The city of Baltimore is a popular destination for fans of early American history, coastal culture, and the hit musical Hairspray. Around 27 million people, most of them domestic visitors, come to Baltimore each year.
It’s one of the oldest cities in the United States, and you can check out important historic sites such as Fort McHenry, which inspired The Star-Spangled Banner, and the colonial harbor of Fell’s Point.
Baltimore is packed with amazing museums such as the Maryland Science Center and the Baltimore Museum of Art. Plus, the city’s unique location on Chesapeake Bay means that it is packed full of great seafood!
Unfortunately, Baltimore also has a dark side, which is its reputation as one of the most dangerous cities in the United States. While some of that reputation is fueled by fiction, such as the hit TV show The Wire, there is some truth behind every stereotype.
That doesn’t mean that you should avoid a visit to Baltimore, especially when there are so many attractions such as the ones listed above. Our detailed guide can help you figure out how to travel to Baltimore safely. Read on to learn more!
Is Baltimore Safe to Visit in 2023?
It depends. Baltimore is a city that has a very high crime rate and has been struggling to manage this problem for years. However, this crime rate doesn’t often affect tourists.
As long as you follow basic safety precautions and are very careful about which neighborhoods in Baltimore you visit, you will have a safe trip to Baltimore, just like the millions of other people that visit the city each year.
Most Americans that don’t live in Baltimore associate the city with a high crime rate. This stereotype was popularized in part by popular shows such as The Wire. However, it is true that Baltimore has a high crime rate.
Local news reports are often full of reports of:
- Armed robbery
- Drug-related crimes
According to US News & World Report, Baltimore has a higher than average crime rate compared to other American cities. The crime rate is 497.9 incidents per 100,000 people.
More concerning than the high overall crime rate is the make-up of crime in Baltimore. A high percentage of overall crime incidents are violent crime incidents.
Baltimore’s violent crime rate is much higher than the national average. Baltimore’s crime rate has been high for decades, and city authorities have tried various initiatives to bring it down with little luck.
Social factors such as racial segregation, concentrated poverty, and deindustrialization contributed over the past decades to bring down a once-prosperous coastal city.
The adversarial relationship between the city’s population and police has not helped. In 2015, a young African American man Freddie Gray was killed by the police during an arrest, sparking violent protests in the city.
Although the situation has calmed down since, many Baltimore residents still mistrust the police, whom they see as targeting racial minorities and poor people in the city.
This tension worsens the dynamic in the city as people are less likely to report crimes since they don’t trust the police force. However, the story of the city of Baltimore is not just the story of crime.
Baltimore is a city where many people live and go about their daily lives and millions visit every year. They wouldn’t do this if the city was completely dangerous.
Most crime in Baltimore is concentrated in several impoverished neighborhoods that have very high crime rates, which drives up the crime rate for the city overall. Most neighborhoods where tourists want to go, such as Inner Harbor, are as safe as similar places in other big cities.
Crime in Baltimore
The most common safety concern for visitors to Baltimore is definitely crime. As mentioned above, the city has one of the highest crime rates in the nation, especially violent crime.
The FBI offers a detailed breakdown of crime statistics for Baltimore (using data from 2019). A whopping 30% of crimes committed in Baltimore are violent crimes, while the remaining 70% are property crimes.
The most common violent crime in Baltimore is aggravated assault, which makes up 15% of total crimes committed in Baltimore. Robberies make up 13% of Baltimore’s crime total.
Baltimore also has a high rate of the worst violent crime, which is homicide. In 2019, there were 348 murders in Baltimore, almost one per day. It has more homicides than all the cities in the rest of Maryland combined.
Most Baltimore homicides are concentrated in impoverished, high-crime neighborhoods. Often, victims are innocent citizens caught in the cross-fire.
Many homicides are drug and gang-related, with violence a common form of gang initiation. This creates an unsafe situation for Baltimore residents, especially those living in vulnerable neighborhoods.
However, tourists are rarely affected by this problem, although they are afraid of becoming victims of homicides due to frightening news reports coming out of Baltimore.
Baltimore also has a high property crime rate, with 25,748 total property crimes committed in 2019. The most common was larceny-theft, which is the most common crime overall, making up 44.5% of total crimes committed in Baltimore.
The city also experiences high rates of burglaries, which make up 14.7% of total crimes. Motor vehicle thefts are also common, with thousands of incidents per year. Unfortunately, the crime prognosis for Baltimore is not very optimistic.
2022 was one of the deadliest years in recent history for Baltimore. The homicide rate increased that year, with 177 homicides in just the first six months of the year.
Analysts pointed to several potential causes for this increase in gun violence, including a country-wide uptick in gun violence and a strained police force.
Again, keep in mind that most violent crimes in Baltimore affect certain neighborhoods more than others. Visitors to Baltimore, as long as they stick to safer parts of the city, likely won’t experience the worst that city residents sometimes face.
Although violent crimes grab the headlines in Baltimore, tourists are far more likely to be victims of minor property crimes such as theft, the types of crimes you encounter in any tourist destination, than a dramatic violent crime.
Residents of Baltimore have a 1 in 33 chance of being victims of a property crime. Pickpocketing rates in Baltimore are not as high as they are in certain global tourism destinations, such as the city of Barcelona, but you should still be on your guard when it comes to your valuables.
Thieves operate in crowded areas of the city such as Penn Station and other transportation hubs. Make sure that you have a secure bag for your valuables and that you never put anything you can’t afford to lose somewhere that thieves can easily access, such as a back pants pocket.
Don’t flash your valuables such as expensive jewelry or lots of cash as that singles you out as a potential target. In Baltimore, you are likely to encounter people asking you for money on the street.
Most people are innocent panhandlers trying to make a buck—there is a high poverty rate in Baltimore. Politely say that you don’t have any cash and move on or do what many locals do and tune out the many panhandlers.
However, some people asking you for money are potential scammers. Be careful of people approaching you in the street offering you unique tours or CDs of their music as these are often scammers.
Another common scam tactic is people asking to use your phone to text a family member, then entering your banking application. Finally, be careful when withdrawing money from an ATM.
Some ATMs have skimmers, so always make sure that the opening of the ATM looks as it should and cover your PIN with your hand. Only use ATMs in banks and other official buildings and during the day to avoid being robbed.
If you do end up being the victim of a violent crime while you are in Baltimore, the most likely crime you will encounter will be robbery. Thousands of robberies happen in Baltimore each year.
Common forms of robberies are muggings, carjackings, and retail robberies (obviously, you don’t have to worry about the latter one as a tourist). Carjackings in particular are a concern for Baltimore residents.
The good news is that the tourist area of Baltimore is very compact, so you can get away with not taking a taxi or ride-share or renting a car at all during your stay.
If you have to drive, make sure that all your doors and windows are locked as you drive through the city and try to drive during the day. Most robberies occur in Baltimore’s sketchier neighborhoods, so as long as you stick to safe areas, you should be fine.
Most robberies also occur at night. Try to do most of your exploring during the day and stick to streets that you know are safe and well-lit if you decide to venture out at night.
Other precautions can help you avoid being the victim of a robbery. Avoid flashing a lot of cash or other valuables as that singles you out as a target.
Attempt to blend in with the locals by looking as if you know where you are going. Tourists are often targeted for robberies if they look lost and are on their phone, so duck into a nearby business if you want to search for directions.
Avoiding Bad Areas
Avoiding bad areas is the key to staying safe in Baltimore. Crime is highly concentrated in certain parts of the city, so avoiding them will help you stay safe. West Baltimore contains most of the city’s dangerous neighborhoods.
Avoid this region of Baltimore and you will avoid a lot of the worst crime. The Middle-East neighborhood of Baltimore was where much of The Wire was filmed, which should tell you what you need to know about the safety of this area.
Other dangerous neighborhoods in Baltimore include:
- Cherry Hill
- Grove Park
- Fairfield Area
Most tourist destinations are concentrated around Inner Harbor, which is one of the safest parts of the city.
Things to Consider
Here are some additional safety tips for traveling to Baltimore:
- When talking to locals, don’t always bring up the crime. People are aware of the reputation their city has and are frustrated when people stereotype it.
- If you’re driving in Baltimore, always lock your doors and roll up your windows. Park only in secure parking lots and garages with attendants and surveillance.
- Baltimore in the summer is hot and humid, with frequent storms. Dress appropriately. You might want to visit when there is milder weather.
- Tap water in Baltimore is mostly safe. However, sometimes the tap water is contaminated, especially during floods. Follow local news for warnings when there is a boil water notice.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions other travelers to Baltimore want answered:
Is Baltimore, Maryland safe for tourists?
For tourists who are visiting Baltimore, the city is actually safe. Most crimes are concentrated in certain neighborhoods that are far away from where tourists normally go. Baltimore residents are the ones who are more likely to have safety problems.
Is it safe to walk in downtown Baltimore?
During the day, downtown Baltimore is safe to visit and very walkable. At night, certain parts of downtown are less trafficked, creating prime opportunities for muggers.
Is it safe to walk alone in Baltimore?
During the day, it is safe to walk alone in Baltimore except for the most dangerous neighborhoods. However, at night you should try to walk around with a trusted group, especially if you don’t know the city very well.
Is Baltimore safer than LA?
Los Angeles is a bigger city than Baltimore, but it is safer. Baltimore has a higher crime rate than LA and more concerningly, a higher violent crime rate.
Is Baltimore a nice city?
The crime statistics cover up the fact that Baltimore is a very nice city. It has centuries of history, a thriving arts scene, and lots of other cultural attractions.
Over to You — Book Your Trip Today!
|📈 Violent crime rate||30 per 1k (very high)|
|👮♂️ Most common crime||Petty theft|
|🏠 Worst neighborhood||Middle-East|
|❓ Safety tip||Stick to well-traveled areas|
Baltimore has a reputation as an unsafe city, and you certainly have to be on your guard as you walk around the city. However, if you stick to touristy, well-trafficked areas and use basic precautions, your trip to Baltimore should be very safe. Happy travels!