Massachusetts : Safety by City
- Cape Cod
- Fall River
- Martha’s Vineyard
- New Bedford
Nestled into the Berkshires of western Massachusetts is the small city of Pittsfield, a place known for its devotion and support of the art community.
Pittsfield is less than an hour from three states – New York, Connecticut, and Vermont.
While you’ll be far from the excitement of Boston and the surrounding suburbs, you gain the vast number of outdoor activities and smaller-town charm in this mountainous part of the state.
If you think this region looks like a Norman Rockwell photo, that’s because the Berkshires inspired some of his classic drawings when he lived in Stockbridge, just 20 minutes from Pittsfield.
It would be his final home before passing away, but he enshrined a museum in his name for future generations to enjoy.
The Appalachian Trail runs along the spine of western Massachusetts, setting the stage for wonderful outdoor adventures in every season.
Fall is one of the most brilliant seasons, with the leaves changing colors and scenic views weaving through the idyllic landscape.
Pittsfield is also home to a preserved Shaker Village, with a look back at the life of this communal religious village once known as the City of Peace.
Warnings & Dangers in Pittsfield
OVERALL RISK : LOW
Pittsfield has a rough reputation but also falls into the "It's not nearly as bad as in some other places" category. While it consistently makes the Top 20 list of Most Dangerous Places in Massachusetts, that's more of an issue for residents than tourists. Plus, there's so much to do in safe places that you don't really run the risk of being bored and ending up in a troublesome situation.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
Berkshire Regional Transit Authority offers bus routes throughout the region. Amtrack and Greyhound also serve this community, while there's a special express bus from NYC to the Berkshires. The Green Mountain Community Network even has routes into Vermont. Taxis and rideshares are available and rental cars are easy to find. The city planners realize the region isn't laid out well as a walkable community, and offer many ways to explore if you don't have your own vehicle.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
Just two purse snatchings were reported in 2021, with no pickpockets listed. The overall theft rate is actually substantially lower than the national average in Pittsfield.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : LOW
Severe weather can happen in each season, from summer thunderstorms to winter blizzards. Flooding is a concern and, on the flip side, the city dealt with a drought that impacted water usage in 2022. Pittsfield Emergency Management has a list of preparedness information to help you stay safe during any weather event.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
Almost 30% of robberies are "highway robberies," which are most likely to impact visitors. However, the overall robbery rate is about 20% lower than the national average. This is a low-risk, but violent crime increased in 2022, so keep that in mind.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
This is a low risk as an isolated area with small towns scattered throughout the region. There's a bigger risk in the larger cities like Albany, New York, or Springfield, Massachusetts.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
Scammers posing as police officers on threatening phone calls is the biggest risk here, but that's not something a tourist will face. Nationwide, there has been a trend of rental scams, so if you're using a third-party website to book a vacation rental, use advice from the Better Business Bureau on how to verify the legitimacy of a listing.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Standard safety precautions should be used day and night here, as well as a good working practice of outdoor survival and safety skills. Beyond that, there isn't a larger risk for women here than men.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here with full compliance, according to the 2021 Water Quality Report. The report details improvements being made to the water quality systems. Pittsfield did face some water conservation steps due to an ongoing drought in 2022 which could carry into the next few years. The city's website will have this information as it is required.
Safest Places to Visit in Pittsfield
Several legitimate and safe websites are available to learn about this region.
With so many third-party sites mixed in, we wanted to clarify the official ones from the riskier ones.
- City of Pittsfield “Planning Your Visit” section: CityofPittsfield.org
- Downtown Pittsfield Info: DowntownPittsfield.com
- Cultural Development Agency for Pittsfield: LovePittsfield.com
- All About The Berkshires: Berkshires.org
The Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield might be a good starting point to learn about the unique aspects of this region and also get a taste of the artistic flair that defines this area.
It’s also a bit of a mini-zoo with an aquarium and reptile room.
Next door is Museum Outlets, voted one of the best gift shops in the Berkshires.
Pittsfield is known as the Heart of the Berkshires, then downtown is the pulse.
This is a Live, Work, Play area with shops, art galleries, performance venues, restaurants, and living spaces.
It has a great urban feel with green spaces and a bunch of history mixed in giving it a charming and casual experience.
Bousquet Mountain Ski Resort is in Pittsfield, offering skiing, snowboarding, and tubing.
Several hotels nearby offer easy access to the mountains, even during rough winter weather.
Restaurants and rentals are available on-site too.
Read the “Responsibility Code” before enjoying the mountain, so you can be safe while exploring the various slopes.
Berkshire County Historical Society at Arrowhead is the central location to learn about the geographical, anthropological, and historical aspects of this region and the people who helped put it on the map.
The Arrowhead home was where Herman Melville tucked himself away to write in private, churning out classics like Moby Dick.
South of Pittsfield, you can visit the exquisite former home of Edith Wharton, a Pulitzer winning Novelist.
She’s well known for The Age of Innocence and The House of Mirth.
Tours include the main house, the stables, and the elaborate garden.
The Norman Rockwell Museum is in Stockbridge, with an extensive collection of the hometown artist’s work and stories of his life.
The Samuel Harrison House is another historic building celebrating the life of African American slave-turned-abolitionist Samuel Harrison.
He also served in the military and became a reverend, and was known for his powerful sermons and influence on leaders like President Lincoln.
Pittsfield State Forest includes 11,000 acres of land and 30 miles of trails to explore, with Berry Pond offering water activities year-round.
Camping, hiking, and fishing are popular in the warmer months, with snowshoeing and cross-country skiing being popular in the winter.
Nearby Balance Rock State Park also offers more outdoor adventures, including a 165-ton boulder precariously perched on bedrock.
Pontoosuc Lake is surrounded by a lot of private property, but a park provides public access and New Eatonville Berkshire Spa and Resort offers a relaxing environment right on the shore.
Just to the north of the lake, you’ll find Mt Greylock State Reservation with the highest elevation in Massachusetts with views 90 miles in all directions (on a clear day).
Road restrictions will be in place during winter.
I haven’t even scratched the surface of all the things to do in Pittsfield and the surrounding Berkshires area.
It is truly ripe with opportunities from some of the greatest artists of all time and outdoor adventures unique to this portion of the Appalachian Mountains.
Places to Avoid in Pittsfield
The more dangerous parts of the city are located west and southwest of downtown.
Those aren’t neighborhoods where the average visitor will go anyway, and there isn’t any part of the city that is so dangerous you need to avoid it altogether.
Staying on main roads and highways are the safest way to get around.
It’s important before you visit any wilderness areas or parks that you read the alerts for each location.
Winter restrictions could leave some roads impassible and spring or summer construction could lead to campground closures.
Once you’re outside of Pittsfield, you’ll be mostly on remote two-land roads, so keep your vehicle gassed up and fill up whenever you get to half a tank.
One name note – Pittsfield and Pittsburgh can be easy to mix up.
Pittsburgh is a city in Pennsylvania, and Pittsburg is a common city name, with locations in Kansas, New Hampshire, California, and Texas, just to name a few.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Pittsfield
- Use the Community Crime Map available through the Pittsfield Police Department (PPD) to check current crime trends. For example, you might want to search for car burglaries and thefts in the past three months or see where the most highway robberies happened in the past year. All categories are custom-tailored to your search needs and crime data is updated daily.
- PPD also offers CityStat reports each month, which is a pre-defined list of crime data from the past month with monthly and year-to-date comparisons. For example, I can see that theft from and of motor vehicles has increase as much as 52% in the past year.
- Downtown Pittsfield App offers a full-scale map in the palm of your hand with walking tours and geotagged locations for the must-see art displays and businesses in town. Virtual tours are available, so you can better plan your visit.
- Sign up for CodeRED notifications to get countywide information about weather, civil, and other emergencies. This is critical, so you can know road conditions, areas closed off due to criminal activities, or incoming storm risks. You can also get notifications after an event to find resources.
- Pittsfield can use all the help it can get to help reduce an increase in crime, and the Citizen Observer tool on the police department’s website offers several easy ways to do that. Without downloading anything, you can text “PITTIP” ((with your detailed message)) and send it to 847411.
- This region gets a lot of harsh weather, which can lead to potholes, damaged roads, or other storm damage like fallen trees, flooding or downed power lines. Download the PittSMART app, and you can review citizen reports of damage and add your own report to help keep the streets safe for everyone.
- At each park you visit, stop by the visitor center first. You should know where clean water is available, if restrooms are available on the routes, the trail difficulty levels, and any other alerts that are important before you head out.
- Trails in the Berkshires are rated as Easy, Moderate, Strenuous, and Aggressive. Don’t hike beyond your physical ability and never pressure someone in your group to go faster. Even a moderate trail can become strenuous if there are mud, snow, or ice along the way.
- Bousquet Mountain does offer storage lockers, but they fill up quickly. You should plan well ahead of time to determine where you’ll store your personal items while you’re on the slopes. Some people will use a small backpack to keep items with them, while others choose to return to their vehicle to store street clothing. It’s advised you show up in your ski clothing and with as few items as possible to avoid losing valuables.
- Use the Passport Parking app when parking downtown for a safer transaction than standing at the payment machine. You will need to know your license plate number when you pay for parking, and you’ll need to enter it even if you are getting free parking. If you’re getting a rental car, just snap a photo of the license plate, and you’ll have it handy.
So... How Safe Is Pittsfield Really?
Pittsfield is seeing an increase in violent crime, notably an increase in juveniles committing the crimes.
Gun crimes are increasing as well.
A new police chief as of June 2023 will be tasked with developing a new crime prevention plan.
The outgoing police chief spoke about the biggest challenges at his retirement announcement.
“We have great concern about the amount of gun violence in the city and beyond,” outgoing Police Chief Michael Wynn said.
“And, unfortunately, that gun violence is directly linked to the availability of illegal guns in and around the city.”
Despite the increase in crimes, statistics hold that 17% of violent crimes happen against strangers with 60% of violent crimes happening in private homes.
That shows it’s not a random act of violence that is the biggest concern, but more of a community challenge to prevent, report, and punish those who commit crimes.
Nearly 30% of the thefts in the city are related to car breakings and vehicle thefts increased in 2022 – but both of those statistics fall in line with national trends.
The increase in juvenile crime is another nationwide trend and isn’t just limited to the Berkshires.
With so many things to do in this region, you’ll likely not notice any of the crime.
However, you should practice basic security like you’re in any big city – lock your car doors, don’t carry a large amount of cash, limits the valuables you wear, and always keep an eye on your surroundings.
You should also be educated in wilderness safety and survival since there are so many remote regions in this part of Massachusetts.
How Does Pittsfield Compare?
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- Visas - The U.S. State Department oversees the visa process in the United States, and you'll need a valid passport and visa to get through Customs and Border Patrol at the airport. You should give yourself at least three months to go through the application process, as it includes several steps, including an in-person interview.
- Currency - The U.S. Dollar is the only currency accepted here. Exchange currency before you arrive to get the best value and pay the lowest fees. Credit cards are widely accepted, but it's smart to carry less than $100 in cash with you each day in a rural area like this.
- Weather - Pittsfield gets all four seasons, and you should dress accordingly, with a special emphasis on warm winter clothing and outerwear. You'll want snow boots and hiking boots to get good traction in the mountains or on snowy roads. Fluctuating temperatures in spring and fall encourage you to bring layers of clothing, so you can peel off or add them as needed. Summers will be warm, with an occasional cold evening or morning. Bring bug spray and use it often.
- Airports - The closest commercial airport is in Albany, New York, and that's about an hour away. Hartford, Connecticut's airport is two hours away, while Boston Logan International Airport is three hours east.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance is a smart choice for a region that can get disruptive weather throughout the year. Rental car insurance should be strongly considered due to the potential for storm damage or accidents.
Pittsfield Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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