Whether you’re visiting, relocating, or moving to Newfoundland for the first time, you may be wondering about the safest and most dangerous areas in St. John’s.
While St. John’s does have both nice respectable neighborhoods and harder areas with more of a reputation, there’s not really a “Harlem” of the city. Look at the most dangerous areas in large cities like Toronto or New York and St. John’s becomes a walk in the park.
There’s very little random crime. Thefts of belongings from vehicles is much more common than random attacks on individuals. Sure, there are some neighborhoods you may feel a little uneasy walking through alone at night, but the relatively low amount of crime that happens in the city is evenly distributed for the most part.
Even Kenmount Terrace, one of the current bustling areas for people and families of all ages, was subject to bullets being sprayed around back in 2013, and Southlands had an incident involving a gun recently, though it’s not certain if the man was from that area. This was a rare occurrence, but worth noting. Even the best of neighborhoods can have problems when recidivists move in.
Crime in Newfoundland is about average with the rest of Canada. Most people who have lived in larger cities will tell you that they’ve never felt in danger or threatened in any area of St. John’s.
These areas of St. John’s such as the East, West, and North end include neighborhoods like Cowan Heights, Kenmount Terrace, and Southlands. They are pretty much the safest areas that St. John’s has to offer. This includes outlying towns like Torbay, much of Mount Pearl, Portugal Cove, Conception Bay South, etc.
They could be subject to home and vehicle break-ins like anywhere, but are much less likely to have axe-wielding murderers or drunks roaming the streets.
Depending on the area, some may be more up-and-coming, for retirees, or a popular area for young families at the present moment.
Each of these broad areas (East, West, North) in St. John’s will have some lower-income housing mixed in, but for the most part are made up of respectable neighborhoods with typical urban sprawl. It never hurts to have a security camera or two set up since they’re so cheap these days, though.
Downtown St. John’s
As with most cities, downtown is a hub of activity. People from all walks of life live, work, and visit here. With everything closer together, there’s a lot more foot traffic. Because of the crowds and nightlife, you’re more likely to encounter a drunk moron or a beggar here than in a suburb. Beggars are generally not harmful and can be ignored or politely told “no” if you don’t wish to give them anything.
With the increased amount of foot-traffic and alcohol, it would seem plausible that random acts of vandalism such as smashing car windows would be higher. As well, if you want to find a drunken street brawl, look no further than George Street. It’s no surprise that downtown would be considered one of the more dangerous areas of St. John’s.
The Downtown St. John’s area includes more than just the nightlife, restaurants and shopping. There are many neighborhoods, mainly consisting of row houses. Downtown is becoming increasingly gentrified at present, and you’ll find beautiful new or renovated homes interspersed with more run-down, dumpy places on nearly every street.
There are more eccentrics wandering around here, especially with the amount of lower-income housing still around. As well, more modern homes can be more of a target for break-ins. You could have a crazy neighbour or they might be best kind.
If you’re enjoying the nightlife, while random acts of violence aren’t too common, it still pays to use common sense. Stay alert and stay safe. Take your smarts with you and don’t walk around alone late at night or take shortcuts through dark alleys. Don’t talk to strangers and always be aware of your surroundings.
It’s worth mentioning Shea Heights in this section due to its proximity to Downtown. We’re not really sure where else it fits. Shea Heights is more like a suburb, though, but did have a bad reputation once upon a time. These days, that seems mostly unfounded.
Central St. John’s
Encompassing a diverse range of neighborhoods, central St. John’s begins just outside of downtown. It too features some row housing. It spans to Memorial University which is a generally safe, student-heavy area. Central also contains some notable hard spots such as Buckmaster’s Circle (aka “The Circle”) and Rabbittown. Even the Circle, which is arguably the most illustrious of them all, isn’t looking too bad these days.
As we alluded to earlier, we’ll take the worst of St. John’s over the worst of bigger cities any day. Although Central St. John’s encompasses most of the areas that are considered the worst the city has to offer, even these don’t usually present any sort of immediate danger. Yes, skeets and sketchbags do have to live somewhere, probably more so in low-income areas, but most of them won’t hurt you.
Government Housing Areas
By virtue, government housing, also known as simply “housing” around these parts, are lower income areas. These can often be identified by seeing a lot of the same type of structures next to each other, usually connected or with multiple units inside. Some have been recently renovated while others appear quite run down and unkempt.
This is not to suggest that these places are dangerous. Rather, it’s more comical to consider that these could potentially be the dangerous areas of St. John’s, when most locals would have no problem walking through them even late at night.
One cannot deny the danger typically associated with lower-income areas, particularly in large cities. It’s no secret that police are called to some of these areas on a more frequent basis. In St. John’s, some are simply friendly and low-income, while others are a little more sketchy and low-income. There are lots of good, hardworking people who live in these areas as well.
Areas with “Court” In the Name
We’re not sure of the history, but it appears that civic addresses with “Court” in the name are not the greatest parts of town either. Examples are Stabb Court, Eagle Court, and Cowperthwaite Court. They usually contain the type of high-density multi-unit housing pictured below.
To sum it up: there’s definitely a scale of safe and least safe or dangerous areas of St. John’s. Fortunately, nothing is too serious. Most locals would tell you they’re not overly afraid of any part of the city.
If you’re visiting, be smart, just as you would in any unfamiliar place.
If you’re moving here or relocating within the province, looking at the area’s amenities and demographics is probably the most useful.