Discover How Safe Is Toronto, the Bad Areas, and the Safest Neighborhoods
When you think of Canada, cold weather, friendly people, maple syrup, and poutine typically come to mind, and being concerned about safety is not something you typically think of. Currently, Canada is the 12th safest country in the world according to the 2022 Global Peace Index, but this can obviously vary from city to city.
Toronto is the most populous city in the country, coming up on almost 3 million residents. The unique and modern city is right on the beautiful Lake Ontario, and the 1,815-foot-tall CN Tower gives it one of the most recognizable skylines in the world.
The city offers many amazing things to do, such as exploring the old St. Lawrence Market for special goods, a tour of the 1911 gothic-style Casa Loma, checking out one of the many museums, the impressive Toronto Zoo, walking up all 147 floors of the CN Tower, or taking a stroll around the romantic and historic distillery district.
With so many neighbourhoods and districts, it can be confusing to know where to stay or live. We’re going to go in-depth now in the post and help you find the answer: is Toronto safe?
Toronto Crime Rates
According to the ‘Crime Severity Index‘, Toronto is very low, not even making the top 100 on the list of the cities with the most severe crime. However, most of these cities with high crime rates are quite small and could be considered large towns in some cases.
When it comes to large cities such as Edmonton, Montreal, and Vancouver, Toronto still fared much better in comparison. In the 2019 Safe Cities Index, Toronto came in 6th place out of 60, coming just behind Sydney and Amsterdam and just before Washington, DC.
Back in 2017, Toronto was ranked the safest city in North America, having a relatively low crime rate compared to other cities. Regarding the crime index, Toronto ranks closer to other cities in North America such as Halifax, Austin, Edmonton, Boston, and Denver.
When it comes to the homicide rate, which is homicides per 100,000 people, Toronto only ranks 18th on the list with 1.81 homicides per 100,000 people in Canada. This is much safer when compared to American cities such as Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, which have around 20 homicides per 100,000 residents.
It should be noted that almost all of the violent crime in Toronto is gang-related, so don’t let any of these figures or statistics deter you from visiting this unique and interesting city.
Bad Areas in Toronto
Just like in every large metropolitan city in the world, there are always some bad apple neighbourhoods you should look out for, especially after dark, and Toronto is no exception. Certain areas should be avoided or exercise a degree of caution if you happen to visit one of these neighbourhoods. The following are some places to avoid in Toronto:
Ranked number 1 in overall violent crime in Toronto, this place should just be avoided altogether. It’s just south of Dundas Street, around Parliament and Jarvis Street. The whole area around Dundas Street downtown can seem quite sketchy and dangerous at times, especially at night.
One of the most notorious areas for its high crime rate for many years has been mainly a poor neighbourhood where people will go to extremes to try to make ends meet. There is a lot of vandalism, property crimes, petty crimes, and robberies in this area.
Jane & Finch
Perhaps the most notorious area of Toronto, known for its high crime rate and overall depressing atmosphere. While it’s safe during the day, certain areas of Jane and Finch should be avoided at night. If you’re wandering around aimlessly, then you might run into trouble, but if you’re using common sense while traveling, you should be fine.
Located in the west of the city, usually referred to as Old Toronto, this area has quite a high crime rate, especially the region bordered by College, Brock, and Lansdowne, and also the railway tracks, which include Lansdowne, Dufferin, and Dundas Street.
Corridor of Bay Street
Also known as Bay Cloverhill, this area is one of the many downtown sections stretching along Bay Street. You’ll notice a lot of high rises in this area, as well as lots of fancy, upscale restaurants and shops. With a very high rate of burglaries targeting the rich, you will most likely be fine here if you’re just a tourist minding your own business.
Other areas that should be avoided in Toronto are Queens Street, Dundas Street, the Bloor Neighbourhood, Kipling & Albion, Jane & Finch, and St. James Town.
The Safest Areas in Toronto
While there are a few bad areas in Toronto to avoid, the safest neighbourhoods in Toronto far outnumber the unsafe ones.
Because Toronto is such a big city, you’ll rely on public transportation or bicycle rentals to get around, as it’s not much of a walking city (for most part of it). Students (and Toronto has many of them, since Canada is one of the favorites among the best places for education abroad and also for studies in the medical area) often prefer to live closer to their universities.
Kingsway South (The Kingsway)
Having the lowest assault rate in Toronto, Kingsway South is also very low in total crime rate, at only 500 per 100,000. The area has beautiful century-old architecture and beautiful parks along the Humber River. People usually just refer to it as the Kingsway so as to not confuse it with South Kingsway Street, which is further east. Heads up, it’s quite an expensive area to stay in.
Located in midtown Toronto, Yonge-St.Clair is an area diverse in culture and also in business and commerce as it’s so close to the center of the city. It’s a great mix of suburban and big city life, with excellent nightlife and amazing restaurants to try. The crime rate here is only 469 per 100,000 people, which is quite less than half of the total crime rate in Toronto.
Queen West West
West Queen West is one of the hippest neighbourhoods in Toronto, with tons of unique architecture and friendly people. It’s a popular spot for foodies, hipsters, and graffiti artists. It’s not just one of the coolest neighbourhoods; violent and petty crime are almost non-existent here, making it one of the safest areas in Toronto.
Considered the largest Chinatown in North America, this particular one in downtown Toronto is also within the greater Kensington Market area. This neighborhood is generally considered a very safe area and is full of all kinds of wondrous sights and smells to ignite your senses.
It’s also a hot spot for foodies and backpackers, with many options for budget accommodation if you’re looking to stay somewhere a little cheaper in Toronto.
Forest Hill South,
Forest Hill South is a rich, affluent neighbourhood that is also well known for being very safe and family-friendly. With an average rate of assault of only 17.4 per 10,000 people, it’s the lowest rate in Toronto. It’s a great place to take a bike ride through the impressive mansions and tree-filled neighborhood, as well as the nearby Cedarvale Park.
There are some excellent and (surprisingly!) inexpensive hotels in the best areas of Toronto. You can find them below.
Is Toronto a Good Place to Live?
Toronto is a good city to live in, not just because of how safe it is, but also because there’s just so much to do here, you’ll never get bored. Want to cool off? Visit one of the local beaches in the city that dot the shore of Lake Ontario, such as Sunnyside Beach or Woodbine Beach to the east.
The city also has a very large expatriate community, what helps to make the immigrant adaptation process much easier.
You can take a day trip to Toronto Island Park and take in the fantastic view of the Toronto skyline at dusk. The city even has the Toronto Bike Share app, with stations found in every neighbourhood, making travel within the city a breeze. Pricing starts as low as $7 per day. Toronto has an abundance of bike paths, so biking safety is not an issue here.
Toronto is also a great city to travel alone as you don’t need to worry about safety and can safely stroll around at night checking out different sites. You may even make friends with locals. After all, Canadians are very friendly. We recommend strolling around the Harbourfront, which is right on Lake Ontario, or going out drinking in “The Junction,” the hippest nightlife area in Toronto.
Overall, Toronto is a very safe city, even when compared to some of the safest cities in North America.
Toronto is also actually rated quite low when it comes to the Crime Severity Index, which may come as a surprise. It’s also one of the most cosmopolitan and diverse cities in the world. At night, you’ll see people walking around alone without cause for concern, but remember, this is Canada!
That being said, Toronto isn’t without its problems (just like Montreal, which we covered in this article, or Vancouver, which is covered here).
Unfortunately, there are a lot of poorer neighbourhoods in Toronto, such as Jane & Finch and Regent Park, which do tend to be less safe. The safest areas are the wealthy suburbs, but most people don’t have the luxury of being able to afford to live or travel there. Use common sense, stick to the safe areas we mentioned, and you’re sure to have a great time in Toronto!
Ps: If you are still in doubt about a move to Toronto or any other city, check out our Expat Living City Guides, with information about multiple cities all over the world!
Other Tips for Visiting Toronto
1st — If you are visiting the city, there are plenty of options in terms of luggage storage, so you don’t need to walk around with your carry-on bags. Reliable, convenient, and inexpensive luggage storage services you can find at Radical Storage.
2nd — Areas surrounding airports and train stations can be dangerous. Book a transfer in advance from the Toronto International Airport (or from any station) to your destination and vice versa, so you can avoid scammers and criminals. I often used Get Transfer for that and it always worked fine.
By the way, Toronto has a very large airport called Pearson, which is one of the best and cheapest departing points to fly to Europe from North America.
3rd — If you want to walk around and see some historical spots without the risk of getting lost or wasting your time, hire a guide. You can find some amazing and reliable guides and tours at Viator. They will give you insider information about historical facts and curiosities, and also warn you of risky areas and keep you safe.
4th—Stay in a good hostel. Hostels are usually in the safest parts of cities, unlike hotels. Most hostels have private rooms that are as comfortable as a hotel, plus a friendly staff to give information. When looking for hostels, I visit Hostelworld and filter for those above grade 7.
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Levi Borba is the founder of the Expatriate Consultancy, creator of the channel The Expat, and best-selling author. Some of the links of this article may be affiliate links, meaning that the author will have a commission for any transaction.