Pennsylvania : Safety by City
- Kennett Square
Erie, Pennsylvania, runs along the shoreline of Lake Erie between Buffalo, New York, and Cleveland, Ohio.
The city has a rich history dating back to the 18th century.
The Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy and the Seneca Nation occupied the lands now known as Erie.
The French built Fort Presque Isle near present-day Erie in 1753.
Erie is also known for its role in the War of 1812, where President James Madison ordered the construction of a naval fleet at Erie to regain control of Lake Erie.
This lakefront city also offers historic districts, beautiful scenery, and a vibrant culture.
Visitors can also enjoy the city’s many parks and beaches, including Presque Isle State Park, which is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the area.
No trip is complete without the views from Bicentennial Tower, 138 feet above Presque Isle Bay.
Winter visitors should be okay with snow because the city gets about eight feet of it each year.
The one downside to Erie is the poverty.
As a generational problem, there isn’t a quick fix.
Tourism dollars help support the economy, but without a more appealing facade, there’s a lessening reason to visit.
See Erie for what it offers and not what it looks like.
Warnings & Dangers in Erie
OVERALL RISK: MEDIUM
There's a medium risk in Erie, but if you're used to a city with a higher crime rate, you'll find that a bit excessive. Most of the attractions are in safe locations with plenty of security.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
The Erie Metropolitan Transit Authority - "The E" - is the public transportation system here. As long as you avoid the routes along the east side, you should feel safe using this option. Taxis, rideshares and rental cars are available.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
About 13 pickpockets or purse snatchings are reported each year. The theft rate is about the national average, and you're more likely to be the victim of a car break-in than a pickpocket. Use personal safety steps as if you were in a larger city.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
The biggest risks happen in winter when the city sees more than 100 inches of snow on average. At times, snow can fall up to several inches per hour, especially when lake-effect snow is triggered. High winds and flooding can be a risk throughout the year. We recommend you treat this as a medium risk, especially in winter, and sign up for the emergency alerts we'll tell you about a little later on.
MUGGING RISK: MEDIUM
The robbery risk is slightly higher than the national average, but the part I don't like is that 51% happen in public places and are considered "highway robbery." That would technically give it a medium risk, but since so few crimes here happen against random strangers, you should follow the guidance, "If you don't go looking for trouble, you won't find it."
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
The risk is low here, and you'll find plenty of security at the port of entry. The city was cyberattacked in 2022, which messed up phone service for a day. However, the city now has strong protection in place to avoid that happening again.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
The scams here are highly focused on residents, especially using fear tactics when scammers pose as police officers demanding money. You shouldn't worry about this risk, but stay informed about the most recent scams through the police department's social media pages.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
The only part that might give pause is the increase in sexual assaults. The numbers were up 30% in 2023, and the police chief said, "We don't know why they've gone up, and we're not meeting or exceeding the clearance rate." I'd use extra caution whenever you meet new people. Don't go to a private place with a new friend. However, the rate is still at the national average, so it's not an overwhelming risk.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
Erie Water Works provides the tap water in the city and is in full compliance with state and federal standards. Check out the Consumer Confidence Report on their website to see more details.
Safest Places to Visit in Erie
“Visit Erie” is the name of the tourism website here.
You can use the Trip Planner tool to set your agenda or just save certain stops you want to explore.
You can also read the latest edition of the Erie Visitor Guide online without having to give personal information.
Presque Isle State Park is a must-visit destination for nature lovers.
The park features miles of sandy beaches, hiking trails, and picnic areas.
It is also home to a lighthouse and a marina.
While researching this park, be sure you’re on the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources website.
There are a lot of cities or places named Presque Isle in America.
Erie Zoo is home to over 400 animals from around the world, including tigers, giraffes, and monkeys.
Visitors can also enjoy a train ride and a carousel. It is open from March through November.
Learn the history of Lake Erie and the role it played in the War of 1812 at the Erie Maritime Museum.
Visitors can explore the museum’s exhibits and take a tour of the Flagship Niagara, a pivotal piece of ship history in Erie.
Waldameer Park and Water World is an amusement park that features a variety of rides, including roller coasters, water slides, and a Ferris wheel.
Visitors can also enjoy games, food, and live entertainment.
Tom Ridge Environmental Center is dedicated to educating visitors about the environment and the natural resources of the region.
The center features interactive exhibits, a theater, and a gift shop.
Asbury Woods is a nature center that features over 200 acres of forests, wetlands, and meadows.
Visitors can enjoy hiking trails, birdwatching, and educational programs.
A new museum is the Experience Children’s Museum, with exhibits that tap into the imagination of children and adults.
Kids get hands-on experiences with ships, a makeshift town, and other unique Lake Erie-based exhibits.
Places to Avoid in Erie
The east side and lower east sides of the city are the places to avoid.
Stay west of State Street, but the lower west side has some pockets or problem areas, too, including one of the most poverty-stricken communities in America.
Erie also has an issue with being able to eyeball a neighborhood to determine if it’s dangerous.
With so much poverty, a safer neighborhood might look sketchy.
Without having to memorize all the streets and locations, just stick to your planned itinerary and plot your route on main roads and highways.
The police and community groups are working to target high-crime areas or where juvenile crime is rampant. One of those groups is the Eric Blue Coats.
“We go down to areas where there seems to be a lot of issues,” Daryl Craig of the Erie Blue Coats youth safety group said.
“We just take dominion over the neighborhood for a while, post up with signs, take information for the residents down there where they can get help for just about anything they may be experiencing in that area.
And just let them know someone sees, someone cares, they’re not alone.
Just trying to be a beacon of light in what may be a dark place.”
Finally, don’t blow off winter weather watches and warnings here.
You could end up trapped at the airport on standby or stuck in town.
Winter is dangerous and snowy.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Erie
- Erie has its own police department. Follow them on Facebook @eriepolicedept. You can call (814) 870-1125 with questions or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Sign up for emergency alerts through the Ready Erie program. If you are traveling across the state, Ready PA is another option. These systems will give you emergency weather alerts, public safety hazards, and updates on information like evacuations.
- If you have information about a crime after the fact or get new information, you can report that to Tip411. There’s an app available, or you can text the keyword ERIEPD to 847411 with the information. You can always remain anonymous.
- Don’t let the “lake” part of Lake Erie make you think this is a calm body of water. The lake can have strong currents, and the bottom is uneven. Officials recommend you don’t go deeper than your waist when enjoying the water.
- Check the Beach Water Testing Results if you’re visiting in the summer. The information is available through Erie County’s website. This will let you know which beaches are safe to enjoy and which ones might have algae blooms or other health issues.
- Street parking in downtown Erie is by meters only. That means you need to have a stash of quarters with you to feed the meter. The Erie Parking Authority website lists great information for visitors, and you should beware that some lots are leased spots only.
- Anglers 16 and older need a fishing license from the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission. Don’t think about fishing without one. You can get a charter fishing boat with an expert guide or use a website like ErieFish.com to get more recent fishing reports.
- During winter, a snow emergency means the street parking rules go to an even/odd system. You should review the rules for this as it will directly impact what side of the street you can use. To avoid the hassle, find a parking lot to use.
- The EMTA bus system boasts free Wi-Fi, but please remember that it is a public Wi-Fi system and is vulnerable to hacks and scammers. Don’t do things like look up your credit card or bank information while using public Wi-Fi.
- One in four people in Erie lives in poverty. Mix in the drug problems, and you’re going to face panhandlers on the street. In addition, 44% of children grow up in poverty, meaning you might have a child asking for money. The best advice is to avoid panhandlers as you see them. Cross the street or stay as distant as possible.
So... How Safe Is Erie Really?
Erie is above average in every crime category, with some improvements over the past few years, but still facing a record homicide rate from 2023.
Crimes that increased in 2023 were robberies, assaults, sex offenses, auto thefts, and sexual assaults.
Arson, aggravated assault, burglary and fraud were down year-to-year.
Keep in mind that Pennsylvania has a 40% lower violent crime rate compared to the national average.
Erie is 76% higher than the state average and 25% higher than the national average.
One part that makes this city a little less intimidating is the fact that just 12% of violent crimes were against strangers in 2022.
As far as theft, about three cars are stolen each week, and 35% of all thefts are related to car break-ins or accessory thefts.
Limit that risk by locking your car each time you park and removing all personal property from inside the vehicle when you park.
An anti-theft device helps, too.
Erie also faces challenges with gangs and drugs, making it possible for an innocent person to get caught in the crossfire, literally or figuratively.
Provided you use common sense and situational awareness while avoiding the parts of town we discussed, you can enjoy the exciting parts of Erie.
Just don’t let your guard down.
How Does Erie Compare?
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International travelers will need a passport that isn't within six months of expiring and a visa designated for the purpose of travel (work, student, tourist, etc.). You might qualify for a visa waiver, but check that potential on the U.S. State Department website.
You'll use U.S. Dollar currency for all purchases. The Erie airport doesn't offer foreign currency exchange services. Actually, your home bank will have the best rates and lowest fees. Otherwise, use a credit card or find a compatible ATM in town.
Erie has a pretty mild summer, with average highs in the upper 70s F. Winters are extremely snowy, with more than 100 inches on average. Pack accordingly. In fall and spring, temperatures will fluctuate, but you'll want long sleeves most of the time. Bringing layers of clothing will help.
Erie International Airport is on the west side of town, making it an easy way to get in and out. If you are flying out of Cleveland, that's about a two-hour drive.
Comprehensive travel insurance is the best way to cover all potential traveling hiccups, but you'll at least want your flight covered, especially in winter.
Erie Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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Pennsylvania - Safety by City