Why is this important

Safety and security are among human beings’ most basic needs. When people experience chronic stress from feeling unsafe, it takes a toll on both their mental and physical health.[i] Recent research suggests that rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder may be as high or higher among those living in violent urban neighborhood than those that have gone to war.[ii] When neighborhoods are perceived as safe, they foster community participation, encourage physical activity, promote community connectedness and add to the health and well-being of local residents and visitors.[iii] A neighborhood’s built environment has significant impact on perceptions of safety and is a critical factor for improving neighborhood safety. Clean and well-lit streets, well-designed open spaces, and community programming, can promote a sense of safety and social connectedness among residents and increase the vibrancy of communities.[iv]

How are we doing?

In 2015, the Controller’s Office made significant changes to the City Survey methodology to ensure that the survey reached a representative sample of San Francisco residents. In previous years the City Survey had been administered primarily by mail, while the 2015 survey was administered primarily by phone. Due to these changes, differences in survey results between 2015 and previous years should be interpreted with caution. Additionally, in 2015 resident zip code was not requested, so there are missing data for that year for 94102.

In San Francisco, about half of city residents feel safe walking alone at night in their neighborhood. Between the years of 2011 and 2019, there appears to be little to no change in the percent of residents that feel safe when walking alone at night in their neighborhood in either zip code 94102 or the city as a whole. During that same time period the proportion of residents that felt safe walking alone at night was around 20 percentage points lower in 94102 compared to the city as whole. Similarly, perceived safety during the daytime did not shift notably between 2011-2019; however, perceived safety in 94102 remained at least 20 percentage points lower during all survey years.

Dataset Source

Office of the Controller, San Francisco City Survey, 2011-2019, available here: http://sfcitysurvey.weebly.com/.


[i] American Psychological Association. “How stress affects your health.” 2013. http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress.aspx.

[ii] Beckett, Lois. “The PTSD Crisis That’s Being Ignored: Americans Wounded in Their Own Neighborhoods.” Pro Publica, February 3, 2014. Accessible here: https://www.propublica.org/article/the-ptsd-crisis-thats-being-ignored-americans-wounded-in-their-own-neighbor.

[iii] McCaughey Centre, VicHealth Centre for the Promotion of Mental Health and Community Wellbeing, and University of Melbourne. “Perceptions of Safety.” Community Indicators Victoria, 2011. http://www.communityindicators.net.au/metadata_items/perceptions_of_safety.

[iv] Brittany Chen, Barry Keppard, Noémie Sportiche, and Ben Wood. “The Business Case for Health Development and Health Impact Assessments.” MA: Health Resources in Action: Advancing Public Health and Medical Research, November 2014.