The city of Boston is one of the best cities to visit in the United States. It’s no wonder that the city receives over 22 million visitors each year.
Boston has some of the richest history in all of the United States. Visitors can take in important sights from the colonial period and Revolutionary War, such as Boston Harbor and the Freedom Trail.
Boston also has many wonderful art and science museums for lovers of culture and a strong sports culture for those who love to cheer (and boo) the local teams.
There are many reasons to visit Boston, whether you want to make it a weekend trip or spend even more time exploring everything that the city has to offer. However, before you visit any new city, you probably want to know if visiting is a good idea.
But don’t worry — our travel experts have done the hard work for you. Our guide covers the most common crimes and safety risks you might encounter, how to avoid them, and more. Let us be your guide!
Is Boston Safe to Visit in 2023?
Yes. Boston is mostly safe to visit, but like most big cities, it has a problem with crime. That being said, its overall crime rate is lower than in most other big cities of the same size.
As long as you take a few basic precautions and avoid bad areas, you’ll probably have a very safe visit to Boston. Although some people perceive Boston as a very dangerous city, the truth is that it is one of America’s safest big cities.
According to U.S. News & World Report, it has a violent crime rate of 216.1 incidents per 100,000 people and a property crime rate of 800.6 incidents per 100,000 people. Both of these crime rates are below the national average for large metropolitan areas.
Boston experiences many of the same crimes that you would find in any big city, including:
- Motor vehicle theft
- Petty theft
These threats are present in Boston, but they’re not omnipresent. With some basic common sense, you should be fine. Plus, the dynamics of crime in Boston work in your favor.
Unlike in some other metropolitan areas, crime in Boston is heavily confined to a few neighborhoods, usually far away from where any tourist would venture.
One caveat we would add is that the city is not equally safe for everyone. According to a local real estate website, Boston has some of the most hate crimes per capita in the nation.
In 2020, the governor’s office reported that Boston recorded 121 hate crimes, but that number has risen drastically in the years since.
According to a fact sheet from the Justice Department about the state of Massachusetts, the primary motivation for hate crimes in the state was race and ethnicity, followed by religion. This breakdown is similar for hate crimes committed in Boston itself.
The city has a reputation for racism against non-white people that is somewhat based on truth, but Boston residents, especially POC, point out that the city also has thriving African American, Asian, and Latino communities.
The likelihood of experiencing a hate crime in Boston may be slightly elevated compared to your hometown, but you might also have a great time with no incidents.
Finally, no report about Boston safety is complete without mentioning Boston weather. Winters in Boston are famously cold and snowy, sometimes catching visitors unaware.
If you are visiting during winter, be prepared for the cold, as it can cause serious damage. The city of Boston has safety tips for visiting during cold weather, including layering clothes, making sure outer layers are waterproof, and watching how long you stay outside.
If you are not experienced with driving in snow, don’t rent a car in winter (and if you do, don’t steal a local’s parking spot).
Crime in Boston
One of the primary concerns people have when visiting Boston is crime — and with good reason. The city has a bit of a rough reputation that certainly isn’t helped by the kinds of mob movies that Mark Wahlberg and other local actors star in.
However, it’s important to check in with the statistics to see if that reputation is backed up by reality. According to Neighborhood Scout, Boston has an above-average crime rate of 24.66 incidents per 100,000 people.
The violent crime rate is above the national average, while the property crime rate hovers around the national median. The site also offers a breakdown by specific types of crime.
The vast majority of violent crimes committed in Boston are assaults, making up 73.4% of the total violent crimes committed in the city. Robberies make up a distant second form of violent crime, only making up 19.6% of total violent crimes.
For the most violent crimes, Boston is actually looking good. Both the homicide rate and rape rate are below the national average.
The most common property crime is theft, which makes up 79% of total reported property crimes. Burglaries make up 11.1% of total property crimes, while motor vehicle thefts make up 9.7% of the total property crime rate.
It’s important to put these Boston crime statistics in context. The vast majority of these crimes do not affect tourists, only locals. Most violent incidents of assault happen between people who know each other or are at least acquaintances.
Crime in Boston is also concentrated in certain neighborhoods. Advocates say that many violent incidents are driven by social insecurity and factors such as poverty, trauma, and addiction.
Boston is one of the most unequal cities in the country, and maps show that the city is still highly segregated. Inequality is often a major driver of crime.
However, there is good news for Boston’s crime prospects. Local papers report that both violent crime and property crime decreased significantly in 2022, making Boston one of the only major cities to have a crime decrease that year.
However, although shooting incidents have declined, shooting deaths have increased, showing that there is still work to be done.
The crime tourists are most likely to experience in Boston is petty theft. While most incidents of crime occur far away from touristy areas, pickpockets and other petty thieves are actually more likely to target tourist areas and visitors themselves.
They know visitors are less aware of their surroundings than local Bostonians and are easier to take in. Common sites for pickpockets and other forms of petty theft in Boston include Downtown, especially around busy, popular attractions such as Faneuil Hall.
Pickpockets are also known to operate on public transportation such as buses and the T line. There is also a surprisingly high rate of petty theft in the posh neighborhood of Hyde Park.
Be aware of common techniques and distractions pickpockets and scammers use in Boston. In crowded areas, be mindful of people bumping into you, as that is a common technique pickpockets use to carry out their business.
Another common technique pickpockets use is spilling something on their victims and offering to “help” clean it up.
You can prevent most incidents of pickpocketing and bag snatching with just a few precautions. Don’t make it obvious that you are carrying valuables and that you are from out of town, as that makes you an attractive target.
Make sure your valuables are safe and secure. If you are carrying a bag, make sure that it has a secure zipper and that you are holding it close to your body.
Besides pickpockets and bag snatchers, you are likely to encounter scammers targeting tourists in popular downtown areas.
Be wary of people offering you “discounted” tickets to popular tourist attractions or that insider tour of Boston no other tourist can get. Usually, the items they offer are fraudulent, and they are just looking to take your money.
Besides petty theft, Boston has high rates of more violent forms of theft, including armed robbery and mugging. These are crimes that are fairly common in any big city.
According to locals, you can avoid getting mugged in Boston if you stick to safe neighborhoods. However, even in “safe” neighborhoods, muggings do occur. They are rare enough to make waves in local news, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
A few precautions can pretty much eliminate your risks of mugging. The vast majority of mugging incidents occur at night, so if you are walking around after dark, stick to safe neighborhoods and well-lit streets with lots of people, not poorly lit side streets and parks.
Try to stick with a group if possible. Avoid walking while distracted, for example while looking at your phone, as that gives a potential mugger the perfect opportunity to sneak up on you.
Avoiding Bad Areas
Since Boston’s crime rate is so highly concentrated in certain neighborhoods, it makes sense that avoiding certain areas is the best way to stay safe while you are visiting the city.
Most of Boston’s most dangerous neighborhoods are to the south of the city. Most people have heard of South Boston, nicknamed Southie. This working-class Irish-American neighborhood used to be home to a lot of gangsters, but its reputation has cleaned up in recent years, and it is now safe to visit.
The real dangerous neighborhoods are located elsewhere in southern Boston. Avoid Roxbury, Mattapan, and Jamaica Plain. These three southern Boston neighborhoods have the highest crime rates in the city.
At night, you should also be careful about walking in some of Boston’s parks, such as The Fens, as they provide good cover for criminal activity.
The good news is that most of Boston’s high-crime areas are located far away from the city center, making it unlikely that you could wander into them by accident.
Things to Consider
Here are some other tips and tricks for making the most out of your Boston visit:
- Boston is a very walkable city with a compact city center and good public transportation for exploring other parts of town. You don’t need to rent a car to get around, but you should bring comfortable walking shoes.
- Although Boston has a low traffic fatality rate, it has a high traffic stress rate. Drivers in Boston are infamously impatient (yet another reason why you shouldn’t bother renting a car while in town).
- Boston’s public transportation does not fully operate 24 hours a day, so be prepared to pay for a taxi or rideshare to get back home after a late night out.
- Locals are very proud of their sports teams, so don’t mention rivals such as the New York Yankees unless you are ready for a (good-natured) argument.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions visitors have about Boston:
Is Boston safe to walk at night?
The answer depends on the neighborhood. Many parts of Downtown are very lively at night, as are other neighborhoods with a strong nightlife presence. However, avoid walking through parks and dark side streets.
Is Boston safer than New York?
Although people perceive that Boston is safer than New York, New York City actually has the lower violent crime rate of the two cities! That being said, New York is a bigger city, making trouble a bit more likely.
Is Boston considered a safe city?
Although Boston has a slightly higher crime rate than the national average, it is considered a safe city. That’s because its crime rate is still lower than the rate for most American metropolitan areas.
What should you avoid doing when visiting Boston?
To save yourself a lot of headaches, avoid driving in Boston, especially in the winter. Also, avoid doing things that might annoy the famously prickly locals, such as wearing the gear of a rival sports team.
When should you not go to Boston?
Try to avoid going to Boston during the winter. The weather is very cold, and heavy snowfall often makes it hard to get around the city.
So, Is Boston Safe to Visit?
When it comes to Boston, ignore the movies and the reputation. This is one of America’s safest big cities, and it has a low crime rate. With a little common sense, you should have a great visit.
So, with so much to see and do, what are you waiting for — book your trip today!