I cannot quite recall how many times I've been asked "is Kennington safe?" or "is this area safe?" or received looks of incredulity for owning up to the fact that I choose to live in SE11, but I can safely say that if I had £1 for every time I was asked, I think I'd be able to live quite happily on the proceeds.
The problem is that I don't have a good answer to the question. I've hosted numerous international students over the years, and I have several answers to this question:
1. None of London is safe in the sense that it's a large city with dark corners containing a huge number of strangers.
2. London might be safer in certain parts than some cities because of the fact that some parts are very busy.
3. The areas that I feel safe in are actually areas that have less money. Whilst Kensington or Chelsea might "feel" safer, I'm inclined to think that the risk of being mugged is higher because one actually stands a chance of finding somebody with some money on them in those areas! However, there are also locations within certain areas that I perceive to have deep pockets of poverty, and which I would consequently feel vulnerable walking at night.
This is the advice that I give to international students for living/traveling in London:
1. If you do not know the city well (particularly if you are a woman), try to travel as much as possible with somebody else until you know the area better. If you get lost, ask an older woman for help with directions.
2. Once you know an area, walk confidently and determinedly at a steady pace to wherever you're going. Do not catch peoples' eyes or stare at people, but also do not look as though you're afraid. You have as much right to be out as anybody else to be out and about during the day or night.
3. Traveling through well-lit and well-populated areas is much safer than traveling through dark side streets. I know it may be noisier, but choose to live on a main road in a property with double glazing, rather than opting for a quiet cul-de-sac in which the lighting is poor, and where people will not pass regularly.
4. Do not carry your camera/wallet/purse on display or get them out more than necessary. Keep valuables in a bag which has a zip. My top tip is to keep your oyster card separate from your wallet so that each time you go on public transport, you don't have to get your money out!
In answer to the question, "is Kennington safe?", I can only point to the Metropolitan Crime Maps here: and ask you to start burrowing into Lambeth at ward or sub ward level. Unfortunately, the maps don't appear to have been updated since October 2008, but it does give some idea of crime in the area. Most of Kennington appears to have average levels of crime for London. If you want to be really safe, you could move to Wimbledon, Richmond or Twickenham, but you'll then live in the suburbs. I'd much rather walk home alone from Kennington tube than have to catch a late night overground train back to Twickenham.
Oh, and I don't think the shooting/knifing headlines are useful to judge how safe an area is because knife crime/gun crime does appear to be particularly targeted upon those involved in drugs/turf wars.
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