Pittsburgh played an important role in the 19th- and 20th-century industrialization of America, making it a great place to visit for history buffs, lovers of technology, and those who want to know more about the country.
The city has several great attractions, including the Carnegie Museum of Art (yes, funded by the famous industrialist Andrew Carnegie), the Andy Warhol Museum, and the Pittsburgh Zoo. Pittsburgh is undergoing a bit of a renaissance lately with a growing restaurant, independent art, and craft brewery scene.
Many people don’t know about the attractions this city has to offer, making it a bit of a hidden gem. But while this storied city is great to visit for all types of tourists, is Pittsburgh safe to visit? Here’s our take.
Is Pittsburgh Safe to Visit in 2023?
Yes, Pittsburgh is a very safe place to visit. It has a low crime rate for a city of its size, and most crime incidents affect locals instead of tourists anyway.
While you should exercise basic precautions when walking around, just as you would anywhere, your overall experience in Pittsburgh should happen without a hitch. Just a few decades ago, Pittsburgh had a negative reputation throughout the country.
People associated it with Rust Belt decline, unemployment, and industrial pollution. However, the city has since cleaned up its act and gained a reputation as one of the best mid-sized cities in the United States, as well as one of the best places to live in the country overall.
Pittsburgh still has a way to go to clean up its history entirely, and its industrial past left a lot of legacies that are still getting cleaned up. For example, the city’s tap water still contains above normal levels of lead, so you will need to drink bottled water while you are in town.
However, the city is taking steps to clean up pollution and is, according to many visitors, one of the cleanest cities in the United States. Like any other city, Pittsburgh experiences crime.
Common crimes include:
- Vehicle break-ins
There are also violent crime incidents, including homicides. However, these rates are lower than in most other cities and rarely affect visitors to Pittsburgh.
One final thing to keep in mind when visiting Pittsburgh is the weather. Pittsburgh often suffers from extreme weather, including tornadoes, heavy rains, flooding, and blizzards.
In the winter, the weather can get very cold, and storms often dump lots of snow and ice on Pittsburgh. If you are driving or walking, be careful as the roads often freeze over with ice that isn’t easily visible, called black ice.
Crime in Pittsburgh
Like any other city in the United States, Pittsburgh has some crime incidents. The police publish a 30-day crime blotter freely available on their website for you to check out crime information, down to the block data and exact location.
From the data, you can see that most crimes happening in Pittsburgh are property crimes, although there are a few violent crime incidents. According to U.S. News & World Report, Pittsburgh’s total crime rate is 226.8 incidents per 100,000 people, which is lower than the national average.
Pittsburgh has fewer than average property crimes and violent crime incidents, compared to all U.S. cities. Neighborhood Scout has a more detailed breakdown of crime in Pittsburgh.
83% of total crimes committed in Pittsburgh were property crimes, while the remaining ones were violent crimes.
According to Neighborhood Scout, the violent crime and property crime rates are slightly above the national average, but they are comparing all communities, including sparsely populated rural communities.
In data sets that just compare Pittsburgh to other cities, it’s clear that Pittsburgh has a lower crime rate than others. The official police department even has a breakdown of statistics by type of crime.
The most common is larceny theft at 24%, followed by other assaults at 15% and vandalism at 11%. The most common violent crime is assault, which makes up 3% of all crime totals, followed closely by burglary.
The vast majority of crimes committed are property crimes. Another fact that might put to rest any fears visitors have about coming to Pittsburgh is that most crime in Pittsburgh occurs in certain neighborhoods that are far away from where tourists normally venture.
If you take care to avoid bad areas, you will probably have a fine time in Pittsburgh. Some residents are not so lucky. One of Pittsburgh’s problems is a long-standing issue with racial and economic segregation, leading some commentators to dub it “America’s apartheid city.”
Long-standing discriminatory practices and lack of opportunity mean that inhabitants of many poorer neighborhoods have no opportunities, creating the perfect climate for crime to flourish.
Although Pittsburgh’s crime statistics are overall good, there has been an increase in crime over the past few years. In 2022, police reported that they had the highest homicide rate in several years and were unclear what was causing the violent crime spike.
However, for some perspective, when we’re talking about a high homicide rate for Pittsburgh, this means that there were 59 incidents last year, much lower than in similar-sized cities.
The crime that tourists are most likely to encounter in Pittsburgh is theft. It’s hard to find accurate statistics on theft affecting tourists in Pittsburgh.
But as mentioned above, larceny theft was the most common crime that police had to investigate in the city (larceny theft refers to any form of theft that doesn’t involve violence). We don’t have data on how many pickpocketing incidents occur in Pittsburgh, but it’s safe to assume that they exist.
Take precautions that you would take while traveling anywhere else. Don’t leave your valuables unattended, not even as you head to the bathroom or pay a bill at your hotel lobby as you never know who might be lurking.
Keep your bag close to your body instead of letting it hang off the back of a chair. You probably don’t need to take other, more intense precautions such as wearing a money belt or wearing a backpack in your front.
Although motor vehicle theft is increasing across the nation, this is not a problem in Pittsburgh (parking is probably a bigger source of stress). The motor vehicle theft rate has declined drastically over the past ten years and is one of the lowest in the nation.
Still, if you are driving to Pittsburgh, don’t do anything silly such as leaving your car unlocked and parked in a sketchy neighborhood. The one source of concern is that armed robbery is rising in Pittsburgh.
There was even a recent incident where robbers broke into a home and kidnapped a teenage boy, although such a situation is very unlikely. If you are mugged, hand over your valuables and focus on leaving the area safely. You don’t want to make yourself a martyr by fighting back.
Like most American cities, Pittsburgh struggles with gun violence. In 2022, there were 150 non-fatal shootings with a firearm, 270 aggravated assaults, and over 3000 shots fired.
Most of the 150 homicides that occurred in Pittsburgh that year occurred thanks to a gun. Although gun violence is slowly decreasing in Pittsburgh, many frustrated community activists are pointing out that it is not decreasing fast enough and that communities are still affected by the weapons.
Some are saying that the police need to be stricter, while others are pointing out that communities need other ways to work on the problem.
The changing nature of Pittsburgh crime can explain why gun violence is increasing. Although organized gangs are less powerful in Pittsburgh’s inner-city neighborhoods than they were in the 1990s, now informal groups drive most of the violence.
The loose structure means that killings are actually more frequent, driven by impulses to get revenge and unclear power plays. Most gun violence in Pittsburgh is confined to certain neighborhoods, which you can check with police data.
However, random shootings can happen anywhere, just like anywhere else in the United States. Be careful at crowded events as those often attract mass shooters and keep an eye on a potential way out.
Avoiding Bad Areas
Most violent crime incidents in Pittsburgh are confined to certain neighborhoods, so you can do a lot to save your trip by avoiding them. The northeastern neighborhood of Homewood had the highest homicide rate in 2022, so you probably want to avoid that neighborhood altogether.
Both Homewood North and Homewood South have high rates of violent crime and not many tourist attractions, so there is not much reason for you to visit.
Other neighborhoods with high crime rates include Hazelwood, Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar, Larimer, and Southside Flats. The cluster of neighborhoods at the very northeastern edge of the city is unsafe, as is a stretch by the Monongahela River.
In general, the dangerous neighborhoods in Pittsburgh are far away from major tourist attractions, so you shouldn’t wander into them. Trust your instincts and leave if a neighborhood feels sketchy.
Things to Consider
Here are a few more safety tips for getting around Pittsburgh:
- Pittsburgh is famously confusing. It has a lot of one-way streets, bridges over its three rivers, and a confusing street layout. You need a good GPS system to get around the city and even then, you might get lost. Driving through the city center is something you should keep at a minimum.
- Unfortunately, Pittsburgh’s public transportation is fairly poor. Luckily, the city is compact, so if the weather is nice and you are staying close to the center, you can walk to all the attractions you want.
- If you see any plastic chairs in the street on a good parking spot, don’t move it; that’s the way Pittsburgh locals reserve their spots during heavy traffic or bad weather. If you “steal” someone’s spots, the infamous Pittsburgh temperament will probably come out to haunt you.
- Pittsburgh is famous for being sports-crazy, so try to catch a game while you are here. However, remember that the downtown area will get extra crowded, so try to avoid taking a car.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some other questions that people visiting Pittsburgh had in mind:
Is Pittsburgh good for tourists?
Yes, Pittsburgh is a great weekend getaway for tourists. There are a lot of cultural attractions, including museums, parks, and sporting stadiums. Plus, the atmosphere in the city is friendly and welcoming.
Is Pittsburgh safer than Philadelphia?
Yes, Pittsburgh is safer than Philadelphia. It has a much lower crime rate and tourists are far less likely to be victims of a crime.
Is Pittsburgh considered a safe city?
Yes, Pittsburgh is considered a safe city. It has a low crime rate for a city of its size and the crimes that do occur in the city are confined to certain neighborhoods.
Is Pittsburgh safe for solo female travelers?
Yes, Pittsburgh is safe for solo female travelers. You may face some unpleasant experiences like you would anywhere else in the United States, but for the most part, women have a good time in Pittsburgh.
Just keep in mind that during game days when Pittsburgh’s sports teams play at home, downtown will be full of rowdy, mostly male crowds that might be out of your comfort zone.
Is it safe to walk around downtown Pittsburgh?
Yes, it is safe to walk around the downtown area as it is very tourist-friendly. Just be careful when crossing the street as Pittsburgh drivers are notoriously cranky.
So, Is Pittsburgh Safe to Visit?
Pittsburgh is a great destination for a quieter city break. The crime rate is low for a medium-sized city like this, and you don’t have to take a lot of precautions to stay safe while you are there. Happy travels!