In the city that’s been charmingly, and perhaps ironically, immortalized by the sitcom “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, there’s a unique blend of history and modernity that’s hard to find elsewhere. It’s a place where the echoes of the American Revolution harmonize with the rhythm of a vibrant, modern city.
Here, the iconic Liberty Bell shares the cityscape with the dynamic Reading Terminal Market, creating a cultural tapestry that’s as rich as it is diverse. And let’s not forget the city’s vibrant street art scene, which has earned Philadelphia the title of the “City of Murals”. Plus, it’s a haven for shoppers because clothing and shoe-purchases are tax-free here.
From its historic landmarks to its thriving food scene, where the famous Philly cheesesteak reigns supreme, Philadelphia is a city that tells a story. But amidst the city’s charm and vibrancy, one question often arises: Is Philadelphia safe? In this article, we’ll explore the safety situation in Philly and share some tips to make your stay safe and enjoyable.
Is Philadelphia Safe?
Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, might have you wondering if the love extends to its safety statistics. With a crime rate that’s higher than the national average, it’s a question worth asking. But before you start picturing a scene from a crime drama, let’s put things into perspective. Compared to other cities of its size, Philadelphia actually fares better, making it relatively safe.
Now, let’s talk numbers. In Philadelphia, the odds of becoming a victim of violent crime are 1 in 123. This includes some serious offenses like rape, murder, armed robbery, and aggravated assault.
Property crime, on the other hand, is a bit more common, with the odds of falling victim being 1 in 38. This includes crimes like burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. In fact, Philadelphia has a bit of a reputation for motor vehicle theft, ranking higher than most cities. But hey, where else would the movie “Gone in 60 Seconds” feel more at home?
Looking at recent trends, it’s a bit of a rollercoaster ride. While violent crimes have taken a dip, property crimes have decided to climb the ladder. But remember, crime isn’t a city-wide party, it’s more like unwanted guests in certain neighborhoods.
So, is Philadelphia safe? Well, it’s not a simple yes or no. It’s a bit complex, but with a dash of awareness and a sprinkle of precaution, you can savor the city’s rich history and vibrant culture without any unwanted surprises. After all, it’s always sunny in Philadelphia, but a little shade never hurts anyone.
Related: Is New Orleans Safe to Visit?
Common Scams in Philadelphia
Here are some of the common scams in Philly. Being aware of them can help you avoid falling victim during your visit.
The Friendship Bracelet Scam
This scam is a classic one, seen in many cities around the world, and Philadelphia is no exception. A friendly stranger approaches you, offering a “friendship bracelet” as a token of goodwill. Once the bracelet is tied around your wrist, they demand payment for it. If you refuse, they may become aggressive or cause a scene to pressure you into paying.
The Rose for Your Girlfriend Scam
In this scam, a person will approach you and your partner, offering a rose for your girlfriend. If you accept, they will then demand an exorbitant price for the rose. Refusing to pay can result in a confrontation or an uncomfortable situation.
The Photographer Scam
This scam often takes place at popular tourist spots like the steps of the art museum and the Rocky statue. A friendly local offers to take your picture with your phone. While you’re posing, they start telling you a sob story and ask for money. In some cases, they may even run off with your phone.
The Music Artist Scam
In this scam, you might encounter two friendly guys around 16th and Chestnut who seem really enthusiastic about their music. They’ll try to sell you their CD, but if you refuse, they may become aggressive or try to guilt you into buying it.
The Sob Story Scam
This scam involves a woman who roams up and down 16th and 17th street areas near Center City, asking for money to help after she’s had a fight with her husband or significant other. She might be carrying a suitcase and appear to be crying. However, locals have reported seeing her multiple times, suggesting that her story may not be genuine.
The Time-Asking Scam
In this scam, a stranger will approach you, asking for the time as an icebreaker. Once they have your attention, they’ll ask for money.
The Train Ticket Scam
A person will approach you, saying that they already have X dollars and need Y more dollars to buy a train ticket, usually to Trenton. They may seem desperate and in need of help, but this is often just a ploy to get money.
The Helpful Stranger Scam
This scam involves someone offering to help tourists use the SEPTA quick trip machines and then demanding a tip. Similarly, they might offer to help you lift or move things, even when you say you don’t need help, and then demand money for their “services”.
Remember, while these scams can be concerning, they are not representative of all Philadelphians. Most locals are friendly and genuine. Being aware of these scams and knowing how to avoid them can help ensure your visit to Philadelphia is a positive one.
Bad Neighborhoods of Philly
In the city of brotherly love, some neighborhoods face more challenges than others. Here’s a look at some areas in Philadelphia that have higher crime rates and the issues they face:
Despite the ‘nice’ in its name, Tioga-Nicetown is a neighborhood that struggles with crime and poverty. With a high crime rate of 2639 per 100,000 inhabitants, it’s a place where caution is advised. The area has been affected by deindustrialization, which led to economic decline and an increase in crime.
Hunting Park has a crime rate of 1452 per 100,000 people. The neighborhood is known for its gang activity, with much of the crime coming from local neighborhood street gangs and the drug trade.
Strawberry Mansion, with a population of 19,690, has a crime rate of 1,944 per 100,000 inhabitants. Despite its sweet-sounding name, the neighborhood has had its share of challenges, including being home to one of the most dangerous schools in the U.S. until 2013.
Fairhill experiences a crime rate of 1,545 per 100,000 people. The neighborhood is known for its high unemployment rate and economic struggles, despite being home to the “El Centro de Oro” business strip.
Alleghany West has a crime rate of 2,458 per 100,000 inhabitants. The neighborhood has been affected by post-industrial depreciation and disinvestment, leading to economic and social challenges.
Harrowgate has a crime rate of 1,701 per 100,000 inhabitants. The neighborhood is known for its high unemployment rate and struggles with crime, including a history of violence and drug use.
Haddington-Carroll Park has a crime rate of 1,588 per 100,000 people. Despite its community spirit, the neighborhood faces economic challenges and a high crime rate.
Elmwood, also known as Elmwood Park, has a crime rate of 1,217 per 100,000 inhabitants. The neighborhood struggles with high unemployment and crime rates, despite its proximity to the airport and its hopping nightlife.
Frankford also experiences a fairly high crime rate of 1,369 per 100,000 people. The neighborhood has a history of racial tension and crime, despite its diversity and rich history.
North Central, home to 21,880 people, has a crime rate of 1,982 per 100,000 inhabitants. Despite being home to part of the Temple University campus, the area faces economic challenges and a high crime rate.
Remember, these are just numbers and every neighborhood has its own story. It’s always important to stay informed and stay safe when visiting new areas.
Safest Neighborhoods of Philly
Philadelphia is a city of contrasts, where every neighborhood tells a different story. While some areas face challenges, there are others that stand out for their safety, charm, and vibrant atmosphere. Here’s a look at some of these areas:
Bustleton, a neighborhood known for its bustling blend of urban amenities and suburban charm, is considered the safest neighborhood in Philadelphia. With a crime rate roughly 67% below the Philadelphia average, it’s a place where you can enjoy a diverse mix of dining options, shopping centers, and parks, making it an ideal spot for a leisurely afternoon.
Somerton, with a crime rate 60% below the city average, is a neighborhood that offers a blend of urban and suburban living. Its tree-lined streets, affordable residences, and easy access to Philadelphia’s city center make it a great area for those who want to explore the city during the day and retreat to a quieter place at night.
Chestnut Hill, an affluent community on the northeast side of Philly, is known for its historic Victorian homes and boutique shops. With a crime rate roughly 61% below Philadelphia’s average, it’s a perfect place for a safe, leisurely stroll down cobblestone streets.
Fox Chase, with a crime rate 59% lower than the city average, is a neighborhood that offers a breath of fresh air. Known for its parks and green spaces, it’s the best neighborhood in the city for those interested in outdoor activities, from hiking to bird watching.
Fairmount, often referred to as the “Art Museum area”, is a neighborhood that offers a rich cultural experience. With a crime rate 20% lower than the city’s average, it’s a safe place to explore Philadelphia’s vibrant arts scene, from world-class museums to local galleries.
Manayunk, filled with Victorian-style homes and a variety of local restaurants and bars, is a neighborhood that offers a lively, upbeat atmosphere. With a crime rate 36% below the Philadelphia average, it’s a great place to enjoy Philly’s nightlife, from live music to craft beer tastings.
Whitman, with an overall crime rate 16% below the Philadelphia average, is a neighborhood known for its community spirit. With its family-friendly parks and local eateries, it’s a great option for those looking for a taste of local Philly life.
The Wharton-Hawthorne-Bella Vista area, known for its great views and authentic local cuisine, is another neighborhood in Philadelphia with a lower crime rate. With a crime rate 41% lower than Philadelphia’s average, it’s a great spot to enjoy the city’s culinary delights, from Italian markets to Vietnamese pho.
University City, located west of Center City and home to a number of universities, is a neighborhood with a lower crime rate. With a crime rate 23% lower than the city average, it’s a safe area to explore Philly’s academic side, from historic campuses to innovative art installations.
Safety Tips When Visiting Philadelphia
Visiting a new city can be an exciting adventure, but it’s always important to keep safety in mind. Here are some tips to help you enjoy your visit to Philadelphia while staying safe:
- Keep Your Wits About You: Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods, each with its own unique vibe. While exploring, stay aware of your surroundings. Remember, it’s not always sunny in Philadelphia, so be prepared for the occasional cloud.
- Travel Light: When out and about, try to carry only what you need. A heavy bag might slow you down, and it can also make you a target for pickpockets. Keep it light, keep it tight!
- Be Street Smart: In the city of brotherly love, it’s important to be street smart. Avoid poorly lit areas at night and try to stay in populated areas. Remember, there’s safety in numbers.
- Secure Your Valuables: Whether you’re checking out the Liberty Bell or sampling a Philly cheesesteak, always keep an eye on your belongings. Secure your valuables and don’t leave them unattended. After all, Benjamin Franklin himself said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
- Stay Connected: Keep your phone charged and handy. It’s your lifeline in case of emergencies, your navigator through the city’s streets, and your camera to capture those memorable Philly moments.
- Trust Your Gut: If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Trust your instincts. If a situation or a place makes you uncomfortable, it’s okay to walk away.
- Use Licensed Transport: When getting around, use licensed and reputable transportation services. Whether it’s a taxi, a rideshare, or a horse-drawn carriage, make sure it’s legit. Remember, Rocky didn’t take shortcuts, and neither should you!
- Be Alert for Scams: From friendship bracelets to sob stories, be aware of the common scams that can occur in the city. Keep a healthy level of skepticism and remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Remember, these tips are not meant to scare you, but to prepare you. Philadelphia is a city full of history, culture, and cheesesteaks waiting to be explored. So, stay safe, stay alert, and most importantly, enjoy your visit to the city of brotherly love!
FAQs on Visiting Philadelphia Safely
Is Philadelphia safe at night?
While Philadelphia has areas that are safe at night, it’s important to stay vigilant, especially in less populated or poorly lit areas. Like any city, crime rates can vary by neighborhood. Stick to well-traveled streets, stay aware of your surroundings, and use reputable transportation services when moving around at night.
Is Philadelphia safe for solo travelers?
Absolutely! Philadelphia welcomes solo travelers with open arms, just like a warm, gooey Philly cheesesteak. But remember, even Rocky trained before his big fight. Stay alert, stick to well-populated areas, and keep your belongings secure. It’s all about enjoying the city’s charm while playing it safe.
Is Philadelphia safer than Chicago?
When it comes to safety, both Philadelphia and Chicago have their highs and lows. According to NeighborhoodScout, the chance of becoming a victim of crime in Philadelphia is 1 in 29, while in Chicago it’s slightly better at 1 in 31. So, while Philly has its safe spots, Chicago seems to have a slight edge in the safety department. But remember, every city has its safe and less safe areas, so always stay alert and informed.
Navigating the safety landscape of Philadelphia, like any city, requires a blend of awareness, preparation, and a dash of local know-how. While certain areas pose challenges, many others offer safe, vibrant, and welcoming environments.
The key is to stay informed, remain alert, and follow safety guidelines. So, whether you’re drawn by its rich history, diverse neighborhoods, or its dynamic arts scene, Philadelphia is a city that invites exploration. With the right approach, your journey through Philly can be as rewarding as it is safe.