Is New York City Safe?
New York City is a special place with a name that precedes it. It is in many films and a huge tourist destination. So, just how safe is it?
NYC is not only one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world–it is also the biggest city in America regarding population and the largest city on earth in area! Around 19 million people live in the metropolitan area alone, and over 50 million tourists visit every year.
New York City — The Safest City in America?
I have been there, and with the sheer diversity the city offers, it is no wonder that it is regarded as one of the best places to visit in the world. It is also regarded (by the residents especially) as one of the best cities in which to live. When I visited, I loved it, and I had no problems whatsoever. When I returned home, however, I was constantly asked about how dangerous it was. Did I feel safe there? Did anyone try to mug me? The answer is yes and no, in that order.
The questions got me thinking. Is New York City a safe place to visit? Is it a safe place to live? Should I be worried about visiting there again? I set out to uncover the truth and wither validate people’s perceptions or put them to rest for good.
So, is New York City safe?
New York is considered to be a very safe city, with a safety rating of 69% which makes it the 51st safest city in America (out of a total 162) and it considered by the FBI to be the safest large city in the country. There you have it. New York is a relatively safe city!
If you want to understand more about why New York is considered a safe city and read some tips for staying safe there (and everywhere), then read on.
What Makes New York Safe?
If you have ever watched a movie set in New York, then you probably have a misconception that New York is one of the most dangerous cities in the world. In reality, New York makes for such a rich backdrop, that many thriller and action movies are set there. What would those movies be with their action and thrills?
You should always do your own research before you visit somewhere, but you can be assured that New York has one of the best police forces in the world. If you use a little common sense, then you will avoid any run-ins with them, but you should be aware that they are always patrolling the streets. That presence is nice to have for tourists and residents alike and provides great photo opportunities for tourists; just make sure to ask before you do take a photo.
When you look at the crime rate in New York compared to other American cities, it is actually relatively low. If you are a tourist, then you are particularly safe from crime as the bulk of crime happens outside of tourist areas. If you are visiting there, then stay away from Harlem and the Bronx, and you should be fine.
With any tourist-rich city, there is a chance of pick-pocketing. You may be surprised to know (as I was) that New York has relatively low rates of pick-pocketing when compared to the rest of the US. Central Park is a place you are going to want to visit. With such an open space, it is unlikely that you are going to be a victim of pick-pocketing as you would in a denser area. Having said that, most of the crime there happens at night, so as long as you stick to daylight hours, you should be safe.
As a tourist, you should try and stay in the denser populated areas. The fewer people there are in the area, the more likely you are to be targeted (especially if you look like a tourist). Stay around people and New York is as safe as your hometown (that is not to say that you will be targeted in sparser areas, just that you increase your chances).
The Truth About New York Safety in Detail
The risk of something happening to you in New York is relatively low. When we break down that overall risk of danger, how do individual categories size up?
Pick-pocketing is one of your main risks in New York City (and the risk is still low). The best thing about this type of risk is that you are only going to lose possessions and you are in no real danger of physical or emotional harm. Of course, losing your possessions can be a nuisance, so keep your belongings in an inaccessible place, be especially wary in crowded areas, and, if you can, try to blend into your surroundings. Pickpockets target tourists, so the less you can look like a tourist and the more you look like a local, the better.
If you have watched movies set in New York, you are probably expecting to be mugged the next time you are there, but your chances of being mugged there are low. New York is considered a safe city when it comes to mugging and kidnapping. If you want to be extremely safe, then stick to crowded areas and never walk alone at night.
Watch the Scam, Cam!
You may also be the target of scams when you are in New York, especially when you are on the street. If anyone begins to tell you a story or tries to help you with your luggage, be firm and direct with them. A simple ‘no’ will get you out of most situations. Do not catch the eye of anyone who is trying to get your attention. Watch out for people distracting you. And, if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Again, your risk of being scammed is low.
Transport is also safe in New York. Again, movies are mostly to blame for bad cab drivers in New York, but most cab drivers know their stuff and are there to make a living. If you know where you are going and have a little familiarity with the city, then you will know if you are being scammed or not. The subway is also safe, just refrain from riding alone late at night. That is when the weird people come out (not that I can claim not to be weird myself).
Looking at your overall risk of something big happening, like a natural disaster or terrorist attack, you can be assured that you are perfectly safe. I (nor anyone else) can accurately predict exactly when these will occur, but, other than the occasional blizzard or flood, New York is safe from natural disasters. It is also under no current threat of a terrorist attack, though the city is ever vigilant.
New York is also a safe place for women travelers. Women generally find that traveling can be less safe for them when compared to men, but in New York, that is not an issue. Of course, try to go out with someone else, in daylight, and in densely populated areas where you can.
Safety Tips for New York
New York is virtually a completely safe city and I would have no problem visiting there again, but if you are still worried then I do have some great tips for staying safe in New York, and any other place you may visit:
- Try not to look like a tourist and avoid drawing attention to yourself. Walk confidently, try not to be carrying a map around with you and constantly referring to it (cellphone maps too), keep your camera hidden if possible, and try not to look lost as you are walking around
- Know where you want to go and how to get there in advance. Plan out your day before you leave your hotel. Know where your destination is and plan how to get there
- When in crowded areas, keep your wallet or purse on the front of your person. Keeping anything in a back pocket or behind your back makes it easier for pickpockets to steal from you. Usually, I would say, if you have it, flaunt it, but when traveling, the opposite is true. Keep your valuables hidden. The more you have on show, the more likely pickpockets are to target you. This includes your wallet, cash, cellphone, camera, and jewelry
- Stick to populated, well-known, popular areas. Take the main routes to get to your destination. Stick to known areas when it gets dark. If you feel lost or uncomfortable, look for a police officer or a business owner. You do not want to look lost, but sometimes it is better to ask for help. If you ever feel that you are lost or in a bad area, you can always flag down a cab to take you to your destination
- If you are taking the subway, try to avoid riding alone at night. If you are riding alone, then try to stay near a family or close to the ticket booth.
My Final Word: New York Is Safe!
I felt safe the entire time that I was in New York, and I would not hesitate to go back. During my time there, I did not ever feel unsafe, and I did not witness anything which would put me off returning. I think that New York has gotten a bad rap from movies and TV shows. The city you see on the big (or small) screen is not the New York of reality. If 50 million people visit every year, then it cannot be all that bad, can it?
If you use your common sense and follow some of my tips, I truly believe that there is no chance of something bad happening to you in New York. We can never foresee what is going to happen but, if we take precautions, we can ensure that we are safe no matter where we travel.