Tourists flock to Baltimore for its lively Inner Harbor, amazing National Aquarium, renowned American Visionary Art Museum, beloved Oriole Park—not to mention its excellent seafood, easy proximity to D.C., deep historical significance, and rich cultural melting pot. Yes, “Charm City” lives up to its nickname. But is Baltimore safe?
Not for those living in its most crime-ridden areas—this East Coast metropolis consistently shows up on lists of America’s five most dangerous cities since its violent crime rate spikes way higher than the national average.
Much of the violence that plagues Baltimore’s worst neighborhoods is related to gangs and drugs. (The Wire, a popular HBO series, depicts this semi-realistically.) More than 20 percent of Baltimoreans live in poverty, and the city holds the dubious distinction of leading the nation in frequency of robberies.
Unfortunate though that is for the people who live in these tough spots of Maryland, the reality for would-be travelers to Baltimore is mercifully brighter: Tourists who are here to visit the city’s main attractions are unlikely to be targeted by any sort of violent crime. Still, it pays to know how to conduct yourself while you’re in town, and also to study up on which are the safe parts of Baltimore—and, more importantly, which are the dangerous parts of Baltimore.
Tips for Baltimore Safety
- Do not venture into the worst neighborhoods in Baltimore—those that significantly elevate the Baltimore crime rate. These include Edmondson Village, Fairfield, the Monument Street Area, Orangeville, Greenmount East, Pulaski, Hopkins-Middle East, Berea, West Baltimore, Grove Park, Cherry Hill, Madison-Eastend, and Greater Rosemont. (Thankfully, popular tourist spots like Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and Fells Point remain relatively safe.)
- Understand that the safety of Baltimore neighborhoods can change quickly from block to block; even just crossing a few streets can put you in quite a different situation than you were just in. So look at a map to figure out exactly how to get where you’re going—before even heading out of your hotel. Ask a concierge if you need help mapping out your day.
- Beware of pickpockets anywhere you go in Baltimore: Don’t travel with valuables on you, stay alert and aware of your surroundings, and be skeptical if strangers try to distract you. But if someone actively tries to rob you, do not resist, since your physical safety should always be more important than your money or possessions.
Neighborhoods to Avoid in Baltimore
Before arriving, travelers should know how to stick to the safe parts of Baltimore—and the key way to do that is to know which neighborhoods to avoid in Baltimore, and also what types of situations to steer clear of here. For example, after dark, don’t go near dim or deserted areas, and be aware that muggings and other types of theft are common in downtown Baltimore at night.
The neighborhoods that have been instrumental in spiking the Baltimore crime rate include Edmondson Village, in the southwest part of town, as well as Fairfield, the Monument Street Area, Orangeville, Greenmount East, Berea, West Baltimore, Grove Park, Cherry Hill, Madison-Eastend, Greater Rosemont, and Hopkins-Middle East.
Prostitution is also a problem in Baltimore; the streets where prostitution-related arrests are most rampant include Garrison Boulevard, Wilkens Avenue, Dundalk Avenue, Harford Road, South Conkling Street, East Patapsco and Fairhaven Avenues, as well as the neighborhoods of Old Goucher, East Baltimore Midway, and Druid Heights.
Many people who plan to visit the city wonder: Is downtown Baltimore safe? Even though the overall crime rate in downtown Baltimore is more than 200 percent higher than the U.S. national average, there are safe parts of Baltimore that you can reliably stick to. Those include tourist-friendly, well-patrolled destinations like the Baltimore Inner Harbor, Little Italy, Fells Point, Federal Hill, and Mount Vernon.
How to Get Around Safely in Baltimore
Whether you’re navigating Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, Fells Point, or anywhere else in the city, there’s always a risk of being pickpocketed, so don’t travel with valuables on you, stay very aware of your surroundings, walk in groups in well-lit, non-desolate areas, be skeptical if strangers seem like they’re trying to distract you, and if someone tries to rob you, do not resist.
Other things to know about Baltimore safety: Don’t use an ATM unless its surroundings are well-lit. Don’t leave items within view in your car. Take extra safety precautions after dark. And know exactly how to get where you’re going so you don’t inadvertently wander into an unsafe neighborhood.
If you’re taking public transportation in Baltimore, stay on high alert, since crime is a problem on buses and trains and at stations, especially at night.
Both Uber and Lyft operate in Baltimore, and those services are as safe as they are anywhere else. if you do choose to hire a driver via your smartphone, remember that both services have a 911 button, as well as the ability to share the progress of your ride with a friend or family member.
When waiting for your ride in Baltimore, choose a busy, well-lit area. When your driver arrives, confirm that his or her face matches the photo that comes up on your phone and that the license plate matches the info in the app, then sit in the back seat, never the front. Also, refrain from telling the driver your name before getting into the car; instead, ask the driver for the name on the booking to make sure that this is the person who is on the record as being assigned to you.
Traditional taxis are also relatively easy and safe to use in Baltimore.
Gangs and Drugs in Baltimore
The worst neighborhoods in Baltimore suffer from extreme poverty, which often results in young people becoming active in gangs, including those who have joined the notorious and extremely violent MS-13 gang, as well as other groups heavily involved in the illegal drug trade. (Drug overdoses have also spiked recently in Baltimore, especially among people who are addicted to opioids like heroin and fentanyl.)
In recent years, a new multi-agency federal force was put into place to try to tamp down Baltimore’s gangs and their violent drug-dealing ways. But poverty, inequality, and addiction remain massive roadblocks in lowering the Baltimore crime rate.
More from SmarterTravel:
- 12 Life-Saving Travel Hacks for Your Next Trip
- 8 Travel Safety Tips You Probably Ignore (But Shouldn’t)
- 10 Travel Safety Tips You Can Learn from the CIA
Top Travel Safety Products for Baltimore
—original reporting by Avital Andrews
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