Is Oswego Safe? Crime Rates & Safety Report

Updated On August 16, 2023
Oswego, United States
Safety Index:
75
* Based on Research & Crime Data

Oswego, New York, sits on the banks of Lake Ontario and the Oswego River in upstate New York.

The city of Oswego has been a strategically important port since the 17th century when it was home to a French trading post.

Its location has served military troops from the French and Indian War to the American Revolution and War of 1812.

Today, Oswego still capitalizes on its location along Lake Ontario, with fishing charters, boat tours, and plenty of swimming, boating, and water sports in the summer.

Outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate the hiking trails along the lake bluffs, access to Lake Ontario State Parkway, and the Salmon River for kayaking and tubing.

Winter activities include cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice fishing.

The Oswego River flowing into the harbor provides excellent steelhead trout fishing in the fall.

The riverfront features a walking path, historic sites like Fort Ontario, and waterfront parks great for picnics.

Downtown Oswego recently completed a massive revitalization project, which gives it a fresh vibe of modern amenities, excellent shopping, and a great food scene.

The city of Oswego is not the same as the town of Oswego, which is just to the west.

The town is much more suburban and rural.

Oswego is also a college town, with SUNY Oswego being home to 8,300 students.

STEM, meteorology, and business education rank as the top programs.

Even famous Today Show host Al Roker attended this school.

NOTE:

When researching Oswego, be sure you’re looking at the New York location.

There is an Oswego, Illinois, that I’ve noticed come up in a lot of search results.

To be sure, look for the 325 area code to confirm it’s in New York.

Warnings & Dangers in Oswego

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK: LOW

Oswego has a low risk, but there are some crime trends we'll discuss as we go through. You'll find plenty of things to do in safe spaces and cool historical places.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW

Centro is the name of the public transportation system in this region, with routes around Oswego and throughout the region. Taxis and rideshares are easy to find, along with rental cars, to give you more traveling flexibility. The risk is low with any option.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW

Oswego police don't break down the crime data for larceny to offer the exact number of pickpockets. By all accounts, the risk is low, provided you use the standard safety measures. During big events, use extra caution.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM

Winters are brutal or beautiful, depending on how you look at it, but the region gets up to 10 feet of snow a year. Flooding from the lake and river poses imminent risks during heavy rain or snowmelt. Severe thunderstorms are possible when it's warm and cold weather can cause dangerously low temperatures. There's a medium risk because of how much this weather can impact your safety during a visit.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK: LOW

Since 2016, the city hasn't had more than 10 robberies in a year. The trend has also been going down over that time, with just four reported in 2022. That's a low risk.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK: MEDIUM

A nuclear power plant is just eight miles east of Oswego, which could be a terrorist target. It also has a lot of security. Siren tests are done twice a year. You can learn more on the Oswego County emergency management website. There's a low risk, but it's worth noting the plant is there. Being a big port town, there could be a risk there as well. Let's say it's a medium risk, so you'll stay vigilant and report any suspicious activity.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK: LOW

The police department does a great job of posting current scams on its website. While most are targeting locals, there have been credit card skimmers and fake money happening around town. Keep the risk low by staying informed.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW

Nothing in the crime data suggests women are at greater risk, but use common cautions if you're out enjoying the nightlife. Don't be alone with a stranger and always stay with friends or a group. If you've had too much to drink, ask a security officer to help you get a ride home.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK: LOW

Oswego tests the water for more than 180 contaminants. The 2022 Water Quality Report shows no violations and full compliance. Check local social media sites for more pressing issues, like water pressure loss or frozen pipes causing issues in winter.

Safest Places to Visit in Oswego

Oswego County and the city of Oswego both have tourism sections on their government websites.

Discovery Upstate NY has an Oswego city/county section, too, under the “Thousand Islands” region section.

If you’re planning to visit during Harborfest in Oswego, there’s a website just for that event.

You can also follow them on Twitter (now known as X) @OswegoHfest.

The Oswego Riverwalk offers stunning views of Lake Ontario and the picturesque river that runs through downtown.

If viewing Lake Ontario is more your style, head to Breitbeck Park, a beautiful green space right in the heart of the city, with open lawns, towering trees, and a large playground for kids.

The H. Lee White Maritime Museum honors Oswego’s rich shipbuilding and maritime heritage.

Wander through exhibits of model ships, artifacts from sunken wrecks, and historic photos capturing life on Lake Ontario.

Don’t miss the museum’s crown jewel – the completely restored 1862 lighthouse.

The Fort Ontario State Historic Site contains the only star-shaped fort built before the Civil War, still intact today.

Walk the grounds of this National Historic Landmark, tour authentically furnished buildings, and learn about centuries of history at the museum.

NOTE: Parts of the fort are used for military training and are off-limits to tourists. Signs will let you know where you are not allowed.

Other museums include the Safe Have Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum, the historic Richardson-Bates House Museum, and the Children’s Museum of Oswego.

Sheldon Beach is the newest waterfront attraction, also known to locals as Flat Rock.

This was a derelict gravel lot transformed into a lakeside park.

Racing fans will love the Oswego Speedway, known as the “Home of Supermodified Racing.”

The speedway is a 5/8 mile asphalt racetrack.

Opened in 1951, it is the only asphalt superspeedway in New York state and hosts races from May through September.

Oswego is also famous for its sunrises and sunsets over Lake Ontario.

If you’re up for a short road trip, head to Chimney Bluffs State Park, about 30 minutes from Oswego.

The otherworldly design of the spires along the shore is well worth the drive.

Places to Avoid in Oswego

While there might be a few sketchy parts of town, there aren’t neighborhoods too dangerous if you get lost.

However, stick to the main tourist attractions and entertainment districts for the safest experience.

Anyone who plans to drive a boat needs a safety certificate.

It might make more sense to have someone who is familiar with the river and lake here to drive the boat.

About 20 miles offshore, the waters of Lake Ontario turn into Canadian territory.

Before you go boating in the lake, check with Border Patrol at the Port of Oswego for important information to avoid an international problem on your trip.

Avoid the lake when it is icy, as it will rarely freeze over.

Even though it might look stable, snow-covered, and frozen, there are crevasses and warm water that erode underneath the ice, and you could fall through and be trapped.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Oswego

  1. Oswego does have its own police department. Follow them on Facebook @OswegoPD to get regular updates on safety and crimes. Email oswegopd@oswegony.org with specific safety questions or call (315) 326-1741.
  2. The police department’s website has a menu of items, but I need you to look for the “Alert System.” That’s a new program to help inform the community where is a public safety risk. It will also include notices about major construction problems and weather-related updates.
  3. You should also sign up for Hyper-Reach notifications through the Oswego County website. This system alerts you to major weather events incoming or a nuclear accident at the nearby Nine Mile Park Nuclear Station.
  4. If having a nuclear station so close by concerns you, alleviate those worries by reviewing the Emergency Planning for the Nine Mile Point and James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Stations’ brochure on the county’s website.
  5. Before you book a hotel on the water, read the flooding risks and emergency management plans for the Oswego River and Lake Ontario. Review the FEMA flood maps to see what areas are more prone to flooding.
  6. Oswego offers Bird E-scooters to rent if you don’t want to walk the entire time. An hour of scooter rental will cost about $25. You’ll pay per minute of use.
  7. The area around the marina and Breitbeck Park was being so impacted by vandalism that security cameras were installed. A June 16, 2023, Facebook post on @MayorBarlow shows you where those cameras are located. If you plan on walking around that area at night, you might feel better knowing there’s a security officer on duty as well.
  8. Oswego has a breakwall that protects it from the biggest waves Lake Ontario can produce. It spans more than a mile of the shoreline through downtown Oswego. If you’re visiting the lake outside the breakwall, the risks are much higher. Repairs were being done in 2023 to reinforce the aging structure.
  9. This is a prime fishing territory, but you’ll need a license to fish from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. Purchase one online at the DECALS website to get it from the state office. Any other site offering licenses is a scam.
  10. Winter visitors with rental cars need an emergency roadside kit. While any employee at a hardware store can help you get the right items, it’s important to have a shovel to dig out of the snow if you get stuck, blankets to keep warm, and a red garment to use as a signal for help. You should also have snow chains and know how to install them.

So... How Safe Is Oswego Really?

Oswego’s biggest safety problems are nuisance and drug crimes.

The violent crime rate also hit a six-year high in 2022, which makes it slightly higher than the national average.

Theft rates are more than twice the national average.

At the same time, Oswego made the list of the best small lake towns in America, citing the wonderful number of things to do.

So what’s the real story?

Like many towns in post-pandemic America, drug use (thus drug overdoses and crimes) are on the rise, mixed with an increase in belligerent juvenile crime.

That includes things like causing public disturbances, vandalism, and aggressive homeless people.

In one instance, three teenagers were arrested for damaging a fence at a local business.

One teenager refused an officer’s commands repeatedly.

He was pushed to the ground and handcuffed.

The police chief said the teenagers – ages 13 and 4 – had nearly three dozen police interactions on the record.

The mayor then offered additional funding to curb the increase in crime.

“For the remainder of 2023, I’m requesting an increase in homeless canvassing efforts to connect individuals to available resources, additional resources towards drug enforcement to address the increase in molly in our community, and more late-night quality of life patrols in our parks and neighborhoods to combat disturbances and vandalism,” said Mayor William J. Barlow.

While the police department didn’t offer exact crime data about drug crimes, a Drug Task Force was set up to stop the increase in Molly and Heroin.

“This is our community, and we will fight every day to ensure that the sale of drugs does not nullify the positive changes that have been happening in Oswego in the last few years,” Oswego Police Chief Phil Cady said.

“Historically, the drug task force has been understaffed and unable to manage multiple investigations consistently.

Creating this new unit, with proper staffing, will allow the department to focus on city investigations and known problems all while still working with our county partners.”

Visitors should know about this type of crime, but if you steer clear of drug activities and stay away from rowdy teenagers or college students, you’ll be able to enjoy everything that makes this a great lake town.

Just be sure you’re always locking your car doors and removing personal belongings.

How Does Oswego Compare?

CitySafety Index
Oswego75
New Orleans57
Baltimore56
Boston67
Washington DC56
New York City67
Detroit56
Niagara Falls (Canada)87
Calgary (Canada)82
Buenos Aires (Argentina)60
Vancouver (Canada)82
Cordoba (Argentina)61
Toronto (Canada)81

Useful Information

Visas

Visas

A visa or visa waiver is required for anyone visiting the country from outside the U.S. Student visa are different from work or tourist visas, so be sure you apply for the right one. A valid passport is also required.

Currency

Currency

Only the U.S. Dollar is accepted here. The SUNY Oswego website actually had a great list of information for students studying abroad and how to handle currency. It would be helpful for you to read that!

Weather

Weather

Winter is a beast here, with nearly 10 feet of snow falling on average. Plan ahead with full snow and cold weather accessories. Temperatures will drop to near freezing from November through April. Even the warmest summer days hardly break 80°(F). Bring layers, comfortable shoes, waterproof layers, and bug spray.

Airports

Airports

The closest commercial airport is 40 minutes away in Syracuse at Syracuse/Hancock International Airport. Public transportation from the airport to Oswego is not available.

Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance just makes sense when visiting a place that gets so much snow and is secluded from major towns. Insurance could cover any extended stays, costs for rescheduling flights, or accidents along the way.

Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Oswego Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan -3° C
Feb -3° C
Mar 2° C
Apr 8° C
May 14° C
Jun 19° C
Jul 22° 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
1151117222525221593
Low
°C
-6-6-24101619181493-2
High
°F
343441526372777772594837
Low
°F
212128395061666457483728

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?

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