Safety in New York

Any time you move to a new city, especially one as large and busy as New York City, safety is an important factor to consider. You want to feel comfortable and independent without making any mistakes that will inhibit your safety, and each city certainly has its own personality that can lead to unique safety tips.

Many people have the impression that New York City is dangerous and has a high crime rate, but for several years New York City has consistently been numbered in the top ten safest large cities in the United States. In fact, the statistics on violent crimes have decreased by two thirds in the last decade. Often movies, books and television shows have portrayed New York City as crime-ridden with danger lurking around every corner. Thus, New York City for some new residents can seem rather daunting as a place to call home. The important thing to remember is that the New York City of today is much different that the city of a decade or two ago.

In the 1960s the economic problems and culture of the city created some serious problems and crime was rather out of control. However, by the 1990s the crime rate in New York City had dropped due to both Mayor Giuliani and police commissioner William Bratton. These men and others helped create a safer city. New York City hired thousands of new officers for the NYPD and then implemented new policing strategies and a computerized statistical tracking system for police performance. The city experienced a clean up in drugs, more control over the mafia and less cultural division. Central Park even became a safe place to walk at night.

That being said, it certainly doesn't mean that residents should let their guard down or become complacent; New York City is still a very large city with many different ethnicities, religions and viewpoints, so there are some simple precautions new residents can take to make sure living in New York City is a great experience. One of the biggest concerns for new residents is getting around the city, especially at night. Whether it is going to work, going out to a bar, meeting a friend or trying a new restaurant in an unknown area of town have a transportation plan. For instance if you know you will be walking at night, plan your travel route ahead of time and then avoid, dark or deserted streets. Avoid stopping and opening a map; this will simply make you an easy mark for pickpockets and make you look like a tourist. If you doubt the safety of a neighborhood take a cab or if you are taking the subway at night stand near the Off-Hours Waiting Area or by the Metro-Card booths. Subway cars that are the most populated are the safest.

Most of the crime does not take place in the well-populated, tourist hang-outs; it is the neighborhoods that can be the most dangerous. New York City's crime rates vary be neighborhood and by borough. For instance, there are some areas of Brooklyn that have high-crime areas. This doesn't mean that all of any borough is necessarily bad - just start to be aware of the k areas that it might be smarter to avoid. Most neighborhoods in New York City, even Harlem and Alphabet City are safe during the day.

As you start to become familiar with the neighborhoods of New York City, you will be more comfortable getting around. The best advice most New Yorkers will give is to be cautious and use your common sense.

The best way to deal with panhandlers is to ignore them. If they are persistent, be persistent back with a firm "No." This really is not a problem you will run into too much. However, you are in a city teeming with 8 million people, which sometimes causes close quarters. Men should keep wallets in the front pockets, while women should wear their purses across their shoulders. Pickpockets can easily target someone who isn't paying attention.

As with most areas, call 911 for an emergency, but 311 for lesser violations such as a disturbance or robbery. Keep your doors locked at all times. It never hurts to have all your locks changed in a new house or apartment. When you approach your door, have your key ready, be quick and efficient getting inside. When someone comes to your door always make sure you know who is there and never buzz anyone into the building unless they are there specifically for you. If you are going to be away, cancel your newspaper delivery and hold your mail. An answering machine should simply say "We are not here. Please leave a message". Do not give too much information or say "I" signifying you are alone.

Finally, New York City is full of diversity; it is a city where respect and minding your own business is vital. Different religions and cultures, different social groups and sexual orientations are abundant in the city, so remember not to stare and not to get involved. Let others live their lives without passing judgment even in a glance. Perhaps because people live in such close proximity and lead such hustle and bustle lives, tempers can often flare. Always remain calm. New York tempers also tend to be short-lived. Your safety is always more important that loosing your temper.

Confidence is important - look like you know where you are going and feel comfortable in the city. New Yorkers are, in general, very friendly and willing to help. If you are disoriented or unsure, don't hesitate to ask someone for whatever you need. It won't take long before the city becomes home.

Hannah Oberman-Breindel is a freelance writer currently splitting time between New York and Seattle.

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