side streets and parking lots pose risks. Travel in groups at night.
Follow home safety practices
Have a security system installed, keep doors locked, and leave lights on when away. Keep valuables out of sight. Install video doorbells and cameras. Secure sliding doors and garages.
Practice personal safety
Stay alert rather than distracted in public. Conceal expensive items. Carry limited cash. Be aware of ATM and gas station safety at night. Don’t accept drinks from strangers.
Use available security
Park in well-lit areas with security cameras and guards. Stay on casino properties when out at night rather than side streets. Patronize tourist spots that take safety seriously.
Getting to know neighbors creates a network of “eyes on the street”. Join a neighborhood watch group to stay informed. Look out for each other’s homes when away. Report suspicious activity.
Taking a proactive approach allows Las Vegas residents to continue enjoying everything the city has to offer while also mitigating risks that exist in certain areas. Exercising common sense and following basic safety practices goes a long way.
Safe Areas to Live in Las Vegas
When choosing a place to live in Las Vegas, picking the right neighborhood can minimize risks of crime and maximize peace of mind:
Areas like Summerlin and Henderson that are further from the downtown core tend to have lower crime rates given their distance from tourist zones. Quiet suburban communities allow residents to avoid some hazards of the city center. Their residential nature also fosters neighborhood bonding.
This official region of Henderson has an active Neighborhood Watch program overseen by the Green Valley Managers Association. This program brings residents together and provides crime prevention education. Green Valley’s median income is also higher than the overall Las Vegas area.
This planned housing development boasts a violent crime rate 85% lower than the Las Vegas average. It has 24/7 patrolled security, a block captain program, and strict community rules. Higher home prices also indicate more affluent residents.
Located in southwest Las Vegas, this upper-class community has large lots and multi-million dollar homes. Its low population density and wealthy residents contribute to very low crime rates. The priciest homes are located in secured gated communities for added exclusivity.
In general, newer communities with modern construction, higher incomes, engaged residents, and community programs see less criminal activity. Proximity to the Strip in downtown also strongly correlates with higher crime. Doing research to find the safest bets within one’s budget is advised.
Benefits of Living in Las Vegas
Despite its high profile crimes, Las Vegas offers positives as a place to live that help explain its growing population over 3 million:
Las Vegas continues to expand rapidly, with construction booms and a thriving job market in hospitality and entertainment. Ambitious residents can carve out careers with Nevada’s lack of state income tax. The city was spared the worst of the 2008 recession.
Low Cost of Living
Home prices and rents are very reasonable compared to other major metros like Los Angeles or New York. Gas, utilities, and groceries can also be found more cheaply. This helps wages go further for locals.
Things to Do
From world-class restaurants to concerts to museums and amusement parks, there are endless forms of fun and stimulation for Vegas residents. Activities are rarely further than a short drive away.
Nearby Red Rock Canyon, Mount Charleston and other sites provide residents with access to hiking, climbing, and more. The arid climate brings plenty of sunshine for outdoor play year-round.
No State Income Tax
The lack of state income tax is a major perk, keeping more money in residents’ pockets. Nevada relies heavily on tourism dollars instead. Locals avoid the high state tax rates found elsewhere.
Las Vegas locals arguably reap greater benefit from the city’s offerings than visitors dropping in for a weekend. Making an informed choice about neighborhoods, practicing caution, and connecting with community help normalize risks that do exist.
Is Las Vegas safe for families?
Las Vegas can be relatively safe for families living in the right neighborhoods. Suburban areas like Summerlin and Henderson have good schools, family activities, and lower crime rates than the metro area overall. Avoiding downtown casinos and taking basic precautions make Las Vegas no more dangerous than other big cities.
Is it safe in Las Vegas at night?
At night, staying on the Las Vegas Strip and downtown Fremont Street area is generally safe due to all the people, lights, and security. Avoid unlit side streets and parking garages. Other areas of the city pose more risks at night. Visitors should stick to populated tourist spots, while residents are better off in their own lower-crime neighborhoods after dark.
Why is Vegas called Sin City?
Las Vegas earned its “Sin City” nickname from its early reputation as a destination for adult activities like gambling, drinking, and prostitution. The city’s marketing leveraged its “anything goes” ethos. While that wild image still lingers, modern Las Vegas is much more family-friendly while retaining its party atmosphere.
Is moving to Las Vegas a good idea?
Las Vegas can be a good place to move for many people. The local economy is growing quickly, home prices are affordable, and no state income tax appeals to some. The desert climate and entertainment options are perks too. Choosing neighborhoods wisely and avoiding high crime areas make Las Vegas no more risky than other major metro areas. It offers a quality of life that appeals to many seeking a fresh start.
In summary, while Las Vegas has higher violent crime and property crime rates compared to the U.S. average, there are still many safe areas to live and ways to stay secure. The city’s economic growth, entertainment options, and tax benefits balance out areas with increased criminal activity. Being proactive about safety, avoiding high crime zones, and choosing secure communities can allow prospective residents to comfortably call Las Vegas home.
Overall, Las Vegas has evolved from its reputation as only a mob-run adult playground. The glitz and gambling hide a diverse metro of different neighborhoods, with solid employment and quality of life for locals willing to find the right fit. Weighing the pros and cons shows that Las Vegas can be a safe place to settle down for many people despite requiring some extra vigilance. With the proper research and smart precautions, the benefits of living in this one-of-a-kind desert oasis can outweigh the risks.