THE TOURIST ZONE
Next to "lodging", the most frequent search term among visitors is the word "safety". The internet is full of stories about crime and danger in Puerto Rico. Much of that information is unfortunately inaccurate and speculative.
The Facts: Visual Model
Below are two crime maps. The first is produced by La Primera Hora, a Puerto Rico daily newspaper. The second is produced by the Boston Police Department. Boston is used as a comparison because it is considered to be an extremely safe tourist destination in terms of both raw statistical analysis and in public perception.
Methodology: The purple ballons in the first map and red squares in the second map identify homicides in both cities for the period of January 1, 2012 to July 1, 2012. Both maps are extended to include views of tourist zones and wealthier neighborhoods as well as contiguous distressed neighborhoods where tourists seldom venture. The time period was selected since it gives the latest data available from both cities through the launch date of La Bochinchosa. Data concerning crimes such as muggings and assaults were not available for San Juan. For this reason, reference to homicides is used as a baromoter of criminal activity for both cities.
This visual comparison between one of America's safest cities and San Juan provides an accurate and independently verifiable response to questions regarding violent crime in San Juan.
The facts don't lie: San Juan's Tourist Zone is extremely safe. The Tourist Zone has had almost no violent crime of any type for many years, despite the fact that it is an extremely dense urban area with millions of international visitors arriving each year.
Unfortunately, other small towns in Puerto Rico outside of the tourist zone do have a high rate of drug-related homicides. Most tourists never venture beyond the Tourist Zone. Nevertheless, most areas of the island are safe, particularly areas where tourists visit (such as El Yunque, Rincon, Vieques, and Culebra)
It is important to note than San Juan (outside of the Tourist Zone) can be a very dangerous place. For this reason, tourists and visitors are advised to refer to La Bochinchosa's heat map when travelling outside of the tourist areas. Speak with your hotel or guest house concierge about towns outside of San Juan if you are leaving the safety and comfort of the Tourist Zone.
The Facts: Behind The Data
Puerto Rico as a whole has a high homicide rate. However, violent crime within San Juan's Tourist Zone is extremely rare. The vast majority of Puerto Rico's violent crimes occur far outside of the Tourist Zone (and adjacent neighobring areas like Santurce). The drug trade accounts for 60-75% of Puerto Rico's homicides. Domestic violence and personal disputes account for the majority of the rest.
As with most American cities, violent crime is "clustered" in certain high-crime areas. In San Juan, the area around the Torrens Housing Project is such a cluster and accounts for a large majority of the violent crime in and around San Juan's tourist areas:
Higher Crime Areas:
Certain areas in San Juan are justifiably considered to be "high crime" areas. These areas should be avoided.
There are essentially three grades of "safety". Supremely safe areas like Old San Juan, Isla Verde, Condado and Ocean Park, areas of slightly higher criminal activity such as La Placita in Santurce, and very dangerous areas as those listed below.
In Old San Juan, avoid “La Perla”. La Perla is a slum below the castle wall facing the north. It is accessible by one road and a handful of breaks in the castle fortifications. Never enter La Perla.
Puerta de la Tierra
During the day, a good cardio excursion is run or walk between Old San Juan and along the north coast on Avenue Ponce de Leon. The area south of Ave. Fernando Juncos between Old San Juan and the Luis Munoz Rivera Park areas should be avoided at night.
Llorens Torres Project
Avoid the Llorens Torres Project, located a block south of Barbosa Park between the eastern edge of Ocean Park and Punta Las Marias.
Certain sections of Santurce are highly dangerous. Santurce is a very large portion of San Juan, so refer for specific details. Areas such as La Placita are frequented by Tourists and relatively safe (cabs are recommended at night).