Connecticut : Safety by City
- East Hartford
- New Haven
- New London
- Old Saybrook
- West Hartford
- Windsor Locks
Waterbury, Connecticut, is one of the largest cities in the state and goes by the nickname “Brass City” due to its rich manufacturing heritage.
It was once the “Brass Capital of the World.”
Brass Mill Center is the shopping Mecca of this community.
It’s a giant mall with plenty of restaurants to explore.
This is the main attraction in the struggling city.
You have some breathtaking houses of worship here, and what’s left of a once busy theme park called Holy Land USA.
The Palace Theatre will make you feel like royalty, whether you’re attending a show or just sneaking a peek of the elegant inside.
When we get down to brass taxes, however, we see Waterbury has more problems with a lot of potentials.
This isn’t your classic New England city, even though it’s one of the largest in the state.
The city is home to a lot of history, but that now sits in the shadow of blight.
It’s a problem so common in Waterbury that the police department started a Blight Task Force.
It’s not “downtown Detroit dangerous”, but one of the things the police chief said during a recent news conference about juvenile crime might just be the most shocking crime statistic I’ve ever heard.
Warnings & Dangers in Waterbury
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk here and you need to take it seriously. The city has a big gang problem and a growing drug problem. There are entire streets of homes just sitting empty and uninhabitable. More than 21% of the city lives in poverty and there's not enough energy after trying to make ends meet to keep tourists entertained. But they are trying.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : MEDIUM
CT Transit has more than 30 stops in Waterbury. You can also get a taxi or rideshare. However, I wouldn't recommend taking public transportation here due to crime. There was an Uber here that was carjacked and the passenger was forced out at gunpoint. There have been reports of violence on the CT Transit busses here. It's not imminently dangerous to take public transportation, but there's definitely a medium risk if you do.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM
While only 18 of the nearly 2000 thefts were pickpockets or purse snatchings, there's still a medium risk here. That's one of the larger pickpocket numbers in all of Connecticut. This is a place, especially near the core of the city, where you have to keep a grip on your purse and button your wallet in the front pocket.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : LOW
You're going to get heavy snow in the winter. There's really no way around that. The snow can fall up to 18" at a time and leave people trapped. That sounds like a big risk, right? Here it's just a way of life and there are smooth systems in place to clean up after a storm. Average thunderstorms happen in the warmer months. There might be a tornado once every 10-20 years or so in Waterbury, but it's not an ongoing risk. Flooding is a concern because it's right along the Naugatuck River. Overall, it's a low risk because nothing is incredibly disastrous, but you can get a small taste of every kind of weather event here - even the aftermath of hurricanes coming inland.
MUGGING RISK : MEDIUM
About 40% of the robberies that happened in 2020 were in public places, so that's medium risk. This is, again, one of the highest crime percentages for highway robberies I've seen in the dozens of Connecticut cities I've researched. The criminals here are arrogant and ruthless, so don't try to fight for your purse or wallet. Your only goal should be to save your life.
TERRORISM RISK : MEDIUM
Waterbury might look, in parts, like a bomb went off, but there's a low terrorist risk here. However, because of the entire northeastern corridor being so populated and with Waterbury being just 90 minutes from Boston and New York City, it's overall a medium risk.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
My goodness, there are a lot of scams here, even local scams that went nationwide, but there aren't any being reported against tourists. There's a low risk, but I wouldn't put it past someone to come up with a new scam in this troubled town.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Women should proceed with caution, especially if they are alone. The sexual assault average is the same as the national average and higher than the Connecticut average. Don't walk around this city at night, even if you are in a group.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The water quality report shows the city meets or exceeds all requirements, so this is really one of the only low-risk areas I can give. There have been complaints of brown water here, and the city says that's usually after the hydrants get flushed and kick up debris in the pipes. If you happen to have brown water coming out of the tap, let it run for a few minutes so it can clear up.
Safest Places to Visit in Waterbury
The Brass Mill Center is a great place for shopaholics and foodies.
There are many of the top brands of clothing and accessories among the 122 stores.
This is an “inside mall”, so you can visit in any type of weather.
There’s also a movie theater here.
The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception is so beautiful just in the pictures, I can’t even imagine how astounding it is in person.
There’s a daily mass at 12:10 pm. To get a glimpse, you can watch the daily live stream.
The Mattatuck Museum holds art from various centuries and has been open since 1877.
With more than half a dozen exhibitions to enjoy, and new ones arriving every season, this is a great look at several different varieties of art.
To go back in time, check out The Glebe House Museum and Gertrude Jekyll Garden.
The home still stands after being built back in 1740.
The gardens are literally a dream come true.
Gertrude designed a lavish garden in the 1920s when the house became a museum, but that plan was abandoned (and nobody is sure why).
When the plans were discovered in the 1970s, the exquisite garden Gertrude wanted finally came to bloom.
Then there’s Holy Land USA, which straddles places to visit and places to avoid.
Let me explain that one. Holy Land USA was a biblical theme park complete with the Garden of Eden and a Lion’s Den where Daniel was saved by angels, according to the bible.
You can still walk around the remains of the park during the day.
It’s a bit creepy, but those who are ghostly curious might want to explore.
Places to Avoid in Waterbury
Avoid Holy Land USA at night.
Not only are night visits banned, but it’s also downright dangerous.
The park is in its current state because of the ruthless vandalism of park artifacts over the years.
It closed in 1984 and then the owner died.
A group of nuns tried to keep the park clean, but like a lot of other places in Waterbury, it fell into disarray.
To emphasize the cruelty of criminals in this area (and feed into urban legends of ghosts in Holy Land USA), a young woman was sexually assaulted and murdered in the shadow of a giant cross.
Her body was left there until police found it.
I would never force my religion on anyone, but it kinda creeps me out to even see the pictures of these beautiful biblical re-creations turned into food for vandalists and sites of violent crimes.
Visit at your own risk during the day.
The crime maps show that the safest places in town are on the outskirts.
If you took a horseshoe and placed it at the southernmost city limits, that horseshoe is “the safest zone.”
The hard part about Waterbury is that you can just get in the crosshair of a gang war.
One shooting happened in a Wendy’s restaurant parking lot.
You should avoid being out in Waterbury, especially near the central part of the city, after dark.
Don’t drive around to look at “classic historic homes”, because you won’t find many of them here.
You’ll risk being disappointed and in a dangerous part of town.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Waterbury
- There’s a big drug problem in Connecticut as part of the nationwide opioid crisis. Even the first video on the Waterbury Police Department’s website is the chief talking about the dangers of drug use. 157 people died in the county where Waterbury is located in 2020. The desire for drugs can fuel crime. It’s important that you never take a pill from someone who isn’t a licensed pharmacist, even if it looks like a “real” pill. Fake prescription pills are the leading cause of opioid overdoses right now.
- Waterbury police post monthly reports of crime in the area under a section called “Crime Stat Reports.” Please review this before your visit to see what crimes are trending.
- Sign up for emergency alerts through CT Alerts. This gives you weather information, road closures, civil emergencies, and criminals on the run updates.
- There are 11 parking garages and lots around downtown Waterbury and you pay via a kiosk. The rate is $2 an hour, on average. When parking, stay in your car with the doors locked until you are ready to get out. Make sure all the windows are rolled up and all valuables are out of the car. Try to park within sight of a surveillance camera if you can.
- Waterbury is part of an FBI Task Force to reduce gang activity. If you see anything that you suspect is gang-related, call the police immediately. There are several gangs in Waterbury and they defend their “territory.” Generally, gang members aren’t looking for innocent victims, but being at the wrong place at the wrong time can spell disaster. Avoid any group of people you suspect are gang members.
- Don’t assume that just because someone is young, they can’t be a criminal. There is one Connecticut teenager who isn’t even 18 yet but has been arrested 40 times. The laws of the state tie the hands of law enforcement to hold juveniles accountable. It might be unthinkable for a 12-year-old to assault someone where you’re from, but that’s more common than anyone would like in poorer communities like Waterbury.
- There are only four hotels in Waterbury, and two of them are downtown. You’d be safer staying at the two hotels along I-84 (aka Yankee Expressway) than the two downtown.
- Waterbury is a jam-packed city of people. There are more than 3800 people per square mile. Despite the crime rates, people move here for the low cost of living in an otherwise unaffordable state. Even just 15 minutes away in Southington, the average home price is more than double, as is the average paycheck. There’s just a lot of traffic and a feeling of “get out of my personal space” in Waterbury as it grows bigger than it can handle.
- The city has 21% of people in poverty and nearly a 7% unemployment rate. That means you’re going to run into panhandlers asking for money. Do not donate money to them. Keep walking and avoid an area that looks like a homeless encampment at all costs.
- You might be wondering if you can bring a gun to protect yourself when you visit. You can, but there is a lot of paperwork to go through at the state and local levels. Your gun permit from back home isn’t going to hold up in Connecticut.
So... How Safe Is Waterbury Really?
I’m genuinely sad writing this article because the city holds so much potential that it just can’t live up to right now.
That falls in line with a 2013 study that called Waterbury one of the “Saddest Cities in America.”
What was once a booming brass manufacturing city has fallen apart at just about every seam.
Regardless of what people think about city leadership, they are trying to clean it up.
They are fighting for stronger crime laws, especially when it comes to juveniles.
That brings me to the crime statistic that will always be one of the most shocking I’ve heard.
During a recent news conference about juvenile crime spikes statewide, here’s what the mayor of Waterbury had to say:
“In Waterbury, there are probably 20 offenders, most under the age of 18, who are responsible for at least 80 percent of the crime in the city of Waterbury,” said Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary.
Connecticut laws don’t allow juveniles to be held for more than six hours.
The laws for making a juvenile crime an adult crime are very limiting.
So, juveniles commit crimes, get away with them, are released to their parents, and then become more brazen in their next crime.
This is the biggest problem happening in Waterbury right now.
Those juveniles join gangs or enter the drug trade because it’s a poor town with not enough jobs or activities to keep juveniles occupied.
Here are some more crime facts for you in Waterbury:
- 98 of the 400 violent crimes were against strangers.
- 55 highway robberies happened in 2020.
- 56 of the violent crimes had suspects between 10 and 19 years old.
- 74 of the victims were between 10 and 19 years old.
There’s a sense that people in Waterbury have just given up and let the criminals win.
That’s not true as Waterbury has a lot of good people trying to clean it up, from derelict houses to juvenile killers to improving the job market, but for now, the city is just not a great place to visit.
How Does Waterbury Compare?
|La Paz (Bolivia)||52|
|Sao Paulo (Brazil)||45|
|Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)||43|
- Visas - Your Visa gets checked at customs at the airport. After that, you can go between cities and states without additional processing.
- Currency - You'll use the U.S. Dollar here for all purchases. Please don't bring cash into Waterbury and don't flash it around if you do have it. The average theft loss was $50 per pickpocket or purse snatching. Even a small amount of cash can feed an addict their drugs for the day.
- Weather - Winters are brutal here, so if you are from a warm climate, be prepared. You'll need snow gear, layers of warm winter clothing, and snow boots. The warmer months are beautiful with shorts and t-shirts being perfect for the day, but you'll need a hoodie or jacket at night when temperatures can get cooler. Definitely have a reliable weather app so you can check the forecast before you go. Just because it's April, for example, doesn't mean there isn't a spring snowstorm happening in Waterbury.
- Airports - The New Haven airport is the closest with a 45 minute drive time. If you want to fly out of the New York area airports, plan for 2 hours' drive time and then an hour or two to get to your preferred airport.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance is a great idea for a visit to Waterbury so no weather or technical issue can slow you down. Make sure your insurance covers a snowstorm or blizzard.
Waterbury Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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