- “Which neighborhoods should I avoid in New York?”
- “Is Brooklyn dangerous?”
- “Will I have trouble in Harlem?”
- “Can I take the subway at night?”
These are just some of the questions I’ve heard during all this time creating content about New York. I understand the concern and precaution when traveling – especially abroad. In fact, there are cities in the world that require a lot of care. But when we talk about New York, I can tell it in advance: relax! Let’s talk about it!
Numbers don’t lie – According to a BBC story, New York City is experiencing its safest moment in decades. The city, which is the most populous in the United States, had 290 homicides in 2017, according to official data. It is the smallest number since 1951 when this information began to be collected. Regarding the population, the homicide rate of 2017 was 3.4 per 100,000 people – well below the 30.7 recorded in the 1990s. For comparison, this rate was 30 in Brazil in 2016. No city has registered such a low number like this.
Numbers don’t lie 2 – against facts and against data there are no arguments. I love sharing this crime map in the city – click here to access. You can filter by type of crime – rape, robbery, murder – and by period. The map shows all the areas of the city and illustrates the number of crimes in such neighborhoods per 1,000 inhabitants. I’ll just suggest a simple search to break paradigms: filter by Robbery and you’ll find that the Midtown area – the beloved Times Square – has the highest rate in Manhattan – more than the “dangerous” Harlem. This is the reflection. Also note that several areas in The Bronx have the same rates as neighborhoods like Upper East Side and Upper West Side. Which brings me to the next topic.
There are fears that are born from prejudice – I decided to start the post with data because numbers don’t lie and that’s where everyone relies on whether a place is considered “dangerous.” Where does your fear of Harlem or The Bronx come from? Because some people told you? Or the prejudice in disguise? Yes, it is hard to assume prejudice, but in many cases it disguises this often unfounded “fear”. I’ve seen so many sad comments (read racist ones) and I would like to invite everyone to think about it. Where does your fear come from? The fact that there are fewer whites in these areas? Yes, Harlem was once dangerous in the past, and The Bronx, if you check the crime map, still has more critical neighborhoods, but there are areas, as I pointed out, with the same rates as Manhattan. It’s a fact: you can’t generalize an entire neighborhood anymore. It is almost impossible to tell you to avoid a particular area mainly without knowing and just repeating what others say. A lot of people talk about The Bronx or Harlem without ever putting their feet there. Be careful, because your prejudice can stop you from a culture-rich Harlem and The Bronx. Don’t expect Harlem to be like Midtown, which is different from Williamsburg, which is different from Astoria. What makes New York interesting is the cultural richness.
Beware of scams – be careful not to worry too much about things that don’t even make sense and end up forgetting to pay attention to other things like scams. Tourists are easy targets for these scammers. In the joy of the trip, in the excitement of the moment, it seems that we have lost our critical sense and it is easy to fall into a trap. In New York is no different. There are many smart guys scattered around the city trying to take advantage of you. And one of the best ways not to fall for these scams is to know a little about each of them to identify the situation and get out quickly.
Check out some tips!
- Be aware of your surroundings – keep your belongings close, make sure your backpack is closed and watch out, especially in very crowded places – yes, I’m talking about Times Square.
- Prefer the busier subway cars at night – I risk saying that until midnight, 1 am – and later on weekends – the subways are very busy. If it is late at night, avoid the empty subway cars, just in case. Extra tip: board the subway car next to the conductor.
- Discretion, always – respect other people’s individuality: Many people draw attention, whether by their hair or different clothes, but never face anyone! Be discreet!
- Don’t touch people – If you need to excuse yourself or ask for information, don’t touch people. This is considered invasive and most people do not like it.
- Pretend it’s not with you – as you spend a few days here, you’ll probably find someone “crazy” on the subway or the streets. Here’s the tip from before: Be discreet and keep your distance.
Being a woman means being constantly aware of the threat of rape. Most crimes like these – in New York and around the world – do not involve rapists who appear out of nowhere: most often, it is committed by someone the victim knows. Even so, it is smart to be aware of your surroundings all the time, especially at night.
- Don’t keep your headphones on at night.
- Be vigilant in locations where there are no other pedestrians. If a man messes with you (yes, it happens here too!) the best thing you can do is ignore it. If a man is following you or making you feel uncomfortable, enter a public place – a store, a restaurant. People will always help you if you’re in trouble, so, ask for help! Don’t be shy!
- If you have a date with someone, tell a friend who you are meeting and where. And remember: you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.
Laura Peruchi is a Brazilian blogger, author, and entrepreneur. She has lived in Manhattan with her husband since 2014. Since then, she has shared on her blog varied content about the Big Apple. From travel tips, including unusual things to do, shopping tips, etiquette, restaurants, and a lot more, her blog has become a reference in Portuguese (also available in English) for anyone planning a trip to New York City.