Many visitors to New York City stick to the most popular sites in Manhattan. However, residents will tell you that heading to the outer boroughs is the only way to really get a taste of how the city lives.
The Bronx is off the radar for most tourists, but it is home to beloved local attractions such as Yankee Stadium and the massive Bronx Zoo. It is the birthplace of hip-hop, a New York City invention.
The borough is also home to immigrant communities from dozens of countries, who help make the place a foodie destination that was even featured on Anthony Bourdain’s show.
Among New Yorkers and the rest of the country, the Bronx has a bit of a reputation as a rough borough. You might be wondering how much of that reputation is exaggerated and how much is reality.
Whether or not a destination is safe to visit is definitely something you should think about before you head there. That’s why we did the research and compiled everything you need to know. Let us be your guide!
Is the Bronx Safe to Visit?
The Bronx definitely has an elevated crime rate, which is why many tourists hesitate to venture into this part of New York City.
Certain parts of the Bronx have high rates of violent crime, including murder. However, other parts of the Bronx are perfectly safe for tourists and attract many locals and out-of-towners alike.
The one thing to keep in mind is that the Bronx is a massive borough.
It stretches over 57 square miles and has nearly 1.5 million people. There are entire countries that are smaller than just this one part of New York City! That means that you will have to get neighborhood-specific with your safety research.
The Bronx is home to some of the most expensive private schools in New York City and some of the richest neighborhoods, such as Riverdale, where your experience will be vastly different from visiting a poorer area.
The reason why the Bronx has such a bad reputation, even among New Yorkers from other parts of the city, is that it has an elevated crime rate. According to Neighborhood Scout, the Bronx is in the 14th percentile nationwide in terms of danger, meaning that it is one of the most dangerous places in the country.
Its crime rate is 25.78 incidents per 100,000 residents, which is very high. Even though a majority of these crimes are property crimes, this is still very high.
The most common crimes you need to worry about are:
- Motor Vehicle Theft
However, there are a few things you should keep in mind before you let the elevated crime rate scare you. First, remember what we said about the Bronx being a very big borough. The crime rate fluctuates a lot from neighborhood to neighborhood.
As long as you stick to the right neighborhoods, you’ll probably be fine. Second, these crimes mostly affect locals, not tourists. As long as you don’t bring a lot of attention to yourself, you should probably be fine.
Finally, let’s look at what the locals say themselves. In a local opinion survey of college students conducted by Niche, 52% of people feel pretty safe in the Bronx, and 9% feel very safe. The locals have learned to navigate the challenges of their home, and so will you on a visit.
Crime in the Bronx
The main reason why visitors and New Yorkers alike are hesitant to visit the Bronx is the crime rate. This fear is somewhat well-founded. The Bronx has the highest crime rate of any borough in New York City.
According to NYPD data, the violent crime rate as of 2019 was 6.81 incidents per 1,000 residents. Its shooting incidents make up 28% of the city’s total (Brooklyn has a higher number of shooting incidents).
The property crime rate is also slightly elevated in the Bronx. The crime rate is 8.7 incidents per 1,000 residents, slightly higher than the citywide average. Most of the crime that happens in the Bronx is property crime, not violent crime.
Property crime is also the crime you are most likely to experience if you visit the Bronx. Another statistic can help explain why the Bronx has an elevated crime rate compared to the rest of New York City.
According to the Furman Center, an NYU research institute dedicated to urban policy, the Bronx has the highest poverty rate in the city, with 26.4% of the population living below the poverty line. The median income is thousands of dollars lower than in other boroughs.
These statistics, combined with decades of institutional neglect and poor infrastructure, help explain why the Bronx has a higher crime rate.
It’s not that people here are uniquely bad, but that societal conditions are perfect for allowing crime to flourish. Not all of the crime statistics in the Bronx are negative. According to a 2022 report, crime in the Bronx is steadily dropping.
Last year, crime declined by 4.5% overall. Almost all felony offenses, from rape to grand larceny, dropped significantly. This shows that the situation in the Bronx is improving. Locals are fiercely proud of their borough and are working to make it a better place.
The most common crime that occurs in the Bronx, and the one you are most likely to experience as a visitor, is theft. All kinds of theft happen in the Bronx, from crimes of opportunity to break-ins.
All over New York City, pickpocketing is a risk. You should be especially careful when taking public transportation, such as one of the many subway lines that go to the Bronx, or in crowded areas, such as the area around Yankee Stadium when there is a game.
It helps to keep your valuables in a secure part of your bag or in a front pocket. However, pickpocketing in the Bronx is the least of your worries.
More violent forms of robbery are prevalent. If you are staying in the Bronx and not just visiting during the day, make sure that you have good security at your accommodation. In the first two months of 2023 alone, there were 417 incidents of burglaries.
Break-ins and vehicular break-ins are common in the borough. More aggressive forms of robbery, such as armed robbery and muggings, do happen. Some residents have horror stories about witnessing crimes, such as armed robbers targeting people on highways.
However, many other residents live in the Bronx their whole lives without seeing anything nearly as dangerous. The best trick for staying safe in the Bronx is to stay alert about your surroundings.
Never walk with headphones in or move around the borough while distracted, as it makes you an easy target. Trust your instincts, and if you think that a situation feels unsafe, get out of there.
Assault is the most common violent crime in the Bronx and the only one that increased in late 2022 (all other major crimes decreased). It’s definitely a concern for people visiting the Bronx.
According to Crimegrade, the incidence of assault in the Bronx is about 1 per 1,000 people. Assault makes up about 34% of the total violent crime rate, the most common crime after robbery.
NYPD data also paints a concerning picture. In just one week in February 2023, local precincts reported 134 incidents of felony assault. Many assaults in the Bronx happen during robberies gone wrong.
Since so many robberies and muggings in the area involve weapons, they can easily turn violent and involve assault. Another reason why the assault rate is so high in the borough has to do with the local rate of gang violence.
Local media reported that a post-pandemic rise in violent crime is linked to gang violence, as gangs are behind many gun trafficking operations. Assault rates in the Bronx vary widely from neighborhood to neighborhood.
That means that as long as you do your research on which parts of the borough are safe to visit and which ones you should avoid, you will do a lot to minimize your chances of being a victim of violence in the Bronx.
Another thing to keep in mind is that most violent crime in the Bronx affects locals, whether those who are even tangentially involved in gang violence or innocent passersby.
It is definitely a sad thing to think about the many people in this massive borough affected by assault, but it means that tourists shouldn’t have a lot to worry about as they explore the parks and tourist attractions of the area.
Avoiding Bad Areas
As we’ve mentioned a few times, the Bronx is massive, which means that crime rates fluctuate widely depending on where you go. With that in mind, avoiding bad neighborhoods is the key to making sure you have a good time while visiting the Bronx.
Most locals will tell you to avoid visiting South Bronx. This region of the borough has some of the highest crime rates as well as some of the highest poverty rates in the city.
It also doesn’t have a lot of tourist attractions, so the chances that you will accidentally find yourself in the area are pretty low. A lot of dangerous neighborhoods are concentrated in the southern end of the borough.
Neighborhoods that routinely top citywide crime lists are Mott Haven, Port Morris, and Hunts Point. Definitely do your research ahead of time and plan your routes through the borough to avoid these neighborhoods.
Things to Consider
Here are a few other things to keep in mind when visiting the Bronx:
- Locals are very proud of their neighborhoods and a bit prickly about the reputation that they have among other New Yorkers and other Americans. Avoid making comments about the dangerous borough.
- Many bodegas (delis or corner stores) have ATMs, but avoid using them at night, especially to withdraw lots of cash. You never know who might be watching and waiting to rob you.
- The Bronx is full of beautiful parks, such as the massive Van Cortlandt Park. These parks are lively during the day, especially on weekends, but avoid walking in or near them at night as they draw criminals.
- All kinds of people call the Bronx home, but don’t treat locals as zoo animals. Just because there is a visible presence of homeless people doesn’t mean that a place is dangerous.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some other questions you might have about visiting the Bronx:
Which part of the Bronx is safe?
The Bronx actually has several safe areas. Riverdale is a very quiet, wealthy area that feels like a Westchester suburb. Morris Park, Kingsbridge, and Woodlawn are other quiet areas. City Island, which is technically part of the Bronx, is a beautiful riverside retreat that feels like a small fishing town.
Is the Bronx worth visiting?
The Bronx is absolutely worth visiting for major tourist attractions such as the Bronx Zoo, New York Botanical Gardens, and Yankee Stadium. It is also a great foodie destination. Most visitors don’t know that the best Italian food in town isn’t in overly touristic Little Italy, but on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx.
Is the Bronx a nice area?
The Bronx is a massive area, so it’s hard to answer this question definitively. It has some very nice areas but also some of the most dangerous parts of New York City.
Is the Bronx safer than Brooklyn?
The answer depends on what indicators you look at. While the overall violent crime rate is higher in the Bronx, the shooting rate is higher in Brooklyn.
Is the Bronx or Queens safer?
Queens is one of the safest boroughs in New York City, so it is overall safer than the Bronx. However, Queens has some rougher neighborhoods that are more dangerous than certain parts of the Bronx.
So Is the Bronx Safe to Visit in 2023?
The Bronx is not for the faint of heart or the clueless tourist. This part of New York City does have a high crime rate. However, you can avoid any bad incidents just by researching where you go and sticking to safe neighborhoods. Happy travels!