New York : Safety by CityUnited States - safety as a country New York - state review
Rochester, New York, sits along Lake Ontario in the northwest section of the state, far away from New York City urban life.
You’ll find Rochester halfway between Syracuse and Buffalo.
Rochester is important in American history, with innovation, business, technology, and civil rights battles.
The beginning of the suffrage movement, which was a fight for the rights of female voters, started here.
A few decades later, race riots fought for the rights of African Americans who were unpaid and living in unsuitable housing.
Through the growing pains and struggles, Rochester also birthed some of the biggest industries, like Xerox, Kodak, and Ragu.
Two universities fuel the research spirit, which has led to a technology and research industry boom over the past few decades.
Rochester is in what’s called the Finger Lakes region, referencing the long “finger-like” lakes to the southeast.
This is a booming tourist area in New York, so we’ll touch on that region briefly in this article.
Warnings & Dangers in Rochester
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk here, with violent crime rates twice the national average. 2021 brought the highest homicide rates in the city's history. Rochester's mayor declared a State of Emergency due to gun violence and extended that declaration in August of 2022. What's important to note about a state of emergency is that its primary purpose is to free up resources and funding for dire situations without having to go through traditional government pipelines.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
Having a car here is ideal, and it's just about 20 minutes to anywhere from any side of town. Regional Transit Service provides bus routes throughout the town. You can also get taxis or rideshares. You can take shuttles to the Finger Lakes or Niagara Falls if you choose.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
Without having firm pickpocket data, the best I can tell you is that the theft rate is 70% higher than the national average. While this isn't a congested city, the risk is likely to be low. However, Rochester is known for its yearly festivals, which bring big crowds and more pickpocketing concerns.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : LOW
Winter storms can be brutal here, and Rochester is one of the snowiest cities in America. While it's just normal for residents, a tourist could be caught off guard when snow falls by the foot - not by just inches. Severe weather is possible in the winter months, and flooding is a risk due to the Erie Canal and lake being so close by. There are some safety concerns at the Robert Emmett Ginna Nuclear Power Plant remnants, but we'll talk through those in more detail later.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
The robbery rate is three times higher than the national average; those violent crimes are much more likely in certain neighborhoods. 502 robberies were reported in 2021, with the bulk of those located on the north and west sides of town.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
You can read through the terrorism plan and risk factors through Monroe County's emergency management plan. While there's a strong plan in place and a detailed list of risk factors, terrorism is listed as the second-to-last-ranked risk factor in the city. As we've seen too many times, New York City tends to get terror attacks and not the other cities in the state.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
Rochester Police say they see an average of one scam report weekly, mostly due to phishing or spoofing scams. A sure sign of a scam is when someone demands you buy a credit card to avoid punishment, like being arrested.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
There's nothing from the limited crime data provided by the police department suggesting women are at any higher risk. In fact, sexual assault rates are half the national average. That doesn't mean you should let down your guard. Use common sense and situational awareness. Avoid walking around at night alone - but that goes for any city.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here with full compliance and no violations, as detailed in the 2021 Water Quality Report. The cold winters here can cause pipes to freeze, which could impact your access to tap water. Be sure to get prevention tips from your hotel. Usually, just leaving the tap running at a very low level can help prevent freezing.
Safest Places to Visit in Rochester
VisitRochester.com is the official tourism website for the city.
You can email specific questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-677-7282.
You can also use #VisitROC to see social media posts from Rochester.
Visitfingerlakes.com is the official tourism website for that area.
You can get more in-depth information there, but the Rochester site does have a brief overview.
Rochester’s nickname is Flower City, and you’ll find numerous flowering and horticultural places to visit.
There are pop-up flower stands throughout the city, but you can also explore places like Ellwanger Garden, whose roots date back more than a century.
The Eastman Museum is a great place to see a stunning garden, but the mansion tends to get more attention. This is the former home of Kodak founder George Eastman.
NOTE: The Rochester Lilac Festival happens every June. If you love flowers, schedule your visit for that month.
There is a lot of history here about African Americans and the Civil War.
The Frederick Douglass Walking Tour is one of the most popular, walking you through his life from a slave, to an escaped slave, to a free man, to his impressive stance as an abolitionist and suffragist.
The National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House takes you through the woman’s life when she fought for women to get the right to vote and was even arrested for doing so herself.
She was also prominent in the movement to free slaves.
While Anthony didn’t live to see the day women could vote nationwide, her story of fighting for women’s rights is quite fascinating, and it’s eye-opening to see what limitations women had just a century ago.
You’ll find a lot of good music here, too, as Rochester is known for its live music and love of Jazz.
The International Jazz Fest is held every June and runs for nine days.
Use the tourism site to look for local theater performances during your visit and buy your tickets, as the events easily sell out.
About 30 minutes southwest of Rochester is Genesee Country Village and Museum.
Here you’ll go back in time to the settlement of Genesee County.
This living history museum explores the region from small wood cabins to an upscale Victorian mansion.
The “living museum” part is taken seriously, with people in period costumes guiding tourists through and even old-fashioned baseball teams playing in a 19th-century ballpark.
Don’t miss the beautiful heirloom gardens on this property too.
The Erie Canal runs through the city, but there are more than 100 miles of trails and attractions along the way.
You can take a boat ride history tour to learn about how this canal helped America with westward expansion.
Places to Avoid in Rochester
Rochester is a working-class city with a 30% poverty rate.
Some of the poorest communities in the state of New York are located here, and those are also the ones with the higher crime rates.
The most dangerous neighborhood is the 14611 zip code in the 19th Ward.
Specifically, police focused on two areas where the most violent crimes happen – Chili Avenue and Thurston Road are the first, and Jefferson Avenue and Iceland Park are the second.
This is an underserved community, with minorities making up the majority of residents.
It’s also a vocal community where protests were made to the city council when the only pharmacy in the zip code closed down recently.
The Clinton neighborhood should also be avoided as it has exponentially more homicides than other neighborhoods.
A good rule in Rochester is that if you don’t have a reason to be in a certain area or neighborhood, don’t go there.
All the beautiful homes you want to tour are listed on the historic list of attractions by the tourism bureau.
You shouldn’t drive around aimlessly looking for historic homes.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Rochester
- You can read the annual reports from the police department to see what crimes are trending and what safety steps have been put into place in the past year(s). Use the community crime map to search near a specific address for more updated crime information. It’s an interactive map, so you can search for your hotel’s address and see how many robberies or thefts happened nearby in the previous week or month.
- This is an abundant list of Crime Prevention information on the police department’s website too. Schedule about 30 minutes to read through each element, so you’re better prepared for the trip. While some of the advice is common sense, there are also great programs to help crime victims or prevent crime altogether.
- Sign up for CodeRED alerts through the city’s website. This will get emergency notifications sent to your mobile device or email. It’s important you stay weather aware here as winter weather can change parking rules and create additional hazards.
- You can also sign up for alerts in the neighborhood where you’ll be staying using the county’s 911 Hyper-Reach program. You’ll get alerts about crime or safety risks near you. This is the best way to get that information if there’s a shelter-in-place warning or an active shooter.
- Part of Monroe County – where Rochester is located – is within 10 miles of the defunct Ginna Nuclear Power Plant. There are still radioactive materials there, and a leak could cause risks to people within a 10-mile radius. I checked to see how many hotels are nearby, and the closest one is 10.5 miles away. You can buy KI (Potassium Iodine) as a safety precaution. You would take the KI if you were exposed to radioactive material. The risk is very low, but extensive safety precautions are quite common for any city near a nuclear plant. If you have questions, contact the Monroe County Office of Emergency Management at 585-753-3810.
- Winter weather brings a lot of safety precautions, but let’s address parking. Rochester, like many cities, has an extensive snow plow plan and parking restrictions when snow is on the ground. From snow emergencies to parking emergencies to plowing day parking restrictions, it’s just a lot to understand for someone who’s visiting for a short time. You can review the parking plan on the city’s website or decide to park in a garage or parking lot during your visit.
- Use 311 to call the city about any non-emergency situation. You might have a question about plowing the streets or want to report a pothole. Those are just the kinds of things 311 is there to help with. If you are outside Rochester, call (585) 428-5990 instead.
- If you like to go for a morning or afternoon walk, but don’t feel comfortable doing so by yourself, look up the Rochester Walks! organization to find a group of walking buddies. You’ll be walking on safe trails or sidewalks with new friends and could even get some great safety tips along the way!
- For visitors not used to cold and snowy weather, you should do research before scheduling a winter trip. The city averages more than seven feet of snow a year. That snow doesn’t stop the city from operating. The weather can be cold, but the winds add a “feels like” temperature to that. For example, it can be 30°(F) outside, but the wind chill could be well below 0°(F).
- Don’t pick any of the flowers in the gardens in town. Some of those were planted more than 115 years ago and are cherished memories of ancestors. You have plenty of places in town where you can buy flowers and dry them if you’d like. Just don’t take from the gardens or the wilderness areas.
So... How Safe Is Rochester Really?
Rochester joins a long list of American cities seeing an exponential increase in violent crime, especially homicides.
The State of Emergency has effectively reduced some crime, according to city leaders.
That proclamation also gives the city the right to shut down a business that sees a lot of violent crime.
The truth is that a lot of the violent crime here is among people who disagree with each other or retaliate against other crimes.
“Operation Talk It Out” is the city’s newest initiative to encourage community members to talk through their problems and not use guns.
There’s also an issue here with too many illegal guns on the street.
Rochester was also hit hard by the resurgence of RSV, COVID, and influenza in the winter of 2022.
While masks aren’t required, carrying one with you might be a good idea if infection rates are high during your visit.
If you stay in tourist areas and entertainment districts, there’s a good chance that you won’t even notice violent crime.
You will need to use common sense and take proactive steps, like locking car doors and not leaving valuables in plain sight.
The crime rates themselves are concerning, but it’s not a city where random acts of crime make people live in fear.
How Does Rochester Compare?
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- Visas - You'll need a U.S. Visa and passport to enter the country, even if you are crossing the border into Canada at Niagara Falls. The U.S. State Department offers all the information you need on its website. You can also check the wait time for your embassy there because some appointments are backed up for months.
- Currency - The U.S. Dollar is the only currency you can use here. Currency exchanges are available at local banks, but we strongly advise against using a public ATM. Using a credit card for all purchases offers the best protection against fraud and unknown charges.
- Weather - You'll need lots of winter layers, especially if you'll be spending time outside. The weather can get cold enough to freeze bare skin in less than 30 minutes. Snow boots will be needed for much of the winter. Summers can get warm, but not as hot as the Southern states. You should always bring a variety of clothing to accommodate any weather fluctuations.
- Airports - The Rochester Airport has recently been renamed the Frederick Douglass Greater Rochester International Airport, but the airport code is still ROC. That's really the best option. New York is a much bigger state than some realize, so if you think it's a good idea to go to NYC's airports, be prepared for a six-hour drive.
- Travel Insurance - We recommend travel insurance, especially in the winter when heavy snow storms can shut down air travel in the region. You should also have health insurance if you have an accident, especially at ski resorts or wilderness areas.
Rochester Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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