Is Chicago Safe (Answered by a Chicagoan)

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Lots of travelers ask, “is Chicago safe”.

I must admit that I am conflicted with answering this question because after living here for decades, I’ve heard a lot and I’ve seen a lot. There have been times when I questioned my own safety.

If you’re traveling to Chicago for vacation or a weekend getaway, you probably won’t have much to be concerned about.

Yes, it’s safe for travelers.

Here’s why.

Why Do People Ask “Is Chicago Safe”

woman standing next to mural

First, let’s examine why people ask this question.

Chicago is a large metropolitan city with troubled areas just like New York and Los Angeles.

But there is one key differentiator.

Chicago’s reputation for violence and criminal activity has long been a source of fascination and controversy.

I remember traveling through Europe and chatting with a local guy and he asked, “Where are you from”?

“Chicago”, I replied.

His grin became so wide that I could see all of his teeth. “Ahhh, Chicago! Al Capone! Rat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat!”

OK, not the response I was expecting.

But he was right.

The city has survived gangland wars of the Prohibition era to the more recent shootings and senseless crimes. Street gangs like the Vice Lords, Black Disciples, and Latin Kings fueled an explosion of gun violence, drug trafficking, and turf wars across Chicago neighborhoods from the 1960s onwards. Two of the most historical incidents are the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929, and the Chicago Race Riots of 1919.

And this is why we’re so gangsta 😂. If you want to learn more during your visit, I recommend this Chicago sightseeing tour. It’s one of the most popular amongst visitors.

Find tickets for the Chicago Crime and Mob Tour

Chicago Crime Stastistics

It surprises me when I see other blog sites listing dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago. They say, “These are the worst neighborhoods! Don’t go there! There’s so much crime!” They probably read it from a statistics report and never set foot in said places.

What they don’t say is there is nothing in most of those neighborhoods for tourism. So, the chances of you being there are slim to none. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to be on such high alert.

If I were traveling to a city, I’d want to know if the places that I want to visit and the methods of getting there are safe. When it comes to Chicago, I can help you with that.

Now, let’s look at some real data.

Chicago is made up of 77 communities, 50 legislative districts, and about 178 neighborhoods. The neighborhoods with the highest concentration of tourism and attractions are:

  • The Loop
  • Streeterville
  • Gold Coast
  • Magnificent Mile
  • Near South Loop
  • Lincoln Park
  • Near North
  • Rivernorth

There are some outlying neighborhoods that you might visit, like Lakeview (Chicago Cubs stadium), Garfield Park (Garfield Park Conservatory), Hyde Park (Museum of Science and Industry), Fulton Market, and Chinatown.

However, we’ll focus on high traffic areas for tourist attractions.

In particular, we’ll look at District 18 which includes most of Lincoln Park, Old Town, the Gold Coast, Mag Mile, River North, River East, and Streeterville (Navy Pier). This is the dark blue area in the image below.

We’ll also look at District 1, which is most of downtown Chicago (The Loop) and the Near South Loop. This is the yellow area.

dashboard of chicago crime stastics
Chicago Crime Summary Stastics

I sampled Chicago statistics for 30 days and found a total of 100 reported crimes in both districts.

  • Robbery was the most common type of crime, 47% account for nearly half of the total crimes observed.
  • Violent crimes like aggravated battery and aggravated assault made up a significant portion, totaling 41% of the crimes.
  • Sexual assaults, while less frequent, still made up 12% of the crimes.

While these numbers sound concerning, there are actions you can take to stay safe. Exercise prudent caution, be aware of your surroundings, and avoid isolated or poorly lit areas, especially at night.

Stick to main streets and well-traveled public spaces. The Chicago police do a good job of maintaining street presence for tourism.

While no one can guarantee complete safety, if you take appropriate precautions, these districts are walkable, especially during busy daytime hours. There are many ways to get around Chicago safely.

You can also sample this data before your visit to Chicago. It is available to the public. The data is updated daily, but there is a 7-day lag before the information is published. This delay allows time for a review process to help ensure the accuracy and stability of the data. As a result, the most current crime statistics available to the public are always 7 days old.

Some gang violence persists today, though it is largely confined to specific disadvantaged areas that travelers rarely visit.

Commander Harris has been with the Chicago Police Department for 26 years. In his words, “My vision for the 1st District is to be a place where families from Chicago, the United States, and the world can come and safely enjoy our many attractions.”

US Crime Statistics

The common perception may be that the most dangerous cities in the U.S. are the largest, densely populated cities like Chicago. However, recent data suggests that’s not always the case.

Compared to other US cities, Chicago is not in the top 100 most dangerous cities. Once again, when analyzing comprehensive crime data and rankings on a per capita basis, Chicago does not fall within the worst 100 locations nationwide.

The violent crime rate for the entire U.S. is 5.6 per 1,000 people.1

According to NeighborhoodScout, the violent crime rate for Chicago is 5.38 per 1,000 people and the chances of becoming a victim of a violent crime is 1 in 186.

These statistics suggest that while Chicago faces certain safety challenges, and safety issues are widely publicized, it is not among the most dangerous metropolitan areas in the country.

My Chicago Experiences

woman standing on highway overpass

Finally, I’ll share my personal experiences.

I’ve lived and worked here for decades, and I can sum the negative incidents that happened to me on one hand. Here’s what happened and what I did in each situation.

While riding the “L” train, I’ve been verbally abused by a guy. He was at one end of the train, and I was seated in the middle section. I thought he was talking on the phone. I looked in his direction, and then I realized he was talking to himself and turned my attention elsewhere. Something in him snapped and he became agitated. For the most part, I ignored him. But I kept him in my peripheral vision because he got louder and called me names. He didn’t try to approach me. I had made up my mind to leave at the next stop and catch the next train, but he exited instead. He wasn’t right in the head.

I was in the Loop during lunch time and proceeded to walk back to the office. It was a nice sunny day, and I passed many people. I hadn’t noticed the homeless guy until he started yelling and then spat at me. I checked my clothing and saw nothing. I kept walking while he continued his rant. He was upset about something and quite vocal about it. He wasn’t right in the head.

While walking to the train after work, I was inappropriately touched by a man. I yelled at him and looked around for a police officer and didn’t see one. The guy kept walking. I didn’t want to retain him while phoning the police. It was too risky. I decided to continue my commute home. He also wasn’t right in the head.

When I parked my car on lower Wacker Dr, someone broke the rear window and stole personal property. I drove home, took photos, and phoned the police to file a report. I reported the incident to my insurance company and the window was replaced.

In my 40+ years of living here, these are my only grievances of personal offense. I could list more things I’ve seen and heard, but there was no offense to me, so I won’t give it oxygen.

I bring these things to light by saying this – 75% of my bad encounters were from people with mental issues.

One might even argue that the thief wasn’t right in the head either.

Final Thoughts on Chicago Safety

Despite the city’s troubled areas, Chicago has taken steps to enhance public safety.

Over the years, I’ve seen improvements made on college campuses, public trains, as well as increased patrolling and police presence in high traffic neighborhoods like Michigan Avenue.

Chicago is safe for travelers and residents alike, who exercise reasonable precautions.

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  1. Avery Koop, “Mapped: The Most Dangerous Cities in the U.S.”, 7/11/2023 ↩︎

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  1. Your blog is a true gem in the world of online content. I’m continually impressed by the depth of your research and the clarity of your writing. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us.

    1. Tanya (Admin) says:

      Thanks for reading!