Brooklyn is one of New York City’s five boroughs. Historically, Manhattan has had far more appeal to tourists than Brooklyn. However, times are changing. In recent years Brooklyn has gentrified, particularly along the East River Waterfront.
Historically dangerous areas like Williamsburg are now safer than some suburbs. For those looking for an atypical NYC vacation, Brooklyn offers numerous amenities that rival or outcompete Manhattan’s.
There is a thriving nightlife scene in Bushwick, serene skyline views in Brooklyn Heights, and world-class parks in Park Slope. Not to mention the fabulous food that is available in virtually every neighborhood.
In the 80s and 90s, robberies, assaults, and drug offenses plagued large portions of Brooklyn. Today, the situation has improved dramatically.
Drug dealing corners are now home to chic cafes offering an assortment of vegan and gluten-free options. Of course, gentrification comes with its set of social problems, but crime isn’t one of them.
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Is Brooklyn Safe to Visit in 2023?
Yes, Brooklyn is safe to visit, given you know where to go. In general, any built-up area along the East River is safe. Safe neighborhoods also exist throughout the borough, but many lack notable attractions.
There are also dangerous parts of Brooklyn. Areas like East New York and Brownsville are dangerous neighborhoods that tourists should avoid at all costs.
The most common crime tourists can expect to encounter in Brooklyn is petty theft. Scams and extortion are also a concern. Random acts of violence are not frequent but do occur.
Like any big city, Brooklyn has its fair share of petty theft. Pickpockets and bag snatchers are moderately common. Most petty criminals hang out around popular tourist destinations like Prospect Park and the Williamsburg Waterfront.
Keep a close eye on your belongings and remain aware of your surroundings when visiting densely populated areas to avoid petty theft.
Scams are also a concern when visiting Brooklyn. Brooklynites, especially those given to a life of crime, can spot a tourist from blocks away. Most scams aimed at tourists are low-level crimes intended to turn a quick profit.
Inflated prices or charges for free services are common low-level scams Brooklyn tourists might encounter. To avoid scams, always ask for prices ahead of time. Be wary of stores with unlisted product prices. And never buy metro cards or tickets from scalpers.
As you might expect, Brooklyn also has its fair share of violent crime. Violent crime tends to play out between residents with personal disputes. However, some violent crime does affect tourists. In most cases, violence is a part of property theft.
If you’re the target of theft, comply with the thief’s demands and report the incident to the police. Random acts of violence do occur in Brooklyn.
Stabbings and people being pushed in front of subways are just two examples of random violent crimes that have made national headlines recently. Remember that while Brooklyn is safer than it used to be, you still need to be on your guard.
Crime in Brooklyn
The most common crime in Brooklyn is larceny, both petit and grand. Tourists are unlikely to be the target of grand larceny if they leave their valuables at home or in their accommodation.
Preventing Petit Larceny
There is no way to fully safeguard against petit larceny, but there are some ways to avoid it. To avoid petit larceny:
- Secure valuables like phones and cameras to your person with a strap.
- Avoid distractions like your phone or random conversations while walking down the street.
- Keep your purse, bag, or tote in front of you while on the subway.
Scams of all kinds abound in Brooklyn. Tourists visiting Brooklyn should be wary of any individual who is overly friendly or offering a service for free. Typical scams tourists will encounter include fake cabs at the airport, ATM skimmers, and subway scammers.
Tourists can avoid fake cabs at the airport by calling a cab service over the phone. Avoid cabbies offering rides directly outside of the airport exit. When traveling by cab, always ask for rates upfront.
If the cab charges by mile or minute, track the trip on your phone to make sure you’re not being taken for a ride. Many tourists will opt for a rideshare app like Lyft or Uber to avoid dealing with cabs.
Tourists should also be aware of ATM skimmers. ATM skimmers are devices attached to the card reader slot of ATMs. ATM skimmers collect private card information and transmit it to criminals at an offsite location.
Tourists can limit their exposure to ATM skimmers by avoiding independently owned ATMs. When possible, visit a teller. When visiting a teller is not possible, or too inconvenient, at least pull on the card reader.
Many skimming devices are only loosely attached to the ATM and can easily be removed with a little force. Also, don’t talk to people on the subway. That’s a general safety rule, but it can also help tourists avoid scams.
Brooklyn tourists will undoubtedly encounter people down on their luck panhandling on the trains. These people often are in dire straits and do need money. Whether you want to give them money or not is up to you.
However, there are more nefarious subway scammers Brooklyn tourists should look out for. One common subway scam is children soliciting donations for their sports teams.
The children typically offer a snack with a donation and request information like name, address, and email from donors. Do not give your information out. You wouldn’t give your personal information to an adult, so don’t give it to a child.
Avoiding Random Violence
Random violent crime is also a concern for tourists. When traveling around Brooklyn, look people in the eye and walk with your head up. Be confident, and people will likely leave you alone. When traveling, always remain aware of your surroundings.
Look for shadows on the pavement during the day and listen for footsteps at night. If you are traveling by subway, stand away from the platform.
Many Brooklynites stand on the platform edge to ensure they get a seat when the subway pulls in. If you’re visiting, standing near the platform edge is an unnecessary risk to your safety: don’t do it.
Avoiding Bad Neighborhoods
Tourists are unlikely to enter Brooklyn’s “bad” neighborhoods. Areas of Brooklyn that experience high crime generally lack social, economic, and cultural resources. The scarcity of amenities in these areas means tourists naturally avoid the worst parts of Brooklyn.
However, as anyone who has visited New York will attest, the subway can be confusing. Here are some Brooklyn neighborhoods to commit to memory in case you get turned around on the subway.
Bushwick is a strange area. The neighborhood is home to some of the nation’s most rampant gentrification, as well as some hardened criminals.
A few decades ago, Bushwick would have easily made the list of “must avoid neighborhoods”, but the situation is slightly different today. Bushwick has an average crime rate that is 7% higher than the national average.
That’s not bad considering the area was a war zone a few decades ago. If you’re a part of a younger demographic, the nightlife Bushwick has to offer is a serious draw and for the most part, you should be safe.
However, there are some dangerous parts of Bushwick. In general, the further east you go, the more dangerous the neighborhood becomes. Most tourists will want to stay west of Dekalb Avenue.
The northwestern part of Bushwick is the most gentrified area and experiences less violence than areas to the southeast. Stay aware of your surroundings and watch your drink while you’re out.
Brownsville is not only one of the most dangerous parts of Brooklyn, it’s the most dangerous part of all of New York City. The borders of Brownsville are East New York Ave to the north, Remsen Ave to the east, Linden Blvd to the south, and Van Sinderen Ave to the west.
In Brownsville, there are roughly 1,300 violent crimes per 100,000 residents. Terrifyingly, many of these violent crimes are homicides.
The L train and the 3 line service Brownsville, although the 3 cuts its service at night (likely due to safety concerns). The good news is that there are tons of train stops on the L and 3 trains before you reach Brownsville.
You would have to be exceptionally lost, or worse, fall asleep on the train, to wind up in Brownsville. On the off-chance you do find yourself in Brownsville, talk to the conductor. They will direct you out of the neighborhood.
East New York
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the second most dangerous area of Brooklyn is Brownsville. The violent crime rate in East New York is 184% above the national average.
The C and the L train service East New York. Broadway Junction is the last stop before entering the area. If you hit Broadway Junction, Disembark and catch the first Manhattan-bound train out of the station.
Tourists may find themselves in Vinegar Hill by way of Dumbo. Dumbo is a popular tourist destination with lovely parks and skyline views. Vinegar Hill is an industrial backwater.
Vinegar Hill isn’t overtly dangerous, but the neighborhood’s remote location and abundance of industrial infrastructure invite criminal activity, especially at night.
Tourists will feel a change in atmosphere when they enter Vinegar Hill. If you start to see smoke stacks while wandering through Dumbo, save yourself the trouble and turn around.
Things to Consider
In addition to safety, there are a few other things tourists should be aware of to ensure their Brooklyn vacation goes smoothly.
- Visit during the spring or fall. Brooklyn experiences frigid winters and sweltering summers. If you want the luxury of exploring the borough on foot, plan your trip during the milder seasons of spring and fall.
- Carry cash. Many tourist destinations accept all major credit cards. However, Brooklyn is still a cash city. Many small corner stores and mom-and-pop restaurants are cash only. If you do need a cheap ATM, look for a Chinese take-out restaurant or a Mcdonald’s. Both of these restaurants usually offer ATMs with low service fees.
- Always have a second transportation option in mind. Rideshares and cabs are the de facto back-up, but Citi-bikes and rentable e-scooters are other available transportation options.
- Like all New Yorkers, Brooklynites are vocal people. Remember that they are more bark than bite.
- Although it is technically prohibited by law, traveling between subway cars can be an effective way to remove yourself from an uncomfortable situation on the subway. Traveling between subway cars is inherently dangerous and is only recommended when there is an imminent threat to personal safety.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some frequently asked questions about visiting Brooklyn.
What is the most dangerous part of Brooklyn?
The most dangerous part of Brooklyn is Brownsville. The area has an abysmal reputation for all kinds of crime. Robberies, murders, drug offenses, and sexual assault are just some of the crimes that plague this impoverished neighborhood.
A combination of chronic poverty and limited opportunity has bred a culture of violence in Brownsville that rivals the most dangerous places in the world.
Is Brooklyn a dangerous city?
The overall safety rating of Brooklyn is low. There are many areas of Brooklyn with chronic crime problems. However, there are also large sections of the borough that are safe to visit.
In general, crime in New York City has been trending downward since the 80s, with an occasional spike here and there.
Overall, these stats aren’t uncommon for a large metropolitan area. When compared to other major US cities, Brooklyn is about as safe as Miami or Los Angeles.
Is Brooklyn or Manhattan safer?
Omitting extreme outliers that are unlikely to affect a tourist’s visit, Manhattan and Brooklyn are equally safe. Tourists concerned about borough safety should consider Queens when looking to book accommodations. Queens is the safest borough and has quick, safe transportation to and from Manhattan.
Is it safe to go to Brooklyn at night?
Brooklyn is safe to travel to at night. Of course, some areas are safer than others. Luckily, the subway system in Brooklyn is robust. Any part of Brooklyn worth visiting at night likely has a train station near the area’s amenities.
Still, tourists traveling to Brooklyn at night should exercise additional caution. When possible, travel with a friend and have a plan b in place in case you get stuck in an area.
Yellow cabs and rideshare apps are great backups to consider should you get stranded in Brooklyn because of a public transportation service outage.
Where should I avoid in Brooklyn?
Avoid Brownsville, East New York, and Ocean Hill at all costs. No tourist attractions exist in any of these three easterly Brooklyn neighborhoods, only high crime rates.
Other Brooklyn neighborhoods with elevated crime rates are Bedford-Stuyvesant (BedStuy), Sunset Park along the river, Coney Island, and Gowanus, but these areas are generally safe to visit during the day.
So, Is Brooklyn Safe to Visit?
Brooklyn is a safe city to visit if you know where to go. If safety is your top priority, consider staying in North Brooklyn. North Brooklyn has numerous galleries, restaurants, parks, stores, and hangouts that are safe for tourists to visit. Happy travels!