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Is London Safe?

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Primrose Hill is a popular place for Londoners and tourists to go view the New Year's Eve fireworks without needing a ticket. It's an upscale part of London that is home to a lot of famous people and has quite expensive addresses. The view from the hill over London is nice - I've been there a few times.

a photo of London from Primrose Hill
The view from Primrose Hill

On December 31, 2023, there were thousands of people crowded on the hill to watch the fireworks. Just before midnight, a 16-year-old boy suddenly dropped to the ground and died despite the mass of families and individuals around him. He was stabbed after an apparent altercation and became the last victim of London's 2023 knife crime problem. At this point, there are no suspects and no motive.

3645 miles away, New York City was having its own New Year's Eve celebration. I do not see any reports of a murder happening at a public NYE's venue that night. But, the difference doesn't prove or disprove that one city is safer than the other. It's just a really sad anecdote about the safety of these two major world cities. So, is London safe? Let's break it down.

I constantly see tourists ask on public forums if London is safe and the responses usually go like this:

"Everywhere in London is safe!"
"London is very safe! Why do people keep asking this?"
"London is safer than any American city because we don't have guns!"

But are these true statements? I'm going to unpack some statistics and let you decide for yourself. FIRST, I don't intend for this to scare you away from London. I have been so many times and not once been a victim of a crime. I HAVE been to areas of London that I didn't stay very long in. It just FELT unsafe to me in that moment. But they weren't areas tourists would normally go to. I was there because I was chasing the footsteps of my Great-Great-Great Grandparents who were Londoners.

Let's get into the basics first. London has population of 9,648,000 and we are going to compare it to New York City since that is the city most people mention London is safer than. NYC has a population of 7,888,121 so it is SLIGHTLY smaller. We're going to break down the crime stats based on 1000 or 100,000 people so the population numbers won't really matter as much.

Let's start with the big one - the homicide rate. Although, the chances of you actually getting murdered as a tourist are pretty low in either city. But, in 2023, NYC had 373 homicides and London had 113 (was 112 but I added the poor young man mentioned above).

a graphic of a scale
NYC has a higher homicide rate than London

Okay, it's a big difference which usually causes people to just say, "SEE! NYC IS MORE DANGEROUS THAN LONDON!"

As I said, your chances of getting murdered as a tourist are pretty low. But, your chances of having other crimes committed against you are not.

Let's move on to stabbings. London has a fast-growing knife crime problem and this next statistic kind of shocked me because I'm sometimes guilty of thinking London is safer than NYC. I didn't think there would be this big of a difference.

NYC Stabbings: 4,553 1 Stabbing per 1,732 residents London Stabbings: 12,786 1 Stabbing per 755 residents

A graphic of a scale
London has 3X more stabbings than NYC

Yes, America has guns, but London has knives. I believe that if stabbing someone was as lethal as shooting someone, that the homicide rate in London would be more on par with NYC. It's just harder to kill someone with a knife from what I know.

Now let's move on to crimes that tourists might be more likely to become victims of:

London had a higher sexual assault rate (13.9 per 100,000 population) than New York City (10.6 per 100,000 population) in 2022/23. This means that tourists are more likely to be sexually assaulted in London than in New York City according to these statistics.

A graphic of a scale
London has a higher sexual assualt rate than NYC

New York City had a lower robbery rate (18.6 per 100,000 population) than London (19.9 per 100,000 population) in 2022/23. This means that tourists are less likely to be mugged or robbed in New York City than in London.

a graphic of a scale
London has more muggings or robberies than NYC

However, New York City had a higher burglary rate (181.1 per 100,000 population) than London (151.5 per 100,000 population) in 2022/23. This means that tourists are more likely to have their hotel rooms or apartments broken into in New York City than in London.

a graphic of a scale
NYC has a higher burglary rate than London

For those of you now screaming, "NO WAY!" at me, I'm just quoting statistics and they are more accurate than your perception. Now, this is really going to blow your mind. Here is a list of the most crime-ridden boroughs (or areas) of London:

  • City of London: 895 crimes per 1,000 people

  • Westminster: 298 crimes per 1,000 people

  • Kensington and Chelsea: 243 crimes per 1,000 people

  • Camden: 218 crimes per 1,000 people

  • Hammersmith and Fulham: 129.4 crimes per 1,000 people

WAIT! WHAT?????!!!!!!! Guess where the tourists are? Guess where the people walking around with money and nice things on them are? They are in these boroughs. There are dodgy areas of London I wouldn't stay in because I wouldn't walk around at night there, but your most crime ridden areas are where all the tourists are presenting the opportunities.

The boroughs with the highest number of stabbings in 2023 were Croydon, Lambeth and Newham. None of these boroughs rates high for tourism except that hotels might be cheaper so tourists might be tempted to stay. Lewisham, Croydon and Southwark had the most sexual assaults in 2023. These are areas I avoid for clients (Yeah, just stay out of Croydon altogether).

To simplify all of this down to the most comparable statistic, the crime rate per 1000 people in NYC is 49.9412. The crime rate per 1000 people in London is 54.3612

This means that London has a slightly higher overall crime rate than NYC, but the difference is not very large, so the conclusion is...... London is neither safer nor less safe than any other comparable city. It's just a very large city with crime and this should surprise no one. The biggest differences are just the way some crimes are committed and perhaps who they are generally committed against.

a graphic of a scale
The overall crime rate in London is higher than NYC

So, what do you do, then? Secure your belongings, don't walk around by yourself in deserted areas late at night and just be aware of your surroundings like you would do in any major city anywhere in the world. No need to cancel you trip or be afraid at every turn. Just, don't walk around with your bag unzipped, your phone loosely in your hand or down a dark alley at 2 in the morning. This is sound advice no matter where you are.

“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” - John Adams - 2nd President of the United States

Don't believe everything you read on a Facebook group because perception and reality are sometimes mutually exclusive. This is why using a knowledgeable travel agent is an advantage. I will make sure you know how to stay safe and will warn you about the scams and types of crimes that happen in London and give you tips on how to protect yourself (Pro tip: Cross body bag with zippers). I'm going to be real with you because your safety is my concern. Did I mention that you should stay out of Croydon?

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