Many people consider Las Vegas to be one of the world’s most fun and memorable cities. But it’s precisely this draw, fueled by increased debauchery and lowered inhibitions, that make it a prime place for criminals and scammers who are looking to target unwitting travelers. Some of the poverty surrounding it also gives way to gang violence in certain areas off of the Strip.
Is Las Vegas Safe?
Generally speaking, Las Vegas is safe for travelers; some even consider its secure casinos to be among the world’s safest places for tourists. Sin City’s violent crime rate has been lower than that of Los Angeles and some other big cities in recent years. Its property crime rate is lower than that of other West Coast cities, including both San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Overall, though, Las Vegas does have a higher crime rate than the national average, both for property crime and violent crime. Here’s how you can avoid unsafe areas and people in Las Vegas.
Tips for Staying Safe in Las Vegas
- Know which neighborhoods and areas of Las Vegas to avoid. Although city agencies and officials are cracking down on crime and violence, gangs are still quite active in and around the city. The gangs of Las Vegas are often named for the neighborhoods in which they commit their crimes, so it’s not a bad idea to look up neighborhoods you intend to visit before you’re there.
- Know how to get around safely in Las Vegas. The Monorail maintains strict safety measures. Stay alert and vigilant if you’re parking your car in large parking structures, or if you’re using app-based hired cars such as Uber and Lyft.
- Try not to buy anything from street vendors in Las Vegas, especially water or VIP passes. Scammers are very active in Sin City, so be vigilant and trust your instincts. Don’t drink too much alcohol, and never leave your drink unattended.
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Las Vegas Safe Places, and Where to Avoid
Las Vegas as we know it was basically established by the mafia, and gangs still affect some areas. The Strip, where most tourists stay, is a relatively safe place to enjoy yourself. The city has a strong economic interest in keeping the Strip travel-friendly, so it’s very well lit (actually, it’s one of the world’s best-lit streets) with security cameras are everywhere, and the glitzier parts of Las Vegas Boulevard are closely patrolled by police.
Once you get off the Strip, though, you’ll need to be more aware. Its side streets are dark at night, and can be unsafe—especially north of the Encore resort. Near the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) and near McCarran International Airport, there has been a recent rise in car break-ins, theft, and vandalism.
Las Vegas’ west side has a history of gang violence, and high-profile gangs have been known to still be active. An important Las Vegas safety tip is that some gangs are named for the neighborhoods they’re active in: The Gerson Park Kingsmen are named for the Gerson Park public housing complex, for example. There are also gangs named for Donna Street and Vegas Heights. The Las Vegas Valley has reportedly been home to hundreds of street gangs in recent years.
Other areas of violence and drug-related crime include Berkley Square, the area near H and Doolittle streets, and parts of Balzar Avenue. One additional place to avoid in Las Vegas is Eastern Avenue and Mojave Road near Highway 95, in the eastern valley.
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How to Get Around Safely in Las Vegas
Thanks to its many large hotel complexes, Las Vegas is a pretty safe city to get around if you’re comfortable taking shuttles, monorails, and hired cars. As always, if you’re renting a car don’t linger after parking it in a garage or lot, especially at night.
The Las Vegas Monorail is a fun and safe way to get around the Strip—and there are active cameras on each train and at every station. In addition, all stations have dedicated security officers, the system gets daily maintenance checks, and explosive-detecting dogs are on the job every day. The city’s bus system is also fairly reliable and safe, and incidents are very rare. Vegas’s public buses are equipped with real-time surveillance cameras.
Uber and Lyft are also very active in Las Vegas, and rideshare drivers are required to pass a vehicle inspection to drive in Las Vegas. If you choose to hire a driver, be aware that Uber has also recently added a 911 button to its app, as well as the ability to share the progress of your ride with others. Taxis are also available, but as with cabs in many other cities they’re less trackable and often more expensive than Uber and Lyft.
Thousands of people choose to walk the Strip on foot every day, which can be fun—especially if you’re visiting Las Vegas for the first time and want to experience it fully. However, whether you’re out on the Boulevard or in a casino, remember to keep all your valuables close to your body: Pickpockets are very active in Las Vegas, probably because it’s a cash-heavy city. If you’re in a public space as part of a large crowd, stay extremely vigilant, as you would with most other cities.
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Common Las Vegas Travel Scams
Be warned that Las Vegas is a haven for those who are looking to scam gullible travelers. Don’t buy bottled water from unlicensed sellers: According to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, street vendors have been caught selling used water bottles that were refilled with tap water.
Also be wary of buying “VIP passes” from people on the street or who approach you in a casino, as they could be fake. Even accepting free “VIP passes,” then showing up where you’re supposed to can waste your time: Once you get there, other promoters might try to scam you further. Use a trusted service for purchasing VIP passes or any other tickets.
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Avoid participating in any betting games outside of the casinos, such as three-card monte. These aren’t regulated by anyone, and are often scams. If people appear to be winning at these, they could even be actors who are part of the scam.
And, as when traveling anywhere, don’t drink too much alcohol. Keep your wits about you, and never lose sight of your drink. Las Vegas is a city that’s heavily fueled by alcohol consumption, and predators can use that to their advantage—even going so far as putting something in your drink.
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—original reporting by Avital Andrews
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.