New York : Safety by City
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Located in the heart of the Mohawk Valley region in New York, Utica is a small city with a rich history dating back to the late 1700s.
Once a major manufacturing hub, today, Utica is a more diverse city known for its unique neighborhoods, excellent schools, and plentiful parks.
The lively downtown features boutique shops and restaurants alongside historic architecture and the popular Utica Zoo.
Surrounding neighborhoods like West Utica and North Utica showcase the city’s Italian heritage, while South Utica and East Utica contain beautiful Victorian homes.
Outdoor lovers enjoy the nearby Adirondack Mountains, along with hiking and biking trails that crisscross the city.
Utica is also where famed television host Dick Clark got his start in entertainment.
He worked in the mail room and had a stroke of good luck when the meteorologist went on vacation, and Clark got to fill in!
The rest is television history and a brilliant legacy left behind.
From its start as a frontier settlement to its heyday as a booming industrial center, Utica has reinvented itself as a progressive city focused on arts, culture, and quality of life.
Home to several colleges and over 60,000 residents, Utica offers big-city amenities with small-town charm.
Warnings & Dangers in Utica
OVERALL RISK: MEDIUM
Utica has a medium risk overall, mostly to make you aware of the higher-than-average crime rates. It has recently moved into the top 10 most dangerous cities in New York, but it also has plenty of space and interesting places to explore.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
Centro is the public bus system that goes through Utica and Central New York. The Oneida County tourism site has a list of taxis, limos, shuttles, and rental car locations. Rideshares will be easy to find as well.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
Statistically, the risk of a pickpocket is low. However, the crime data doesn't detail much about thefts, which are twice the national average. Use all the safety precautions you would in a big city, and be extra careful if you are at a crowded event.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: LOW
Utica has a long history of floods, even with short periods of heavy rain. The city averages six feet of snow a year, which can make travel tough. However, road crews are well-versed in clearing the streets when it is safe to do so. Spring and summer can bring severe thunderstorms and occasional tornadoes.
MUGGING RISK: MEDIUM
Robbery rates here are 60% higher than the national average, with 54% of those robberies happening on streets, sidewalks, or parking areas. Treat this with a medium risk just to stay aware of the potential. Lower the risk by not walking around at night.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
This is a low risk, but with a definite "See Something, Say Something" request from police. You can always read the latest nationwide terrorism concerns on the Homeland Security website.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
The police department is great at posting common scams as they happen. Most scams will target residents, so it's a low risk for tourists. Keep it low by knowing what fraud is happening during your visit.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: MEDIUM
Women have the same medium risk as anyone else and should use street smarts when visiting, especially in the nightlife areas. Don't go to private parties or leave with a stranger.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
One violation was reported according to the 2022 Water Quality Report but was fixed by September 2022. All other requirements were met or exceeded. Check the city's social media sites for any water issues during your visit. The risk is low.
Safest Places to Visit in Utica
The Utica city website has a list of attractions with outdoor recreation trail guides.
You can also use the Oneida County Tourism site to see a wider berth of things to do.
The Destination Guide can be downloaded for free without having to give any personal information.
Utica has several distinct districts to explore.
- Bagg’s Square: Oldest neighborhood in Utica and a newly redeveloped live/work/play space. The Utica Children’s Museum is located here. Learn more on Facebook @BaggsSquare.
- Downtown: Anchored by Genesee Street, this cultural destination has several theaters, Pratt University, and a mix of restaurants and shops. Find on Facebook @DowntownUtica.
- Varick Street: The place for nightlife in Utica.
- Bleecker Street: Well known for its international cuisine options, with some restaurants more than a century old.
The Utica Zoo is a great place to see more than 200 animals from around the world.
Highlights include the Asian elephants, Amur tigers, and the Critter Crawl indoor exhibit, where kids can view small animals up close.
Proctor Park is Utica’s community green space. Kids will love the playground and Carousel Museum featuring antique carved horses.
There are also tennis courts, athletic fields, a pool, and wooded trails for walking and jogging.
The summer concert series is popular with locals.
History buffs will appreciate Fort Stanwix National Monument in Rome, just 20 minutes away.
Tour authentic reconstructions of 18th-century buildings and learn about life during the American Revolution.
Living history demonstrations bring the past to life.
The Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute is home to a world-class art museum, theater, and school of art.
View masterworks in the collection, catch a play or concert, and admire rotating exhibits.
The graceful architecture is inspiring on its own.
For performing arts, attend an event at the Stanley Theater.
This 1928 movie palace was restored to its original splendor and today hosts concerts, comedy shows, Broadway tours, and the Utica Symphony.
The elegant interior is worth seeing.
Grab your fishing pole and head out to Hinckley Reservoir for some of the best fishing in Central New York.
This 1,640-acre lake is stocked with trout, bass, perch, and more.
Rent a boat, cast from shore, or book a fishing charter to reel in the big one.
Sylvan Beach is a classic summer destination on Oneida Lake, less than an hour from Utica.
Ride amusement park rides, play mini golf, splash in the wave pool, and stroll the mile-long boardwalk.
Top it off with sweet treats from stores like Surfside Ice Cream Shoppe.
For breathtaking natural scenery, visit Trenton Falls Gorge.
This National Natural Landmark contains a series of waterfalls cascading over limestone cliffs.
Hike the trails along both sides of the gorge to take in views of the falls and rapids below.
Places to Avoid in Utica
Honestly, if you have to avoid all the parts of Utica with high crime rates, you’d miss most of the tourist attractions.
While 45% of violent crime happens in homes here, it’s smart to stay on main roads and highways.
Navigate your GPS before you leave, so you can get to your destination directly.
Outside of downtown, the west side and immediate south section of town also have high crime rates.
South of Memorial Parkway and north of I-90 are much safer and lower crime areas but also more suburban.
Utica is prone to flooding.
Before you book a hotel room, it might be wise to ask what history of flood damage the location has experienced.
While flooding is a far bigger concern if you are looking to buy a home here, you also choose to stay away from the rivers if you want to be extra cautious.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Utica
- Utica does have its own police department and works with the Oneida County Sheriff’s Department as needed. Look for the “City of Utica, NY Police Department on Facebook” to follow for updates. The main phone number is (315) 735-3301.
- Utica Police release an annual report that details crime data, traffic troubles, and safety steps. You can review that on the front page of the department’s website to get an overview of crime for the previous year.
- Download the Utica 311 app to get in contact with the city and be able to report problems during your visit or find resources you need. The reporting system is great for things like potholes, dead animals, or graffiti. Every lit bit helps the quality of life in Utica.
- The city of Utica has a YouTube page with videos of popular locations, interviews with local leaders, and safety updates. You can follow them @CityofUtica1.
- Sign up for NY Alerts through the Oneida County Emergency Management website. You need to get weather watches and warnings during your visit, and this is the easiest way to do so.
- The NY State Thruway runs through Utica, and that’s a toll road. Most rental cars will come with an EZ Pass device. You can also download the app and create your own payment account. You can’t go unseen through the toll areas as cameras record your license plate.
- Utica has a growing homeless population, which could lead to more panhandling. You don’t have to give money and shouldn’t feel threatened by someone asking. If a panhandler does appear agitated, move to the other side of the street or call the police.
- Anglers will need to get a fishing license from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. They are required for anyone over the age of 16. You can buy that online at the DECALS website, which is the only authorized seller.
- Use NY 511 to track road conditions, traffic, and construction projects in the area. If you create your own account, you can set alerts for preferred routes.
- If you’ll be using Centro to get around, buy a pass with multiple rides to save money and avoid having to pay for cash at each stop. You can also create an account on the Centro website to get route alerts or schedule changes.
So... How Safe Is Utica Really?
Utica has violent crime rates 60% higher than the New York average and 46% higher than the national average.
In 2022, the violent crime rate increased by 7% over the past five years.
Car thefts are up 31% over the last five years, but that’s partially due to a surge in 2021 when nearly five cars a week were being stolen.
In 2022, that number was down to three a week.
Overall, theft rates are double the national average.
The downside of the police data provided is that the majority of thefts are lumped into an “All Other” category, but it’s not clear if that is a lot of thefts of personal property, car break-ins, or shoplifting.
Anyone from a big city used to the “mind your own business” and “don’t go looking for trouble” way of life is going to feel perfectly safe here.
They know not to walk around at night or start trouble of their own.
With so many wonderful tourist attractions here, it’s easy to avoid the high crime rates with common sense and situational awareness.
How Does Utica Compare?
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All international visitors have the same requirements as anywhere else - have a passport that doesn't expire for at least six months and get a visa or visa waiver. If you are coming here for college, be sure you get a student visa. Don't try to get a student visa if you are a tourist. There's a separate visa for that. Use the Visa Wizard module on the U.S. State Department website to get started.
You can exchange currency at most airports, but your home bank or a local branch of an international bank will offer the lowest fees. If you're going to use an ATM to get currency, use one inside a bank. Only the U.S. Dollar is accepted here.
Utica has the standard four seasons, with cold, snowy winters and hot, humid summers. Fall and spring fluctuate a lot. Just pack a lot of layers to adapt quickly. Bug spray and sunscreen will be needed from spring through fall. Always bring a waterproof outer layer in case you get stuck in the rain.
You'll have to drive a bit to get to a commercial airport from Utica. Syracuse (SYR) Airport is the closest, about 45 miles away. Watertown (ART), Ithaca (ITH), and Albany (ALB) are all less than 80 miles. Rochester (ROC) is 125 miles away.
Travel insurance is wise when visiting a part of the country that can get so much disruptive weather and has so many airports. If you don't have health insurance in the United States, consider a supplemental health insurance policy to cover any emergencies.
Utica Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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