Staying Safe in New York
By Anna Lynn Sibal
A lot of people, not just in the United States but also in most areas around the world that have easy access to American movies and syndicated television programs, are under the impression that New York City is riddled with crime. The criminal image of New York City has been reinforced by movies like Taxi Driver and programs like CSI: New York, NYPD Blue and Law & Order.
Contrary to popular belief, however, studies have shown that New York City is one of the safest of the mega-cities located in the United States. While it is true that crime was a problem in the 1970s and the 1980s, with the frequent incidences of arson in the Bronx famously giving birth to the phrase “The Bronx is burning, among others,” the government of New York City has shown a hard stance against criminal activity in nearly two decades. As a result, of the ten largest cities of the United States, New York City posts the lowest figure in terms of crime rate.
It does not mean, however, that a tourist visiting the City of New York should walk the streets of the city complacent and careless. Crime rate is indeed low in New York City, but it does not mean that it is not there. Tourists are most vulnerable because they do not always know their way around the city.
If you are a tourist in New York City, one of the many things you can do so your visit to the city would be safe and without incident is to avoid appearing like you are a tourist. Would-be criminals always go after what they think are easy prey and tourists carrying maps and looking lost look like easy prey. If you are really lost and trying to find your way around the city, do not bring out your map. Instead, approach a cop and ask for directions. If you really must bring out your map, go to an indoor place where you can sit down, such as a coffeeshop.
When you go around the city, try not to bring a lot of cash with you. Instead, just bring some change, along with your ATM card and a credit card or two. In case you run short of cash, there are plenty of ATMs around the city from where you can draw some cash. Beware when you do make your withdrawals, though. Be aware of your surroundings.
Always carry your wallet in your front pocket, rather than in the back so you will not fall victim to pickpockets. If you are carrying a purse, make sure that your purse is secured to your body. Avoid loading yourself with jewelry.
There are a lot of spots in Manhattan that remain alive and crowded even in the early hours of the morning, such as Times Square. However, try to avoid walking through the business districts and neighborhoods you are not familiar with after dark. In case you get caught outside in the dark, it would be better for you to take the cab back to the place you are staying at. If you must take the subway train, wait for the train at the off-hours waiting area near the station’s main booth instead of at the platform itself. Once your train arrives, take the conductor’s car or ride with the operator.
Most of all, avoid the panhandlers. These people will approach you and come up with some story about losing their wallets and such in order to pry some cash out of your hands. Avoid eye contact, say “No” and just walk away.
New York City Guide