The US has a reputation in other parts of the world as a hotbed of random crime and murder. There's some merit to this stereotype; America has the highest rate of shootings in the industrialized world. Other types of crime, however, are lower or on par with other developed countries. Like most things in the US, crime varies greatly depending on the area. Larger cities have higher crime rates, as might be expected. Even within cities, some areas are safer than others. Outside of major cities and urban areas, however, crime is usually very low. It would probably be advisable to familiarize yourself with the area you wish to visit by learning where the less-desirable neighborhoods are located and to avoid them, especially in major cities and some suburban areas. Standard cautionary procedures for traveling in high-crime areas should be observed. In most cities, avoid walking alone in city centers after dark. Don't let anyone in your car you don't know; if anyone reaches for your car's door handle, drive away immediately
. It's best to keep the car doors locked and the windows up, especially while driving at night. Keep any personal belongings in the trunk of your car, out of view of curious passersby. Picking up hitchhikers is generally considered to be unsafe, and is illegal in some states. Note that Americans rarely carry large amounts of cash with them, and this causes thieves to often target foreign tourists.
Gay-bashing is rare, but physical attacks can and do happen, especially in cities and states where there's not an established gay and lesbian population.
The entire country is federally required to support the 911 program. Simply dialing 911 at any telephone will connect you to an area call center for all the emergency services in the area (police, fire, ambulance, etc.). Calls to 911 are free from payphones. Dispatchers will send appropriate personnel to deal with accidents, serious sickness, criminal or any other emergency situations. Unless you are calling from a mobile phone, the 911 call center can always trace your call to locate the caller. Abuse of the 911 program for non-emergency purposes can result in a heavy fine. Only use it if life, limb, or property are in immediate danger. Some cities have a 311 number for situations which are not of immediate danger.