Is Boston Safe?
Boston seems to have it all. Prestigious universities. An iconic baseball stadium. A world-famous marathon. A revolutionary Tea Party. The capital of Massachusetts. Home of the first public park, public school, and subway system in the United States. Yes, the City on a Hill has a lot going for it, but is it a good place to purchase a home, start a business, or raise a family? Is Boston safe?
Let’s find out.
Boston Crime Rate
First settled in 1625, Boston is now a thriving metropolis of 675,647 residents. That makes it the largest city in Massachusetts and one of the most populous in the country. Sadly, where there are people, there is crime. So, how safe is Boston?
In a recent poll, 49% of Bostonians rated the city as “pretty safe,” 26% as “somewhat safe,” and 21% as “very safe.” Only 4% of respondents rated it as “not safe.” In other words, the vast majority of people living there feel at least pretty safe.
But feeling safe and being safe are two different things. What does the data tell us?
NeighborhoodScout uses a sliding Crime Index—where 100 is safest—to rate American cities. Based on 2020 data, Boston has a Crime Index of 19, making it safer than only 19% of places in the country. It’s also safer than just 2% of cities and towns in Massachusetts. But since it’s the largest city in the state, that statistic is probably not a surprise.
In 2020, Boston reported 4,378 violent crimes (murder, rape, aggravated assault, and armed robbery) and 13,493 property crimes (larceny/theft, burglary, motor vehicle theft, and arson). That’s an overall crime rate of 26.45 per 1,000 residents, slightly higher than the national rate of 23.43 per 1,000 residents.
Not great so far. But when NeighborhoodScout compared Boston to communities of similar size across the country, they found it was actually safer than most large cities. Everything is relative.
Violent Crime: How Dangerous is Boston?
Turning our attention to violent crimes, Boston doesn’t fare so well.
Its violent crime rate of 6.48 per 1,000 residents is higher than the national median of 4 and the rate of 3.03 for the state of Massachusetts overall. Boston’s crime rate per 1,000 for murder (0.09), armed robbery (1.37), and assault (4.74) are all higher than the national rates of 0.07, 0.73, and 2.78, respectively.
On the plus side, some violent crime rates are falling. When comparing the first half of 2022 with the first half of 2021, the murder rate dropped by 38%, the sexual assault rate dropped by 12%, and the armed robbery rate dropped by 6.4%.
All told, your chance of becoming the victim of a violent crime in Boston is 1 in 154, which is one of the highest in the country.
Property Crime in Boston
Protecting your property should be a priority no matter where you live. In Boston, it’s a must.
The property crime rate of 19.97 per 1,000 residents is slightly higher than the national median of 19 and the statewide rate of 10.33. While its larceny/theft rate of 15.51 is higher than the national rate of 13.90, its burglary (2.55) and motor vehicle theft (1.91) rates come in lower than the national rates at 3.12 and 2.45, respectively.
All things considered, you have a 1 in 50 chance of becoming the victim of a property crime in Boston, which is above average. However, things are trending in the right direction: there was a 15% reduction in violent crime and a 13% reduction in property crime in 2021.
To determine whether Boston is safe, it matters a lot where in Boston you’re talking about.
The Safest Neighborhoods in Boston
There are 23 distinct neighborhoods in the city, made up of roughly 84 sub-districts. As with any big city, some of them are safer than others. (In this case, that means crimes are fewer and farther between.)
According to NeighborhoodScout and FBI crime statistics, these are the safest neighborhoods in Boston.
- Forest Hills Woodbourne North: This mostly residential area—part of the Jamaica Plain neighborhood—features wooded areas and hilly terrain. It has more residents with Native American ancestry than virtually any other neighborhood in the country.
- Emmanuel College: Emmanuel is a private Roman Catholic college founded in 1919. This neighborhood grew alongside the campus. Unsurprisingly, 86.4% of its residents are college students.
- Northeastern University: Located immediately east of Emmanuel, Northeastern University was founded in 1898. And, much like Emmanuel College, 74.4% of its residents are current college attendees.
- Chestnut Hill East: Chestnut Hill is a wealthy village—in the top 15% of neighborhoods by highest income—located 6 miles west of downtown Boston. Parts of it fall within several counties and neighborhoods. It’s home to Boston College.
- Gardner Street: A low-income suburban area found in southwestern Boston, Gardner Street is ranked as one of the quietest neighborhoods in the country.
- West Roxbury: Originally part of the city of Roxbury, it seceded in 1851 and was annexed by Boston in 1874. The neighborhood had a population of 30,446 in 2010, and 41.6% of the residents have a Master’s, Ph.D., medical, or law degree.
- Shawmut Northwest: Part of the South End neighborhood, Shawmut is wealthier than 99% of American neighborhoods. Its residents value education—88.4% of them have at least a bachelor’s degree.
- Brighton South: Originally part of Cambridge, it seceded in 1807 and became a neighborhood of Boston in 1874. Just over half of its residents are currently attending college.
- Poplar Street/Metropolitan Avenue: Found in the Roslindale neighborhood about 6 miles southwest of the downtown core, this area is among the 15% highest income neighborhoods in the country. Most residents work in executive, management, or professional occupations.
- Jamaica Pond South: Part of the larger Jamaica Plain neighborhood, Jamaica Pond South is one of the wealthiest areas in the United States, with 84.5% of residents working as executives, managers, or similar roles.
Few of these are near the heart of Boston. Instead, you’ll find most of Boston’s safest neighborhoods away from the downtown. University campuses tend to experience less crime per capita, perhaps because of school-operated security patrols. Beyond this shortlist, other safe neighborhoods include Beacon Hill—home to the Massachusetts State House—and the suburb of Lexington, which is safer than 91% of cities in the state.
Of course, a city the size of Boston is bound to have its fair share of unsafe areas, too.
Dangerous Neighborhoods in Boston
Sometimes the difference between safe and dangerous depends on the time of day. Other times, it’s a lot more complex than that. Regardless, Boston definitely has some areas where you’ll want to exercise extra caution, especially at night.
Top 10 Most Dangerous
According to Upgraded Home, the areas that warrant more caution include:
- Jamaica Plain: Violent crime rate of 4.52 per 1,000 residents
- Hyde Park: Violent crime rate of 4.56 per 1,000 residents
- South Boston: Violent crime rate of 4.89 per 1,000 residents
- Back Bay-Beacon Hill: Violent crime rate of 5.84 per 1,000 residents
- North Dorchester: Violent crime rate of 7.38 per 1,000 residents
- South Dorchester: Violent crime rate of 8.40 per 1,000 residents
- Mattapan: Violent crime rate of 9.01 per 1,000 residents
- South End: Violent crime rate of 9.40 per 1,000 residents
- Roxbury: Violent crime rate of 1.26 per 1,000 residents
- Central: Violent crime rate of 1.60 per 1,000 residents
Interestingly, South Boston, Hyde Park, and Jamaica Plain all have crime rates lower than the Boston average—19% lower, 26% lower, and 22% lower, respectively—while still appearing on the list of most dangerous areas. You’ll notice that some areas appear on the safest list and the most dangerous list. Because Boston has so many large neighborhoods, it’s possible to find safe spots within dangerous areas and vice versa.
Digging Deeper Into Dangerous Locales
For example, the area around Fenway Park is relatively safe for residents and tourists alike during the day. But it’s a different story once the sun goes down. Then, the bars get full and criminals are on the prowl.
The Central neighborhood has a violent crime rate 320% higher than the national average. No wonder it’s ranked as one of the most dangerous spots in the city. Best to avoid it at night or when walking alone.
Roxbury? The violent crime rate is 230% higher than the national average. It got a score of 99—with 100 being the most violent—by Sperling’s Best Places.
South End? 145% higher.
Mattapan? 135% higher. Some locals have even nicknamed the area “Murderpan.”
South Dorchester? 119% higher.
You get the idea.
Is Boston, Massachusetts, Safe?
Ultimately, Boston can be safe or dangerous, depending on where and when you find yourself in the city. The overall crime rate is higher than the national average, but it does not rank as one of the most dangerous places in the country.
While you’re in the city, you have a 1 in 38 chance of experiencing a crime of any kind. That’s not bad, but not great either.
So, is Boston safe? Yes. And no. Plan accordingly.
Staying Safe in Boston
As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Regardless of which area of Boston you find yourself in, consider these security tips:
- Read up on Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED). Deliberate design choices can help to reduce or eliminate criminal behavior before it happens.
- Invest in comprehensive security measures, the best security you can afford. Include floodlights, security cameras, burglar-proof windows, and reinforced doors at a minimum.
- Be aware of your surroundings at all times.
- Live video surveillance from Deep Sentinel combines cutting-edge AI with real human surveillance guards to deliver true all-hours protection. Cameras detect motion and send the footage to a local smart hub. AI evaluates the source—dismissing non-threats like traffic or a neighbor’s dog—and immediately notifies surveillance personnel of suspicious behavior. Then, Deep Sentinel’s guards assess, engage via video and 2-way audio in real time, and notify the police of a verified crime in progress as needed.
Only Deep Sentinel can promise zero false alarms and the fastest response time in the industry: 30 seconds or less.