Security is a much bigger deal in Washington than it is in my hometown. Just this evening, we went off for an hour or so and left the house unlocked. We weren't gone that long, after all.
I stayed in a dorm at George Washington University. We had scanner cards, like you get at hotels these days. To get in, you had to scan your card outside the building, just to open the door. Then you had to walk in 10 feet and scan your card under the watchful eye of the security guard. Then you had to walk another 10 feet and scan your card to call the elevator (or, in my case, to get into the stairwell.) It's all just meant for redundancy, of course. If it were just the front door, you could slip in while someone was going out. If it were just the guard, you might slip past when they weren't looking. If it were just the elevator, you could hang around and pop on when someone got off. But the odds of doing all three without getting caught are pretty low.
And that, of course, is just the security for a little dorm with no particular value. The security at the important buildings is really impressive. I didn't try to get into the White House or the Capitol, but I did see guards outside some important building looking under a car with mirrors, to make sure nothing was hiding underneath.
So, I was probably just as safe in Washington as I am here. I was never really far from a guard, and never even close to alone on the streets. But it sure did feel different than it does in small town Wisconsin.