New York : Safety by City
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With its rich history and small-town charm, Jamestown, New York, may seem like an idyllic destination for travelers seeking the quintessential Chautauqua experience.
Jamestown anchors the Chautauqua region in this corner of New York.
Chautauqua is known for its rolling hills, abundant farmland, and numerous small towns.
Though once a thriving industrial hub, the past several decades have seen factories close, and jobs disappear in this Western New York community of just under 30,000 residents.
Tourism continues to fuel the city to a certain extent, as the hometown of famed actress and comedienne Lucille Ball.
The Chadakoin River winds through the city’s center, flanked by two scenic, pedestrian-friendly spans.
The location is ideal for those who want to explore the shores of Lake Erie, about an hour away, or the stunning international attraction of Niagara Falls, 90 minutes away.
Concurrently, the city is losing population and suffers from high poverty and crime rates.
Throughout this article, we must talk about the places to visit and the safest ways to avoid the risks in a place ranked as one of the most dangerous in the country for cities of similar size.
Warnings & Dangers in Jamestown
OVERALL RISK: MEDIUM
There's a medium risk in Jamestown due to high crime rates and limited things to do within the city. Even though this is a smaller town of less than 30,000 people, you should treat it with the same safety steps as you would in a big city.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
Chautauqua Area Regional Transit System (CARTS) offers public transportation around the region, even going as far as the Lake Erie border towns. Several routes to do go through Jamestown as well, but you're safer using a taxi or rideshare. Having a rental car is ideal, with so many things to see throughout Chautauqua County.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
This is a low risk, with an average of six pickpockets per year over the past five years, with 10 reported in 2022. Using smart safety steps, like keeping your wallet in an inside jacket pocket or carrying a small crossbody purse, will keep the risk low.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
The region gets the same weather concerns as most of New York–severe thunderstorms, flash flooding, extreme heat/cold, winter storms, remnants of tropical weather causing bad weather, and the occasional tornado. Treat it with a medium risk since the weather dangers can really impact any outdoor plans.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
The robbery rate is just slightly above the national average, and the risk is low of being a random victim of a mugging. However, you keep that risk low by staying in well-lit areas and not walking around at night alone. The majority of robberies here are in businesses or among people who know each other.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
You can rest assured this is a low risk for international terrorism, but domestic terrorism and mass shooting gun violence can happen anywhere, regardless of if there is a hard target nearby. For an overview of terror concerns, you can sign up for Homeland Security's Terrorism Advisory Bulletin.
SCAMS RISK: MEDIUM
Reports of card skimmers and fraudulent local websites should prompt a medium risk here. You can check the Better Business Bureau and local police websites for trending scams. You'll also likely be panhandled in Jamestown. Do not give money to homeless people. If you are so inclined, donate to a homeless shelter.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: MEDIUM
I was shocked when I saw the sexual assault rate in Jamestown was three times higher than the national average. However, crime data shows that women are at a much lower risk than men to be the victim of a violent crime. After some digging, it was clear that domestic violence is another crime hot spot in this city. Treat it with medium risk and stay in well-lit, safe places with a lot of people around you.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
The 2022 Water Quality Report shows full compliance without any violations, but that only applies to the year 2021. However, there's no reason to worry about the quality of the water unless there's some water advisory during your visit. You can take any questions to the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities by calling (716) 661-1680.
Safest Places to Visit in Jamestown
Tour Chautauqua is the name of the tourism website for this region, and there’s a section devoted to Jamestown.
You can download a free tourism guide without having to give personal information.
The Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce is another helpful website.
Start your exploration at the Lucy-Desi Museum, dedicated to native daughter Lucille Ball and her husband Desi Arnaz.
Artifacts, memorabilia, and behind-the-scenes footage provide an entertaining look at this beloved TV couple’s lives and legacy.
You can get a discount if you purchase a ticket to the National Comedy Center in addition to the Luci-Desi museum.
The Comedy Center is the first museum dedicated to comedy as an art form.
Interactive exhibits and comedy performances make for a unique experience.
The Reg Lenna Center for the Arts is another architectural gem, hosting films, concerts, and art displays in a restored 1928 theater.
The Fenton Historical Center is housed in an 1863 mansion with themed rooms that tell the story of Jamestown’s history, economy, famous connections, and revered leaders.
Kids will love the room that displays the evolution of toys.
Within the city, traverse the Chadakoin River on the pedestrian Boardwalk-Bridge spanning 1,600 feet.
It also connects to the Riverwalk Trail, which spans five miles.
Nature lovers won’t want to miss Chautauqua Lake, one of western New York’s largest freshwater lakes.
Rent a boat, try fishing, go swimming, or stroll along McCrea Point Park for scenic lake views.
The park also offers a boat or paddle dock for those spending time on the river.
The Chautauqua Belle steamboat offers narrated cruises explaining the area’s history.
Access is about 35 minutes northwest of Jamestown in Mayville.
At the north end of the lake, find the Chautauqua Institution, a historic arts colony and summer resort with many cultural events.
Places to Avoid in Jamestown
Instead of going through the list of block-by-block bad parts of town, it’s easier to tell you about the heat maps provided by the police department.
Almost every week, the police release a list of crimes and calls for service with a map showing the highest crime areas.
This map is a great tool to see where crime trends are happening closer to your visit.
There are hot spots near downtown, along the northeast side of the city, and on the southern edge.
Furthermore, you’ll know when you are in a rundown area.
Some streets have homes that are literally falling apart or rotting.
Any blighted area is not a place you should be.
While the town is laid out in a grid formation, it’s safer to use the main streets instead of cutting through neighborhood streets.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Jamestown
- Jamestown does have its own police department. You can follow them on Facebook @jamestownpolicedepartment. To ask specific safety questions, call (716) 483-7537 or email email@example.com.
- The police department will send out alerts when there’s a matter of public safety. You can sign up for Jamestown Alerts by texting ‘Subscribe’ to (716) 333-861
- If you have any information about a crime that isn’t urgent, you can call in anonymous information to the tip line at (716) 483-8477. You just leave a message with as much information as can.
- Jamestown, like many American cities, is dealing with a drug problem. Of course, you shouldn’t do illegal drugs, to begin with, but avoid the drug scene at all costs here. Drugs can be laced with lethal amounts of Fentanyl, and drug crimes fuel gun crime and gangs in the community. You don’t want to get caught in the middle of that.
- Parking in Jamestown will require you to carry coins if you park in a metered spot. Only quarters, dimes, and nickels are accepted. Weekend parking is free. The downtown area is the “Congested Area” and has its own parking rules, while the “Alternate Parking Zone” outside of downtown is based on the day of the week or month of the year, which then determine which side of the street you can park on. Check out the city website to understand that confusing process better than I just explained it.
- The brutal winters and freeze/thaw cycles of spring can cause massive potholes on the roads. You can help report a pothole by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with the location. If you prefer to call, that number is (716) 483-7545.
- Before you swim in any rivers or lakes in this region, check the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to see water quality tests. At the height of summer, lakes, and rivers can be subject to harmful algae blooms that can make you sick and be fatal to pets.
- The DEC also issues fishing licenses, which are required for anyone fishing over the age of 15. You can purchase that online through the DECALS website. Do not purchase it from any other website due to scam reports.
- Use NY 511 to get road conditions, live traffic reports, and see live cameras for any route in the state. The city’s website also has a “Where We Are Working This Week” section on the city’s website so that you can know about local projects.
- The police department issues annual reports with a summary of crime trends, accidents, and safety campaigns. It’s a great way to see an overview of crime and safety concerns in the area.
So... How Safe Is Jamestown Really?
Crime rates were growing enough that the police department created a program called Safer Jamestown N.O.W.
The goal is to build more community-based policing.
That’s when the community and police department work together to address crime problems or prevent crime from happening through vigilance and diligence.
I will give credit to the police department for being nearly 100% transparent with crime data.
Many cities with high crime rates won’t provide the data or make it hard to access.
That said, the violent crime rate in Jamestown was 210% higher than the national average in 2022.
It was 230% higher than the New York average.
The working-class city has many disenfranchised communities while suffering a staggering 28% poverty rate.
Even the average income of $36,000 isn’t much higher than the poverty level for a family of five.
Theft rates are 144% higher than the national average, with 17% of those thefts being from car break-ins or car accessory thefts over the past five years.
The police chief says that the Safer Jamestown Now was showing promise as of May 2023, with gun crimes down 45% year-to-date.
Keep in mind that data is only comparing five months during the brutal winter months.
On the flip side, gun crimes increased by 76% between 2017 and 2021.
“We are calling on our community to take back our neighborhoods; that’s what this is about.
Safer Jamestown Now, neighbors on watch.
It is not enough for us just to rely on our police, but our police need our neighbors as partners,” said Mayor Eddie Sundquist.
The tourist attractions in Jamestown are hoping to keep drawing in more people and more tax dollars to improve the community.
However, you should really only focus on the tourist areas and don’t leave those areas.
How Does Jamestown Compare?
|Hong Kong (China)
All international travelers will have to show their passport and a visa or visa waiver when they go through Customs or Border Patrol. You can see which visa process is right for you at the U.S. State Department website.
Only the U.S. Dollar is accepted at any location in New York and nationwide. This isn't a town where you want to carry a lot of cash, so use a credit card for purchases in USD currency if you can. You'll get better fraud protection too.
Four seasons of weather mean you should pack accordingly, with an emphasis on winter clothing and accessories. Summers will be hot and humid. You'll want bug spray and sunscreen. Bring comfortable walking shoes and hiking boots if you're heading to the mountains.
No commercial flights are available in Jamestown, so you'll need to either travel 80 miles to Buffalo Niagara International Airport or 85 miles to Erie, Pennsylvania's international airport.
This location is remote and subject to weather delays or road closures during winter weather. That's just one of many reasons to consider travel insurance to protect your financial investment in time and cover any delays or accidents.
Jamestown Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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