Streetwise in Boston?
January 3, 2011 12:54 PM   Subscribe

BostonFilter: Can anyone give tips on safe/unsafe neighborhoods or local crime/safety issues for Boston?

I've got a loved one (single female, 35) who is there for school for a year & a half. She's set up in an apartment in a part of Jamaica Plain where she feels safe (we checked out another one together that felt not terribly safe at all...). She's from Seattle, and as she's there without many friends and still not really familiar with the lay of the land, she says she often doesn't feel all that safe.

So: living in Jamaica Plain, going to school on the North End of Boston. No car, reliant on the T and walking. She has lived in a big city for much of her life, so she's not clueless about general safety, but the unfamiliarity of the city has been a touch daunting.

Suggestions? Tips? Warnings?
posted by scaryblackdeath to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
You can consult the Boston Police Department's Crime Stats, for one. They seem to have a map now, but there's also a crime blotter. Downtown is District A-1, and JP is E-13. Learn more at BPDnews.

If she's going to the North End from JP, that's a straight shot on the Orange Line and getting out at North Station. I live right around North Station, and it is not without its sketchiness, but there are several government buildings and the Garden (sports arena), so you'll often find a lot of police about.

The North End itself is a bit of a zoo and the streets are small and mazy--but it is often very crowded, which is generally good for safety.

For the most part, I think the biggest issue will be drunks at night. But because of the density of federal and state government buildings and the Big Dig/93, it can be a bit sparse at night between the North End and the T.

Feel free to have your friend MeMail me; as I said, I live right near there. Is she going to the crafts school in the North End?
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:09 PM on January 3, 2011

I dogsit on the JP/Roxbury line pretty frequently. JP is generally quite safe and home to many families, as well as expensive real estate.

That said, after dark I don't listen to my ipod when walking back from the Stonybrook T up near Egleston Square so as to keep my ears open. And I try not to linger near the projects in Jackson Square after dark. But by day all of these neighborhoods feel safe to me as a thirty-something woman.

Unrelatedly, she should stop by the Canto 6 bakery some time - their food is so good it'll make her shun the (excellent) North End bakeries.
posted by ldthomps at 1:10 PM on January 3, 2011

JP is not bad, though there are sub-neighborhoods that are better or worse. Could you give more info about where she is, without giving her actual address?

Dorchester and Roxbury are the neighborhoods generally considered high-crime/dangerous. JP, not so much. If she's following general common sense safety precautions she probably has nothing to worry about. I've seen some sketchy characters hanging around JP at night, like you'd see in any city, but I've also walked the streets by myself (as a young woman) and did not feel that I was in any danger.
posted by tetralix at 1:10 PM on January 3, 2011

From the Boston Police Department FAQ: "You can request crime statistics by sending a written request to The Office of Media Relations at One Schroeder Plaza, Boston, MA 02120. You may also fax your request to (617)343-4481. Please include your name, phone number, address, fax number if applicable, and reason for your request. In addition, you may also request a printout of all 911 calls for service to a particular street. There are also monthly crime statistics posted in our Statistics Section." [last link has an interactive map. There's also a good map here.]

Advice to your friend: women walking alone are targets. There's lots of advice on how to avoid being the victim of a crime: walk in well-lit areas where there are other people; don't wear headphones; be aware of your environs at all times; don't give off the impression of having stuff to take.
posted by not_on_display at 1:11 PM on January 3, 2011

Boston is a really safe city overall, so aside from general city advice (don't wave your expensive electronics around on the street! lock your doors!) she'll probably start to feel safer as she settles in. The more dangerous parts of the city (Dorchester, parts of Roxbury, Mattapan) are kind of out of the way and not places people really go to unless they live or work there.

One Boston-centric piece of advice is to learn how to identify a licensed cab-- the city has a problem with unlicensed ones that mostly just overcharge riders, but especially as a woman riding alone you want to make sure you're in a cab driven by someone the city has information about.
posted by oinopaponton at 1:12 PM on January 3, 2011

Universal Hub also has a crime map, and is a great resource for Boston information in general.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 1:14 PM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't know JP well (well enough to know there are better parts and sketchier parts, but not to know which are which!), but I used to live in the North End and worked late (getting off the T at Haymarket after midnight) and I felt pretty safe on the way home. It's very busy, which makes me feel safe. During the day, I would say the entire North End is super safe, though I don't know if the stats back me up!

You or your friend might want to check out the Crime section of Universal Hub. It's more anecdotal than comprehensive but it's interesting.
posted by mskyle at 1:21 PM on January 3, 2011

Anecdotally, the university police in my very very bougie neighborhood (Harvard Square) have been sending out lots of reports of people getting mugged on and off campus recently. You're not really any more protected from this kind of crime if you live in a stereotypically nicer neighborhood, since muggers are not generally working where they live.
posted by nasreddin at 1:32 PM on January 3, 2011

Anecdotally, the university police in my very very bougie neighborhood (Harvard Square) have been sending out lots of reports of people getting mugged on and off campus recently.

Even more anecdotally, based on no actual numbers whatsoever but just my own observation, Boston-area muggers seem to gravitate toward college campuses and target people who look like students (young, not paying attention to their surroundings, playing with iWhatevers on the street at night, talking on the phone, etc.) I've never been mugged, but in my school's neighborhood (Davis Square area), people were much more likely to be mugged walking home from the library in the student housing areas that surrounded campus than in the residential streets a few blocks removed or in the Square itself.
posted by oinopaponton at 1:44 PM on January 3, 2011

Stay off Mission Hill.
posted by scalefree at 1:58 PM on January 3, 2011

Unfortunately, Boston is not just a city of neighborhoods, but one of neighborhoods within neighborhoods. Jamaica Plain, for example, covers places that range from "wouldn't even worry in the slightest" to "just keep an eye out, especially at night" to "well, you're not likely to get shot, but best avoided". An exhaustive list would take weeks (e.g. Allston is really safe, but there's a 3 block stretch where half the city comes to drink--it's completely safe before 11:00 or so, but has fights and stabbings and muggings later).

Asking around about individual places helps, and the T itself is really really safe, so she can always check out somewhere and just hop back on if any area seems too sketchy.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 2:53 PM on January 3, 2011

Oh, Mission Hill isn't nearly as bad as it used to be. I wouldn't choose to live there, myself, but that has as much to do with the E line and the hordes of college students (and their accompanying shitty housing) as with safety issues. That said, there aren't really a lot of things worth going there for (exceptions: Mission Church, Montecristo Salvadoran/Mexican restaurant, Diablo Glass School).
posted by mskyle at 3:12 PM on January 3, 2011

Anecdotally, the university police in my very very bougie neighborhood (Harvard Square) have been sending out lots of reports of people getting mugged on and off campus recently.

There doesn't actually seem to have been any rise in muggings, though, just a rise in how frequently HUPD sends out notifications of same (per my conversation with Holly Bernier at the Cambridge Police Department); year-over-year crime stats for Cambridge show a slight decrease in mugging since 2005, actually.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:05 PM on January 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think part of the increased attention to Harvard Square was that someone got mugged in Harvard Yard earlier this year -- I remember this being a source of surprise and some consternation for friends that work there.

To speak in vast generalities, JP can be split between "Pondside" (closer to the Pond) and "Parkside" (closer to Franklin Park). Again, in vast generalities, the homes are fanciest near the Pond and Arboretum.

I know of two people that faced attempted muggings at Huntington and South Huntington (both on bikes that escaped), but I think that really falls under the "giant population of seemingly easy-pickings college students" area discussed above. Again -- lose the iPod, be very aware of surroundings late at night.
posted by lillygog at 5:35 AM on January 4, 2011

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