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The American Cities That Are Not as Dangerous as You Think

Some of these cities get a bad rep, but several studies and travel experts actually say they're safer than you think if you know where to go and what to avoid.

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Safer: New York City

With the bright lights, famous landmarks, and myriad choices of entertainment and culinary delights, the Big Apple is a must-see for travelers. Even though crime rates have fallen dramatically since the 1990s, New York City still raises fear in those unfamiliar with the city that never sleeps. Time to change that perception: According to a recent study conducted by Stratos Jets, it’s actually safer than most think. Travel agent, Greg Antonelle agrees, saying, “I grew up 45 minutes outside of NYC. Watching the news as a kid, all I ever saw were stories about crimes, murders and drugs. However, I embraced NYC many years ago and now frequent it regularly. New York has come a long way and is a very safe city in my opinion. It offers so much to enrich the lives of its residents and visitors. I always feel safe when I visit.” Like with any big city though, practice common sense: Keep an eye on your purse or belongings when wandering through Times Square or on the subway. Learn the 18 things pickpockets don’t want you to know.

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Safer: Cleveland

While it’s true that Cleveland does have high crime rates, SmarterTravel notes that you just need to follow a few basic rules. When you’re visiting this vibrant, fun, artsy, Midwest town, avoid East Cleveland and Midtown, and if you happen to end up in these areas by accident, keep traveling until you’re in a safer area. The downtown scene is fun and safe during the day, but can be dicey at night, especially with public transportation ending at an early 7 p.m.

If you’re there for an Indians or Browns game, SmarterTravel reminds you to watch the traffic. “Drivers drive aggressively when they enter and leave the game, often not paying attention to pedestrians. Stay on sidewalks and take care as a pedestrian during game night.”

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Safer: Miami

When you take a vacay to Miami—you will probably spend so much time enjoying the ocean view and the fresh seafood that worrying about crime will be the furthest thing from your mind. While there are dangerous areas in this Florida town, travel agents say that tourists rarely experience problems. According to travel agent Lori Carper, “People only think of drugs and guns in Miami. I have gone many times, and I’ve always felt very safe. It is one of my favorite cities to explore, even at night.” Holly Ramey, a travel agent who’s also a native agrees: “I feel like Miami is very safe! I grew up down there and there’s so much that Miami offers. From the diversity, to the art scene, to the beaches. I’ve never once not felt safe.” Just keep your city smarts about you and take a little extra care at night if you’re hitting the clubs. On the other hand, here are the nicest towns in every state.

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Safer: Chicago

If you’ve tuned into the nightly news in the past year, you’ve probably heard reports about crime in Chicago. Neighborhood Scout, a real estate site, reports that Chicago is one of the most dangerous cities in the country. Even so, as long as you stay away from the crime-ridden areas like West Garfield Park, Gage Park and Riverdale, travel agents say this Northwestern town is a must-visit.

“I wouldn’t think twice about heading into the more touristy parts of the city,” says travel agent Jennifer McCormack. You just need to make sure that you know where you are. I have dozens of friends and family who work downtown and feel safe. I had no concerns flying down with my kids, staying downtown, and taking public transportation.”

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Safer: Memphis

If you’re a country-music fan or you grew up listening to Elvis on repeat, then venturing to this Tennessee town is probably on your bucket list. Even though Graceland is definitely a place you’ll want to snap a selfie to show your grandma, SmarterTravel doesn’t recommend you linger in the area after dark. They advise being mindful of your belongings and locking your car up when you visit the mansion during the day, too, just to be extra safe. Another note from Smarter Travel: “When you want to check out the attractions downtown, you’ll find that many of them are in close enough proximity to each other to make it practical to walk. However, there are cabs and trolleys that will get you safely to your destination, as well. It’s safer to use a cab or trolley at night, rather than walk too far through the downtown area, especially if you’re alone.” This is the state you’re most likely to get robbed.

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More Dangerous: Detroit

Even though the Motor City has a pretty bad rap, most people don’t realize exactly how bad it can be. Once an amazing destination for exploring the auto industry’s history, Detroit now has a murder rate that outstrips public perception of the danger, according to Stratos Jet’s rankings. Still, you can travel there and feel safe by sticking to the downtown area, which SmarterTravel says is a tourist-friendly zone. Generally speaking, the community called Greektown is a good spot to book your hotel room while still giving you access to the nearby neighborhoods, like Ford Field or Comerica Park, where the local pro football (Lions) and baseball (Tigers) teams play. “Once you begin moving out of downtown, things can become a bit more dangerous,” warns Smarter Travel. “Midtown has seen somewhat of a renaissance over the years so it is becoming a vibrant community. However, as you move past Midtown, you’ll start to enter neighborhoods with more crime. There isn’t any real reason to venture into most of these areas, so stay closer to the downtown area whenever possible.”

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More Dangerous: New Orleans

The Big Easy is another town Americans perceive as safer than it actually is, according to Stratos Jet’s findings. Still, hundreds of thousands of people visit the French Quarter, Jazz Fest, and Mardi Gras each year, munching on beignets and sipping cafe au laits with nary a problem. That’s because exercising just a little care and awareness will allow you to avoid trouble in this historic city. Take advantage of the great restaurants, do walking tours of Bourbon Street and the Garden District, visit incredible museums like the Cabildo: Just don’t leave yourself vulnerable by over-indulging on the local favorite, Hurricanes. This southern town knows how to party; pace your open-container boozing and stick to the tourist attractions, you’ll be in good shape, advises Smarter Travel. Here’s what every state in America is best—and worst—at.