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Although it's true that the USA does have a higher crime rate than many other developed countries, its reputation for violence is often exaggerated by the local media that tends towards sensationalism.
As a whole, the country is a safe expat destination; those relocating to the USA will just need to be wary of inner-city neighbourhoods or slums as these are where most criminal activity takes place.
Crime in the USA
Loose gun laws, a glaring disparity between the wealthy and the poor, and growing prison populations are all contributing factors to the high crime rate, but these parts to a whole still in no way mirror the gun-wielding Wild West antics found on American television and cinema.
Violent crime is more of a concern in city centres than in suburban and rural communities. However, poorer neighbourhoods where crime is more common are avoidable, and downtown areas and business districts are generally safe. Expats in the USA should become familiar with ‘good’ and ‘bad’ sections of cities before they rent or buy property.
Some cities have much higher crime rates than others, but expats in the USA can expect a strong police presence everywhere. Basic safety precautions which would be practised elsewhere in the world should be upheld, such as locking car doors and avoiding walking alone or taking public transport at night.
Except for very wealthy and gated residential neighbourhoods, employing private security companies is rare and residents can expect quick and quality responses by police or even a local neighbourhood watch programme.
Terrorism in the USA
The threat of terrorism in the USA has increased over the last years, aggravated by the conflict in the Middle East. Perhaps the most famous incidence of terrorism in recent history is the 2001 attacks known as 9/11. Four commercial passenger planes were hijacked and flown into landmark buildings such as the Twin Towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Virginia. Both of the Twin Towers, each 110 storeys high, collapsed within two hours of being hit. Casualties number just under 3,000.
Since the attacks, airline security measures have been tightened in order to prevent similar incidents. The attacks of 9/11 are often a sensitive subject for Americans – one that is generally best avoided by expats.
Since 2001, there have been a few isolated incidents of terrorism. Some of these incidents are random but others have targeted certain groups of people. However, these attacks are not a common occurrence. Should expats encounter any such incident, they are advised to contact their embassy.
►See Culture Shock in the USA for tips on understanding the American way of life
Are you an expat living in The USA?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to The USA. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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