New York City is home to 8,467, 513 people and is one of the most famous cities in the world. Most people see it as a city with endless opportunities, often intriguing many visitors yearly.
This city welcomed around 66.6 million visitors in 2019, and the number seems to keep growing every year. Towering buildings, plenty of shops, Broadway performances, and the bright lights of Times Square are just a few things that draw people in.
And the majority of the city is walking-friendly, so you most likely won’t need transportation unless you’re going from one borough to the next. About 57% of New York City households don’t even have a car.
With all this tourism, it’s hard to gauge whether New York City is safe or not. Sometimes busy cities are safe, and sometimes they’re not.
To figure it out for yourself, it’s best if you do some research to make an informed decision. Most people travel to and from New York City with no issues, but here are some tips to keep in mind when visiting the Big Apple.
Is New York City Safe to Visit?
New York City consists of 5 boroughs, including:
- The Bronx
- Staten Island
With this in mind, most of these areas are considered safe, especially for tourists since you’ll spend most of your time in the highly-populated areas. But, like any other city, New York City still has its problems.
The most common safety concern you’ll see is pickpocketing, while larger issues happen outside the populated areas. Crime is usually a large concern when people think about visiting New York City.
But, violent crime isn’t necessarily a large issue for tourists to worry about. You just need to use common sense and avoid bad neighborhoods to keep yourself safe.
Another thing people seem to worry about is transportation. If you’re staying in a singular borough, you can probably walk to all the places you’d like to see. But, if you want to visit more than one borough, you’ll need a taxi, bus, or the subway.
While the subway is usually safe, it’s a little unsettling, especially late at night or when traveling alone. Traveling alone can be a stressful experience depending on your personality.
While most people travel around New York City alone with no problems, there’s still a possibility of danger. Although, most of the danger relies on how you act and react while in New York City.
Let’s look at all these concerns a little deeper to help you decide if traveling to New York City is something you want to do.
Crime in New York City
You’ve probably read about and heard about New York City being a place full of crime. But, in reality, crime rates are pretty similar to other big cities. And if you’re worried about violent crimes, those don’t typically happen in tourist areas at all.
Nonviolent crimes like pickpocketing and theft are your biggest concerns as a tourist. Although violent crimes increased over the last year or so in New York, the rates are decreasing compared to the rest of the country.
To be a little more specific, murders in New York City decreased by 7.9% from 2021 to 2022. And it seems that murders are overall slowly declining every year. There haven’t been any major spikes since 1993.
Less-violent crimes, such as burglary, increased from 2021 to 2022 by 39.4%, but they’re still showing an overall decrease since 1993. While violent crimes like murder typically happen in bad neighborhoods, smaller crimes like pickpocketing and theft are more common in tourist areas.
If you visit Times Square and other populated tourist spots, there will be crowds of people clustered together. Being in tight quarters like this allows thieves easy access to pockets and bags.
To prevent thieves from sneakily taking your things, you should:
- Use anti-theft bags
- Keep your important belongings hidden from view and out of easy access places such as your back pocket
- Leave valuables in the hotel safe or at home
- Don’t take money or credit cards out of your wallet in public unless you’re buying something
Avoiding Bad Neighborhoods
Violent crimes typically happen off the beaten path when you start wandering outside of tourist areas. Specific neighborhoods in New York City have a reputation for being more crime-ridden and just overall dangerous than others. Here are some of the top three neighborhoods you should avoid when traveling to New York City.
Drug use, violence, and incarceration rates are also much higher in this neighborhood compared to others.
In 2015, Brownsville had the second highest incarceration rate in New York City at 348 incarcerations per 100,000 people and 180 assault hospitalizations per 100,000 people. Then in 2020, there was a 72.7% uptick in murders.
To avoid this neighborhood:
- Don’t get on or off the subway in Brownsville
- Don’t take shortcuts to your destination through this neighborhood as it isn’t safe during the day or night
- Stay in the tourist area of Brooklyn and don’t wander
Bed-Stuy is another neighborhood filled with high crime rates and located in Brooklyn. Data taken from May 2021 to May 2022 shows that there were about 16 to 22 crimes per 1,000 people.
This neighborhood does have an interesting culture, history, and beautiful architecture. But, due to the high crime rate, it isn’t the best place for visitors.
To avoid this neighborhood:
- Stay near the Prospect Park area
- If you want to visit Manhattan from Brooklyn, you’re better off taking the highway, or you may need to pass through Bed-Stuy to get there
- Don’t get on or off the subway in Bed-Stuy
East Harlem is in Manhattan and had about 18 to 33 crimes per 1,000 people from May 2021 to May 2022. East Harlem has a lot of shelters and other facilities available to people in need. But this comes with drug and alcohol use, as many people have mental and physical ailments.
To avoid this neighborhood:
- Don’t get on or off the subway in East Harlem
- East Harlem is in the southern part of Manhattan, so stay in the Lower Manhattan area, where most tourists are
- If you go to Central Park, don’t wander around at the north end because the park borders East Harlem
The subway, for the most part, is pretty safe, especially during the day. People are constantly riding the subway during the day, as it is one of New York City’s primary modes of transportation since most people don’t have a car.
Because all these people are around while you’re riding the subway, violent crimes rarely happen during daytime hours.
But remember that a crowded subway car is a perfect place for pickpockets to strike. In May 2022, there were a total of 219 reported crimes on the subway, with most having to do with stealing.
The police saw cellphones and jewelry as the main targets for thieves. When the sun goes down, fewer people are riding the subway. And this can be unsettling on its own.
Being underground with fewer people around and sometimes spotty cell service isn’t the best idea for visitors. If you choose to take the subway late at night, you should bring someone with you so you can have an extra set of eyes with you.
Some easy ways to keep yourself safe on the subway include:
- Stay behind the yellow lines on the platform to prevent yourself from getting hurt or dropping things on the track
- Keep your belongings in front of you so no one can take them
- Keep electronics and other valuable items hidden
- Travel with someone
- If you can’t travel with someone, stay hyper-aware of your surroundings and carry something like pepper spray if you feel worried
Traveling in a big city is very overwhelming. If you can, it’s usually best to travel with at least one other person. But, sometimes, that option isn’t available. As long as you trust your gut and stay away from the bad neighborhoods, you should be fine.
Stay alert to your surroundings and stick to the tourist areas rather than exploring off the beaten path by yourself.
Overall, New York City is a rather safe city for solo travelers. New York City is safe at night too, because the streets have plenty of lights, and people are walking around at all hours.
But, if you’re traveling alone, you might want to walk around and travel during the day, as it is easier to navigate. There are some specific precautions you should take before you go to New York City on your own.
Some solo traveling safety tips include:
- Use common sense and be street-smart
- Travel during daylight hours
- Hold your belongings such as backpacks and purses in front of you
- Plan your trip thoroughly, so you know exactly where you’re going and how to get there
- Make copies of important documents just in case you lose your things or someone steals them
- Talk to a family member or friend at least once a day to tell them where you’ll be
- Don’t stick out by wearing flashy clothes and expensive jewelry
- Keep your wallet, phone, and important documents secure and hidden
Things to Consider
There are some things that you need to consider before booking your trip to New York City. Some of these things include:
- Look at a map and understand where your destinations are
- New York City is always busy with taxis, cars, and people, so you need to pay extra attention when crossing the street
- Don’t bike around New York City unless you’re good at it, and always use a helmet
- Make reservations for restaurants ahead of time, especially in tourist spots, or you’ll find yourself waiting hours to eat
- Don’t bother renting a car, as driving in New York City is difficult and stressful
- The sidewalks have traffic rules, so treat them as if you’re driving and always stay on the right side
- Go to the bathroom at the hotel before exploring because it’ll be hard to find a public bathroom
- Expect to tip
- Bring a good pair of sneakers and keep walking
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some frequently asked questions people have when they plan a visit to New York City.
Is New York City a safe place to live in?
For the most part, New York City is a safe place to live. You just need to stay away from renting or buying properties in dangerous neighborhoods. Theft and burglary are sometimes an issue, but it depends on where you choose to live. Plus, there are plenty of ways to keep your home safe such as using alarm systems.
How safe is Times Square?
Violent crimes aren’t a big concern at all. The biggest concern in Times Square is pickpocketing and theft. The large crowds make it easy for people to steal, and thieves can be quite clever with their tactics. This is why you need to carry your belongings in front of you and keep valuables hidden. Never put anything in your back pockets.
Is Central Park safe at night?
Central Park is open from six in the morning to one in the morning. While the park is technically open for the majority of the night, this doesn’t mean you should go after dark. The park is almost deserted at night, making you an easy target for crimes, especially if you’re alone. Central Park is extremely safe during the day, but nighttime is rather unsafe.
How do I not look like a tourist in New York City?
Always act like you know what you’re doing. You’ll need to act confident. Abide by the sidewalk rules by walking on the right side, always keep walking, and adjust your speed to the people around you. New Yorkers tend to walk fast, so try to keep up. And another thing you should do is not wear New York branded clothing, as this is a dead giveaway.
How many days is enough to visit New York City?
Usually, you can visit all you want to see in New York City with a three to five-day trip. If you plan on only exploring one borough, you won’t need a lot of time. But, if you want to go to all five, you might even need more than five days. It all depends on what you want to see, where you want to eat, and what activities you want to do. Plan your trip out ahead of time.
So, Is New York City Safe to Visit?
Although certain parts of New York City have crime issues, the city as a whole is a relatively safe place to visit. To stay safe during your trip, you’ll need to use common sense and street smarts, and avoid unsafe neighborhoods.
Follow these safety tips, and you’re sure to have a blast during your trip to the Big Apple. Happy travels!