Just after Katrina, many businesses in the French Quarter without adequate doors and locks got looted. Many of these businesses were small shops that having lost their uninsured inventory had to close for good. Meanwhile, on the street, the worse threats by back alley thugs were washed away according to locals living there. What remains are young pot smoking panhandlers, mostly restricted to the Marigny district, but these jobless wanderers aren't generally dangerous unless overly drunk. It's a good idea to wear casual clothes and avoid wearing jewelry in this part of town at least at night. Otherwise the French Quarter, Garden District, and Aububon Park districts appear to be quite safe anytime of the day or night. The only other danger would be the piles of garbage and uneven pavement of the French Quarter; however, the decadent nature of the French Quarter is one reason this is the Big Easy. UPDATE: In the past year since our visit, New Orleans has undergone a disturbing increase in violent crime, but most of this appears to be in the neighborhoods, not the touristed French Quarter. Murders of long standing residents by drive-by assailants is particularly disturbing and resulted in an large multi-racial parade of protest by residents demanding gangsters to reign themselves in as well as better police protection. This sort of crime problem and method of protest is a historic feature of New Orleans politics.
Beware walking around by yourself at night. Most crimes occur very late at night or in the wee hours of the morning. Be aware of the areas not to go into unless you are with a crowd. If driving, park your car in a well lit area.
That "RV park" mentioned in a previous comment section is a few blocks from the Iberville Housing Project, and Armstrong Park. This is the area where a local TV station, located near there, tries to warn tourists. (The station employees will stop their cars and tell tourists to turn back.) This is near the area where the thugs were "hunting" tourists in St. Louis Cemetary No. 1. This is the same area where a TV personality/reporter made the mistake of walking and he was "stalked" and almost robbed and shot. I love the apologists who demean those with legit. safety concerns. Their favorite lines are: "I walked around that area at 2am and nothing happened." or "Every city is problematic." or even better "The crime problem in N.O. is not that bad." Let me assure you as a local, it is that bad. The conventional wisdom of night being more dangerous than day no longer applies. Anything can happen, at any time, to anyone. Thugs just shot up a school bus in broad daylight, and had a shoot out in traffic on Carrollton Ave. (12 noon). If you don't use your common sense, and pay attention to what is going on in this town, then you may unfortunately suffer the consequences.
New Orleans has a very high level of crime. It is safe to walk around the French Quarter daytime and nightime, as well as in other touristy areas of the city such as the Garden District during the day. However, don't walk at night outside the French Quarter.
The people that write these tips for safety are paranoid or must be little old ladies that never venture out at night!. We stayed at the RV park just 2 blocks out of the French Quarter and had no problems with safety. Last night we were in Bourbon Street and the place was packed with everyone having a good time (Saturday night). I reckon the biggest danger (if anything) would be getting bashed by one of the young drunken rednecks as they encourage people to get drunk by selling ultra cheap drinks. Police are everywhere so that is not a problem. We had to walk 2-3 blocks form Bourbon Street to our RV park up some streets in the French quarter which were off the main drag, we didnt see any potential muggers loitering around in these back streets. No one hassled us for money either. Dont deter from visiting New Orleans, it is nowhere as bad as what all these people say, we almost took a detour to avoid New Orleans after reading all of this paranoia, I am so glad we didnt, it is a fantastic place to visit and has real atmosphere. We visited Memphis before going to New Orleans, Beale Street has nothing on Bourbon Street, in fact if Elvis didnt live in Memphis it wouldnt be worth going to.
New Orleans is a very dangerous city and one's safety shouldn't be taken lightly. Insofar as the French Quarter is concerned, during the day it's pretty safe to wander anywhere you like. If something starts looking shady or you don't see the droves of people anymore, turn back. At night, it is particularly dangerous. Don't wander off of Bourbon Street. You'll notice, anyway, the lack of lights once you get to a certain point. There have been muggings, murders, everything around here, so be careful. Also, theft... watch out for your wallet or purse.
One thing you may want to watch out for is attempting to get to Jackson Square at night. You have to go through a few dark corners. This also applies if you want to get to Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop. (A popular bar and the beginning of many ghost/vampire tours.)
Everyone knows that NO can be a rough place. Use your common sense, stick to well-lighted, well-populated areas. At night I recommend taking taxis, there are a lot of small dark alleys between the bright streets.
During my first trip, the French Quarter experienced a black out on one nite--we were told to go back to our hotels and everything shut down. It was a little freaky, and apparently that is when the 'bad element' comes out. I perfer to say...'THE FREAKS COME OUT AT NITE...THE FREAKS COME OUT AT NITE...' (for those familiar with the song)
You'll hear it alot - don't wander around the French Quarter after dark alone, and try not to wander too far past Bourbon street as it gets rather seedy. Other than that, New Orleans is just like any other city - some places are perfectly safe, some arent'. Just use your head!
Mardi Gras isn't the safest place either. Try to stay on the main strips where there is a lot of people. There seems to be some shady characters waiting for the drunks right off the main strip. Also, there is a predominantly gay section of the party, so if that's not your thing, just turn around, you've gone too far down Bourbon St.
Nawlins is safe around the very busy area, Bourbon street, St-James, the riverside, at descent hours.
But off hours, even just past midnight, as soon as you leave the frequented area, can be pretty risky. I am thinking of an area away from the riverside, passed Bourbon street up to the outside wall delimiting the French Quarter that is unsafe most of the day.
New Orleans has many wonderful sights, sounds and atractions. It is the most unique city in the world!! However, it can also be very dangerous!!! Do not go down dark alleys, or be out alone late at night in the French Quarter or in some other areas. If an area looks bad, then stay away from it. Use common sense, and you will be ok.
Unhappily, New Orleans is not the safest of cities after dark. Be careful. Although I wouldn't say it's as dangerous as Rio or Lagos, I'd still caution against wearing too much jewellery, fancy watches, or cutting-edge clothes that scream, 'I have money!!' I'd definitely stay away from sleazy bars. And if you're white-skinned, all-black bars are definitely dangerous. I say this because its a fact, and one that must be accepted. Don't think that just because you have some exotic-sounding accent that that will protect you. Far from it. There have been many instances of foreign tourists' having been mugged -- or worse -- in 'The Big Easy'.
Be careful at night.....Bourbon Street is tons of fun but scary at night so never walk alone. If you are not staying in the French Quarter you have to walk down dark streets to get to the public parking and there are always interesting people lurking in the alleys so watch out.