Houston, Texas, is America’s fourth largest city, and quite culturally diverse, with vibrant food and arts scenes. Houston offers plenty for active travelers to do, from visiting the Space Center to exploring the zoo to taking your little ones to the immersive Children’s Museum. But is Houston safe?
The Houston crime rate numbers supply a partial answer: In general, crime in Houston happens 81 percent more often than in the rest of Texas, and 95 percent more often than in the rest of the United States, in part because of its huge population.
As for violent crime, Houston clocks in at 150 percent higher than the Texas average, and 170 percent higher than the rest of the nation. Property crime in Houston also occurs much more frequently than in the rest of its state or country, though it has been decreasing the past few years.
Safety.com recently named Houston, Texas, among the top five “surprisingly dangerous big cities in America,” noting that although more than half of Americans perceive Houston as being safe, Houston’s rates of both assault and vehicle theft are actually quite high, while reported rape rates are considered “middle of the line.”
It’s worth noting, however, that most of Houston’s dangers are confined to the bad areas of Houston, so it’s important to know which Houston neighborhoods to avoid. Beyond that, the typical traveler maintaining a normal amount of vigilance is unlikely to encounter much, if any, Houston crime.
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Tips for Staying Safe in Houston
- Stay away from the bad parts of Houston, including crime-ridden areas like Sunnyside, “the Track,” and the dangerous neighborhood that centers around the intersection of Dowling and McGowen Streets.
- To protect yourself from Houston crime, beware of pickpockets, especially in the city’s most crowded places, and make sure that valuables are inconspicuous—or left at home.
- Houston natural disasters are a major issue for the city, including frequent hurricanes and floods. Should you find yourself experiencing any of these catastrophic events, shelter in place, stay away from windows and out of cars, and follow authorities’ instructions.
Areas to Avoid in Houston
Before you arrive, it’s smart to know which are the places to avoid in Houston–especially since two of America’s 25 most dangerous neighborhoods are here.
One of these bad areas in Houston centers around the intersection of Dowling and McGowen Streets, in Houston’s historic Third Ward. Though the area is home to the University of Houston and Texas Southern University, it has a high rate of violent crime: Every year, residents have a 1 in 13 chance of becoming a victim.
The second key area to avoid in Houston is Sunnyside, located south of downtown Houston. Here, residents have an annual 1 in 11 chance of being victimized.
Another Houston neighborhood to avoid is known as “the Track,” spreading across a half-mile near Bissonnet Street. “The Track” is notorious for its high crime rate, a quarter of which is related to prostitution.
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How to Get Around Safely in Houston
Another key consideration when it comes to Houston safety is how to get around the city. Take all of the same precautions that you would when visiting any big American city: Keep your valuables in your hotel safe, out of sight, or, better yet, at home. The main crimes that travelers to Houston should be concerned about are petty: pickpocketing, purse-snatching, car break-ins, and vehicle thefts.
So be vigilant for opportunistic thieves in crowded tourist areas and on public transit. Don’t leave valuables visible in parked cars, invest in a theft-proof purse or backpack, and always stay alert to your surroundings, conveying confidence and not giving in to people who might be trying to distract you. Stay away from the dangerous areas in Houston (see above), and if you do get robbed or mugged, don’t resist. Simply hand over your stuff—it’s way less important than your physical safety.
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Houston’s public transportation and taxis are generally safe, but the transit stations can be a different story. If you’re waiting for a bus or a train, make sure that it’s daylight, or if it’s after dark, that you’re not alone.
As for Uber, Lyft, or other app-based hired cars, take the standard precautions: Choose a busy, well-lit area when waiting for your ride, confirm that the license plate and driver’s face match what comes up on your screen, sit in the back (not the passenger seat), and make sure to geo-share the details of your ride with someone who cares about you. Also, don’t tell the driver your name when they arrive; ask for the name on the booking instead.
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Houston Natural Disasters
The most common Houston warnings are related to natural disasters, including hurricanes, flash floods, and strong hail.
According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the United States Geological Survey (USGS), Houston is one of America’s top 10 riskiest places in terms of natural disasters. Still fresh in the mind of most Houstonians is 2017’s catastrophic Hurricane Harvey, which killed more than 80 people in Texas.
Should you find yourself in a hurricane in Houston or anywhere else, shelter in place, stay away from windows and out of cars, and monitor local media reports for authorities’ guidance and instructions.
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—original reporting by Avital Andrews