Is Ithaca Safe? Crime Rates & Safety Report

Updated On August 9, 2023
Ithaca, United States
Safety Index:
62
* Based on Research & Crime Data
User Sentiment:
100
* Rated 100 / 100 based on 2 user reviews.

Nestled in the palm of New York’s Finger Lakes region, Ithaca is a small city with big appeal.

Founded in the early 1800s, Ithaca (“ith-uh-cuh”) was once a major transportation hub and center of industry.

Remnants of its industrial past can still be seen in the repurposed factories and warehouses downtown.

Today, Ithaca is best known as the home of Cornell University and Ithaca College.

The sizable student population, over 30,000 strong, infuses the city with youthful energy and supports an eclectic array of restaurants, bars, and cultural attractions.

Outdoor enthusiasts flock to Ithaca to enjoy the area’s stunning gorges and waterfalls, etched out over thousands of years by glacial activity and streams flowing through the valley.

Hiking trails wind through dramatic cliffs and down to the water’s edge of Cayuga Lake.

Ithaca is a hub for arts and music, with a lively calendar of concerts, performances, and events hosted by local organizations and colleges.

Ithaca Commons pedestrian mall downtown offers a taste of the culture and fantastic food options, from a growing wine and beer scene to farm-to-table restaurants.

With its unique blend of collegiate energy, gorgeous natural scenery, and progressive spirit, Ithaca offers visitors an appealing laid-back vibe in an idyllic upstate New York setting.

So why are there so many crime concerns that even the police chief said he hasn’t seen “anything like this” before? Let’s explore.

Warnings & Dangers in Ithaca

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK: MEDIUM

There's a medium risk in Ithaca simply due to a growing crime rate and a lack of resources to stop it. The whole city isn't a medium risk, but we must discuss the safe and less safe places to visit as we go.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: MEDIUM

TCAT is the name of the public bus system here, but it has been going through some challenges over the past few views and might not be as available or as safe as a visitor would like. Using a taxi or rideshare is an option. Having your own rental car offers the safest transportation and the most flexibility. Treat every option with a medium risk to keep your guard up.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK: MEDIUM

With theft rates at almost twice the national average and an unclear line of differentiation between what is stolen from crime data, treat this with a medium risk. Keep your bags and wallet close and secure, even when you're dining at a restaurant. Avoiding wearing expensive jewelry or tech items in public.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM

Ithaca runs the gamut with seasonal weather risks, from flooding to severe thunderstorms to blizzards. It's a medium risk since there are so many outdoor activities here.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK: LOW

There's a low risk here, but I want to discuss a few crime hot spots with you later on to keep that risk low. If you are confronted by someone here, don't fight back. It's not worth risking your life.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK: LOW

With the violent crime rate rising, the real terrorists are those in the community causing the most problems. The risk of an international attack is low.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK: LOW

Scams are mostly targeted at residents, but there's a high poverty rate here and a homeless camp known as the Jungle. That means you could be exposed to panhandlers more often than you'd like. The risk is low, but keep it low by not falling for a con that preys on your emotions or any deal that seems too good to be true.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: MEDIUM

Women should treat this city with a medium risk as well, especially with the vast entertainment options that could involve alcohol, leading to a lack of good judgment. Try to travel in a group or with a friend and don't walk around at night. If you are visiting one of the universities here, use security escorts when walking around campus.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK: LOW

The 2023 Water Quality Report from the water utility explains a lot of safety information, including how the water supply is protected from contamination and terrorism. All standards were met or exceeded this year, adding to the low risk.

Safest Places to Visit in Ithaca

You have several touchstones to safe websites for planning a trip to Ithaca.

The Finger Lakes Region website covers all the cities, including Ithaca.

“Visit Ithaca” is a local tourism site.

There’s a website for downtown Ithaca as well.

Each website offers newsletters or email alerts about upcoming activities, which can help you round out your itineraries closer to your visit.

Downtown Ithaca is eclectic and vibrant, with a four-block section called Ithaca Commons protected from street traffic.

One of the most famous restaurants here is Moosewood, named one of the “thirteen most influential restaurants of the 20th century” by Bon Appétit magazine for its vegetarian culture.

When you walk the Discovery Trail, you’ll be drawn to some of the top museums and attractions in Ithaca:

  • Sciencenter: Interactive museum with 250 exhibits.
  • Museum of the Earth: Home to a legendary fossil collection and four billion years of Earth’s history.
  • Cayuga Nature Center: It’s a zoo, trail system, and epic tree houses all wrapped into one place. A local ecology exhibit fills the historic lodge.

You’ll have at least a dozen waterfalls to explore throughout the area, some with more distant state parks hidden away and others closer to town.

Robert H. Treman State Park features numerous waterfalls, including the 115ft tall Lucifer Falls.

There are over 12 miles of hiking trails passing by streams and gorges.

Taughannock Falls State Park is home to the tallest single-drop waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains at 215 feet tall.

There are hiking trails along the gorge with views of the falls.

Trails bridging the gorge and leading to Lake Treman are found in Buttermilk Falls State Park.

Be sure to check out the caves here too.

Ithaca Falls cascades over the edge of a cliff right in the city.

There are walking trails around the falls and downstream.

Cascadilla Gorge has winding trails that follow this gorge which features numerous waterfalls and scenic views within Cornell University’s campus.

The best place to access Cayuga Lake is Allan H. Treman State Marine Park, where swimming, fishing, and boating are popular activities.

Those traveling with kids will love the Ithaca Children’s Garden right along the Cayuga Waterfront Trail.

Places to Avoid in Ithaca

Ithaca Police Department has a crime dashboard on its website as part of a new initiative to be transparent and proactive in the highest crime areas.

It lists the locations with the most calls, including Walmart and 7-Eleven.

Most of the habitually high-crime addresses are in low-income housing or apartment complexes on the west side of town.

I want you to pay special attention to an area off Fairgrounds Memorial Parkway, where there’s a Walmart, Wegmans, and Lowe’s.

This area has a homeless encampment called the Jungle near Southwest Park.

“People are getting robbed,” George McGonigal, first ward alderperson of Ithaca, said. “Wegmans loses food, shopping carts, and people are harassed when going to their cars, particularly in the evening.”

Considering the Jungle has been around since 1926, and the poverty rate hovers at a staggering 35% in this working-class town, there’s no easy solution in sight.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Ithaca

  1. Ithaca does have its own police department. You can call them at (607) 272-9973 or follow them on Facebook @ithacapolice. Ithaca College and Cornell have their own police departments as well.
  2. Use the community dashboard on the police department’s website to see the most recent calls for service and crimes. You can filter it to any crime category you’d like. It’s not as helpful as an interactive map, but it does give a good overview. The department also posts a weekly incident log.
  3. Sign up for Tompkins County Siren, the Smart911-powered emergency alert system. This is the best way to get emergency notifications about severe weather or other safety hazards during your visit.
  4. Always watch your footing around waterfalls. While it’s obvious that a wet rock is dangerous, you would be surprised to know just how slippery it can be. Wearing sneakers, sandals, or flip-flops are too risky. You want hiking boots with good traction.
  5. From November through April 1, the even/odd parking rules are in effect. Look at the addresses on the street to see if there are even or odd addresses. This means you can only park on the odd-numbered side of the street on an odd day of the month. For example, on December 1, you can park on the odd-numbered side. On December 2, only the even-numbered side of the street can be used for parking. Better yet, park in a lot or garage.
  6. Fishing is allowed in the lakes and rivers here, but you need a fishing license from the state to legally do so. Buy those online from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.
  7. Kayak and canoe rentals are available lakeside, but if you aren’t sure how to navigate safely, book a lesson or a guided tour for the safest experience.
  8. Black bears live in this area, and the most common spot to see one is on West Hill. Never feed a bear or get close enough that they know you are there. If a bear does notice you, make yourself as big as possible and speak in a normal tone, just telling the bear that you are a human and not a threat. A common phrase is “Hey Bear, No Bear, Go Bear!”
  9. With so much of Ithaca in a flood zone, booking a hotel that isn’t right alongside the river is smart. Some areas are more prone to flooding than others. You can review the FEMA flood maps on the city’s website.
  10. The lakes of New York are prone to harmful algae blooms (HABs) in the warmer months. That includes Cayuga Lake. If you are visiting a state park, you can review the water quality dashboard of that park before you go in the water. Usually, you can see the algae as a film on the water that looks disgusting anyway, but a lack of appearance doesn’t mean a lack of algae. Always check.

So... How Safe Is Ithaca Really?

It’s hard to wrap your head around an Ivy League school like Cornell, just a few miles from a homeless camp fueling crime in Ithaca, and nobody seems to know how to fix the juxtaposition.

The cost of a year at Cornell is 40% higher than the average income of an Ithaca resident.

This is creating a cycle of the haves and have not, with theft and break-ins at Cornell leading to emergency alerts.

Even theft rates in the city have reached a 10-year-high.

The city is working on a plan that reimagines the public safety standards within the police department and the community, but with police staffing at critical levels, there aren’t enough officers to do what the current laws require.

Many of the crimes involved people who know each other involved in sinister activities, and the marginalized communities here believe they are unfairly targeted and harassed.

Local leaders acknowledge the concerns, are working to heal historic wounds, and want to put forth a plan everyone is comfortable with.

As a visitor, you should know that violent crime is still below the national and New York state average.

It is the spike in crimes that is causing the concern.

At the current rate, the city could be among the most dangerous in just a few years if solutions aren’t found.

With so many wonderful places to visit and outdoor recreational opportunities, you likely won’t notice any of the ongoing challenges unless you go behind the Walmart, where the homeless camp is.

Just use common sense and basic safety skills to have a great trip to Ithaca, New York.

How Does Ithaca Compare?

CitySafety Index
Ithaca62
Oakland57
New Orleans57
Baltimore56
Boston67
Washington DC56
New York City67
Phnom Penh (Cambodia)61
Niagara Falls (Canada)87
Calgary (Canada)82
Buenos Aires (Argentina)60
Vancouver (Canada)82
Cordoba (Argentina)61

Useful Information

Visas

Visas

All international visitors should get a visa for the purpose of their trip. If you are attending one of the colleges, you'll need a student visa. Just visiting? Then you need a tourism visa. Don't forget your valid passport, and make sure it doesn't expire within six months.

Currency

Currency

Only the U.S. Dollar can be used here. Some ATMs will exchange currency for you, but that's going to come with an additional fee. The lowest rates will be available at your home bank if you want to do the exchange before your trip.

Weather

Weather

Bring layers and waterproof outerwear as the weather can be unpredictable with rain and fluctuating temperatures. Pack hiking boots/shoes and casual clothes for exploring the gorges, trails, parks, museums, and restaurants around town. Don't forget bug spray and sunscreen.

Airports

Airports

Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport is the closest commercial airport to Ithaca, located around 6 miles northeast of downtown. The airport offers daily flights to major hubs like Philadelphia, Detroit, and Newark, operated by American, Delta, and United Airlines.

Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance

We always recommend travel insurance to a place where weather can cause travel troubles on the road and at airports. Health insurance is helpful if you aren't covered in the U.S.

Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Ithaca Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan -3° C
Feb -2° C
Mar 2° C
Apr 9° C
May 15° C
Jun 20° C
Jul 23° C
Aug 22° C
Sep 18° C
Oct 12° C
Nov 6° C
Dec 1° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
13715212629272317104
Low
°C
-7-6-3391417161272-3
High
°F
343745597079848173635039
Low
°F
192127374857636154453627

New York - Safety by City

CitySafety Index
Albany77
Binghamton61
Brooklyn74
Buffalo58
Cooperstown78
Elmira64
Fair Haven75
Greenport Village78
Ithaca62
Jamestown54
Lake George78
Lake Placid82
Lewisboro88
Long Island83
Manhattan82
Mt Vernon62
New Paltz79
New Rochelle77
New York City67
Niagara Falls63
Oswego75
Poughkeepsie79
Queens73
Rochester67
Rye76
Saranac Lake77
Saratoga Springs74
Schenectady52
Seneca Falls79
Shelter Island85
Sleepy Hollow77
Syracuse71
Utica57
Watertown63
Watkins Glen81
White Plains77
Yonkers59

Where to Next?

2 Reviews on Ithaca

  1. S
    Santiago Murray says:

    Hiking experience

    Explore numerous hiking trails in and around Ithaca, such as those in Buttermilk Falls State Park and Taughannock Falls State Park. Recommended!

  2. W
    Wade Kennedy says:

    Good food!

    Definitely safe! I enjoy the culinary scene focused on locally sourced, farm-fresh ingredients in Ithaca’s restaurants and farmers’ markets.

Ithaca Rated 5 / 5 based on 2 user reviews.

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