Most of New York is comparable to the rest of the country with respect to safety and crime. And although New York City is one of the safest large cities in the country today, don't be lulled into a false sense of security. New York City and the state's other urban areas still have significantly higher rates of crime than suburban and rural areas. Tourists can be relatively easy targets for pickpockets and thieves, especially in New York City. Your wisest approach in the state's urban and touristy areas is to avoid venturing out alone at night, rely on cabs when getting around at night, and if you're driving, lock your car and never leave important items unattended. Keep jewelry out of sight on the street; better yet, leave valuables at home.
In the wake of the World Trade Center disaster, security has been greatly heightened in New York City and generally increased statewide. Expect thorough inspections of your apparel and personal belongings in airports, sports stadiums, museums, and government buildings.
In New York City, ignore panhandlers, people who offer to hail you a cab, and limousine and gypsy-cab drivers who (illegally) offer you a ride. Men should carry their wallets in their front pants pocket. When in bars or restaurants, never hang your purse or bag on the back of a chair or put it underneath the table. Avoid deserted blocks in unfamiliar neighborhoods. A brisk, purposeful pace helps deter trouble wherever you go.
New York City's subway system runs around the clock and is generally well trafficked until midnight (even later on Friday and Saturday nights); overall it is very safe. If you do take the subway at night, ride in the center car (avoid empty cars), with the conductor, and wait on the center of the platform or right in front of the station agent. Watch out for suspicious characters lurking around the inside or outside of stations, particularly at night. When waiting for a train, stand far away from the edge of the subway platform. If a fellow passenger makes you nervous while on the train, trust your instincts and change cars. When disembarking, stick with the crowd until you reach the street.
Travelers Aid International helps crime victims and stranded travelers and works closely with the police. Its office at JFK airport is staffed weekdays 10–6 and weekends 11–7.
Someone who appears to have had an accident at the exit door of a bus may flee with your wallet or purse if you attempt to give aid. The individual who approaches you with a complicated story probably hopes to get something from you. Beware of people jostling you in crowds, or someone tapping your shoulder from behind. Never play or place a bet on a sidewalk card game, shell game, or other guessing game—they're all rigged to get your cash, and they're illegal.