Pennsylvania : Safety by City
- Kennett Square
Reading, Pennsylvania, is in Berks County, and the region is locally known as “The Berks.”
Founded in 1748 by the sons of William Penn, the Penns named the town after Reading, Berkshire, England, which was their family’s ancestral home.
That’s also how Berks County got its name.
Reading boasts a vibrant past as a colonial settlement, an industrial powerhouse, and now, a charming city in the midst of an artistic and cultural revival.
The location is ideal, about less than 90 minutes from Philadelphia or a quick hour jaunt to the Appalachian mountains in the other direction.
The tourism industry in Pennsylvania calls this the Americana Region, with covered bridges, Daniel Boone’s footprints, rolling hills, and cultural activities that span centers and modern trends.
Including the surrounding towns, which include West Reading and Reading Township (we are talking about the city of Reading here), you have a vibrant expanse of options to suit any generation or interest.
From a Pagoda on the hill to Amish Country to craft beers to activities on the Schuylkill River, there’s a lot more to Reading than you might realize.
The Industrial Era built this community, which is still represented through historic districts and magnificent homes.
Yet the decline has been a tough one to beat, as more than one in three people live in poverty in this community.
Does that mean there are safety concerns?
Warnings & Dangers in Reading
OVERALL RISK: MEDIUM
There's a medium risk in Reading, but if you're not used to higher-crime communities, you should know you'll need plenty of street smarts here. With plenty of enjoyable attractions and places to see, the benefits outweigh the risks. Just keep your guard up.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
BARTA is the public transportation system here, and taxis and rideshares are also easy to find. Despite the theft rates for car break-ins, having a rental car is likely your safest choice to avoid going through the more dangerous parts of town.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
About 10 pickpockets or purse snatchings have been reported on average over the past five years. The key is not to create an opportunity for theft. Limit what you carry with you, be discreet with a small purse or a wallet in a hidden jacket pocket, and don't carry around large sums of cash. The risk is low, but the potential is always there.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: LOW
Winter storms, thunderstorms, and the occasional tornado can happen here. The river could pose a flood risk. By comparison to places in the Midwest or South, the risk is low here. You should still stay weather-aware, but there are major disasters that happen here regularly.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
The robbery rate is 32% higher than the national average. The part I really don't like is that 63% of those happen in public places against individuals. While most of those are related to gang or drug activity, it's important to address this medium risk by staying out of unknown neighborhoods, walking around late at night, or becoming too friendly with people you have just met.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
The risk here is low, and places like Philadelphia would be a more likely target. The Homeland Security Department issues a Terrorism Advisory Bulletin several times a year, which is a great resource to see what concerns exist during your trip.
SCAMS RISK: MEDIUM
The most concerning scam I've seen in Pennsylvania involves "pump switching" at the gas station. This happens when you're pumping gas, and someone offers to pump it for you. Once you drive away, the scammer keeps filling other people's gas pumps with your credit card. Meanwhile, they pocket the money from other drivers. I'm giving this category a medium risk, because scammers here are savvy and can be intimidating.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
Women are statistically 8% less likely to be victims of violent crime in Reading. It is wise to avoid walking around Reading alone. Stick with tours or stay in well-lit, populated areas. Don't drive around at night without a destination set, and don't take shortcuts.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
The 2022 Water Quality Report shows full compliance and no violations. The Safe Water Drinking Act holds communities to high standards when it comes to water quality, so the risk is low.
Safest Places to Visit in Reading
The name of the tourism website for this region is “Visit PA Americana.”
Most websites covering this area will mention Reading, The Berks, or Berks County.
The Visit PA state tourism website puts Reading under the “Dutch County Roads” section.
You can download a free travel guide from the Americana website without having to give personal information.
A newsletter and separate brochures for specific activities are available with your email address submission.
Immerse yourself in history and science at the Reading Public Museum, marveling at Egyptian mummies, dinosaur bones, and dazzling art collections.
Then, journey beyond the Earth at the Neag Planetarium, where star shows whisk you away on cosmic adventures.
An arboretum is also on-site, covering 25 acres.
Rising above the city skyline, the Pagoda in Reading is a nine-story marvel built in 1908.
An observation deck awaits at the top, with history lessons along the way about how this fascinating building ended up on the hill.
For arts and culture, the GoggleWorks Center for the Arts offers captivating glassblowing demonstrations and workshops set in a former goggle factory.
More arts and culture await across the river in West Reading, which is quickly becoming well-known for its creative vibes.
Step back in time at the Berks County Heritage Center, exploring Revolutionary War history and the region’s agricultural roots.
Reading also has six historic districts, with architectural gems in each one.
Grab a walking tour map at the heritage center.
For outdoor adventures, hike or bike the scenic trails of Nolde Forest Environmental Education Center or discover the crystalline wonders of Crystal Cave, the first show cave in Pennsylvania.
If you’re craving a touch of nostalgia, hop aboard the historic Strasburg Rail Road for a scenic steam train journey through Amish country.
I’d also recommend checking out the local festivals to schedule a trip around.
The West Reading Craft Pretzel & Beer Fest got my attention with the HUGE pretzels.
Places to Avoid in Reading
To give the most conservative answer to this question, you should stay overnight as far away from the center of town as possible.
When you do visit the downtown attractions, do so in the daytime and keep your guard up.
Don’t venture into the surrounding neighborhoods.
The south and southwest sides of the city have more crime, but if you want the safest experience, stay in West Reading or the surrounding communities.
You’ll also find more hotels and amenities in closer spaces in West Reading or Wyomissing.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Reading
- Reading does have its own police department, as does West Reading. You can reach the city of Reading police department by calling 610-655-6116 if you want to ask specific questions. You can also find them on Instagram @city_of_reading_police.
- All crime tips help, even if you just notice suspicious activity. You can report anonymously by calling 877-373-9913. Tips can also be sent via text message, using the keyword “alert berks,” to 847411.
- Sign up for emergency alerts through BERKS ALERT on the “County of Berks” website. You can also read the emergency management plan for storms, disasters, and other public threats.
- The police department offers crime mapping technology on its website, where you can search for crimes in certain areas. For example, you might want to know how many cars have been stolen from downtown in the past six months.
- If you are the victim of a crime that caused a loss of less than $1000, you can fill out a police report online. If any injuries were caused, weapons were used, or drugs/alcohol were involved, you should call 911.
- Use the ParkMobile app to find and pay for parking in Reading. You can learn more on the Reading Parking Authority website – don’t waste time looking at the city’s website for that information. The Parking Authority is also where you’ll pay for a parking ticket.
- Reading offers a “Report a Problem” function on its city website. Here’s what I like about there – you can not only report any issue you find, like a pothole, but you can review other reports to see what hazards might be out there.
- Don’t swim in the Schuylkill River unless you’re in a designated swimming area (like in a state park) and you’ve checked the water quality report from the Department of Environmental Quality. With all the industrial work along this river, the water can be dangerous.
- If you want to fish anywhere in Pennsylvania, you’ll need a fishing license from the Fish & Boat Commission. Some local retailers sell it as well.
- While daytime park visits are fine, avoid them after dark, especially in less-frequented areas. With gang activity in this town, you don’t want to risk running into a dangerous situation.
So... How Safe Is Reading Really?
Reading faces challenges of poverty, high crime rates, and a disengaged community that doesn’t always trust the police or work in tandem with them.
It has been ranked as one of the most miserable cities in the country, but those “worst” lists aren’t always 100% accurate from a tourism standpoint.
The police chief and mayor have been making passionate pleas as gun crime continues for the community to step up.
“I don’t care if I turn blue saying what I’m about to say,” Mayor Eddie Moran said, “but I’m going to continue to say that our kiddos are hurting, our kiddos are dying, and we cannot allow that.
We have to come together as a community.
We have to go out and talk to our kids.
We have to go out to our faith- and community-based organizations, our schools,”
Violent crime is 67% higher than the state average, but Pennsylvania overall has a rather low violent crime rate.
When we compare that to national standards, Reading is still 18% higher.
Nearly two-thirds of all robberies are highway robberies, meaning they happen in public parking lots, streets and sidewalks.
That could be a random act of violence or a targeted individual carrying money, drugs, or weapons.
However, we do know that data from 2022 shows just 15% of violent crimes were against strangers.
Car break-ins account for 41% of all thefts, and at least three cars a week are stolen (on average).
You can lower that risk by locking your car and removing personal items.
Avoid parking on the street if you can and use a theft prevention device, like a wheel lock or car alarm.
The unfortunate part of poverty-stricken neighborhoods is that most crimes are either retaliation, desperation, or opportunity.
Using common sense, situational awareness, and standard safety practices will go a long way in Reading.
How Does Reading Compare?
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International visitors will need a passport and visa designated for the purpose of travel to get into the country. Some people will be eligible for a visa waiver, but you'll need to check the U.S. State Department website to see if you fit into that category.
The U.S. Dollar is the only accepted currency here. Credit cards are the best form of payment to use, as they offer great fraud and theft prevention. If you do need cash, get it at home through your personal bank to get the lowest fees. Don't carry a lot of cash in Reading.
Plan for four robust seasons, but even within those seasons, weather can fluctuate. You'll need long sleeves and coats in the winter with comfortable shorts and T-shirts in summer. Bring bug spray and a rain jacket.
Philadelphia International Airport sits just 90 minutes south of Reading and is the biggest option nearby. Reading does have an airport, but there doesn't appear to be commercial airline service there.
Travel insurance just makes sense when visiting an area prone to disruptive weather. You should confirm your rental car insurance covers roadside assistance. Health insurance should be purchased as a supplement if you don't have coverage in the United States.
Reading Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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Pennsylvania - Safety by City