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Salt Lake has always been a safe place, and even with its record growth in recent years, remains so. Hosting the 2002 Olympics gave the city a jumpstart on contemporaray security planning and as such, the city is one of the safest large cities in America with fewer crimes being committed in Salt Lake than the national average, according to a recent FBI report, "Crime in the United States, 2002." According to other FBI statistics, it's safer than other western cities of comparable size.
These statistics match the feeling of the city; business areas and more populated areas of the city are perfectly safe for walking around at night. And for the day, Salt Lake has flags at most crosswalks downtown for pedestrian safety (though bicyclists still complain about road safety).
Of course, like any city, Salt Lake has its dark spots. Most of the (small) crime in Salt Lake, though, is restricted to certain areas that are not necessarily on the tourist circuit. Pioneer Park, long known for its drug and homeless problems, in downtown is one of them, though the city's taken great strides to clean it up in recent years. State Street, the arrow-straight street that runs the length of the Wasatch front, has also been known for its drug issues and "cruising" problems. There's been a recent resolution to curb the cruising, though, and the Salt Lake police have taken the matter very seriously. Using your usual traveling caution, you're sure to have a safe adventure in this vibrant city.
Updated summer of 2014. The homeless problem referred to above has gotten much worse. There are beggars and homeless throughout the city, not just in Pioneer park, and far more than normal for a city of this size. Seeing homeless sleeping on major street corners is not uncommon. While not of the type to make a tourist feel unsafe, the problem exists and needs a major movement to improve the condition.
UPDATE April 2016. The homeless problem in Salt Lake City is out of control. They are everywhere you look. Salt Lake City needs to address this problem immediately!