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Don't be paranoid!
If you're a tourist in Chicago, seeing all the tourist sites--Sears Tower, Navy Pier, Museum Campus, etc.--you'll be in the safest neighborhoods in the city. There are many warnings on this site about avoiding other neighborhoods like Chinatown, the whole South Side, West Side, Cabrini Green, and other projects. But there is really nothing to fear.
Chinatown has long been a popular neighborhood for locals and tourists alike, so you will never be alone. Additionally, it has friendly people, and great shops and restaurants.
Most of the tourist attractions on the South Side--University of Chicago and Museum of Science and Industry--are located in Hyde Park, a culturally-flourishing neighborhood, one of the most diverse in the city.
Other South Side attractions--the Garfield Park Conservatory, DuSable Museum, or U.S. Cellular Field--are located in other, so-called "bad" neighborhoods, but parking is a breeze, and odds are you won't be spending too much more time in those neighborhoods anyway, so don't worry about it.
The West Side of Chicago houses a predominantly-Hispanic neighborhood, one that is rich with culture (and great food), and should not be missed just because you won't find rich, white people living there.
As for the housing projects, city efforts are underway to improve those areas, but in the meantime, don't worry if you happen to drive through one. There aren't any popular tourists sites there, so you probably won't find yourself there, but if you do, just proceed with the same caution you use in any neighborhood and you'll be fine.
Sure, you can have a good time seeing all the popular tourist attractions in the city, but If you follow all the warnings on this site, you'll miss out on a lot of great things Chicago has to offer.
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Are the bad areas really dangerous or am I lucky
I've lived in Chicago (Elmhurst) for about 19 months and I've been to more places in the city than people who have lived here for 40 years. I've been to and thru many supposedly bad neighborhoods in the city, during the day and night. I've cruised down Martin Luther King Drive between Chinatown and 103rd, Halsted from Cabrini all the way to Sibley, Division from Cabrini to Pulaski, The "K"'s, Western from Morgan Park to 159th, Cottage Grove and Lake Park Ave down thru Chatham and Pullman neighborhoods, and many more. I've been thru all those places on weekends, late at night, and in the summer, stopped at those infamous chicken, rib, fish joints to get food, and never had anybody bother me once. I wonder why that is? I'm white, I'm from Kansas, I definitely didn't belong down in those areas.
Maybe I'm just lucky, or maybe it has something to do with me looking like an NFL fullback, or maybe it has something to do with how I acted. I got an extremely valuable piece of info from a couple of friends of mine who happen to be native residents of those areas. They told me that all you have to do is pretend like you know exactly what you are doing and where you are going, and don't care or even appear to notice what is happening around you. Sounds simple, right? It works, I've tried it many times. I'm not suggesting that you do what I have done and voluntarily venture into the areas mentioned above. I am saying that they are only as bad as the amount of fear that you have and SHOW. God knows I was quite fearful at times, but nobody knew it. People will leave you alone if you mind your own business and stay out of theirs.
Be careful, be courteous, and enjoy the exciting diversity the Chicago has to offer. It is an amazing experience!
Safety in Chicago
Chicago is a large city and has the same crime problems as any large urban area. Use common sense and the same precautions you would in any large city and you should be fine. Watch for pickpockets on public transportation and on the street, don't walk in deserted parks/streets after dark and grab a taxi if you feel uncomfortable in your surroundings or are traveling late in the evening and don't know where you are going
During the day or night it is generally safe to walk on well lit/high traffic streets near the Magnificent Mile, River North and the Gold Coast. The loop (business district) is safe during daytime hours but after the business people go home for the day, it becomes a lot less populated. You might think about taking a cab if it's late at night.
If you are venturing into the neighborhoods, ask your concierege about the safety of the area and the best way to get there, sometimes public transportation is perfectly fine, sometimes you are better off using a cab, esp. if you are traveling solo.
There's probably no reason for anyone to venture into the worst neighborhoods in Chicago since they typically don't have any tourist attractions or restaurants that would appeal to tourists. Neighborhoods change quickly though, empty lots, bars on windows, lots of beat up cars and housing projects are usually a really good sign that you are somewhere you don't belong. I've inadvertantly driven through a couple of these areas recently trying to avoid highway construction, Austin and Englewood are two of the worst, if you are not familiar with where you are going, stick to the major highways even if it means a little more time in traffic.
Parking, Con Artist, Pick Pockets
Okay, if you wear jeans and gym shoes, and have a camera wrapped around your neck...you are a prime target for pickpockets. In all my 10 years living in the city, I have never had this happen to me. Try and blend in by dressing well and looking confident.
There are many good con artists in the city. One of the old lines is "my car got towed and my wallet was inside and I cannot get it out of the impound lot-can you lend me $5, $10, etc dollars?" Well, no. If you have your keys, the attendants will let you in your car to get your wallet. Don't fall for any sob stories, there are many variations of this story.
If you have a rental car, beware the parking tickets! I have paid so many parking fines in my 10 years downtown! I am sure the money spent on fines would be one heck of trip to Europe. Sad but true. They get you for minor infractions, so be careful!
Check the date on warnings
Chicago has several areas that have been gentrifying lately and many that used to be questionable (e.g. Chinatown) are now generally safe.
That said, there are many parts of the city where there's just a few block's difference between generally safe and potentially dangerous. There are also places where unsafe behavior will rapidly make you a target of pickpocketing or sometimes violent crime.
A few examples.
1. The "safe zone" around Chinatown is expanding both north and south. You should likely have no problems at all taking the El or a bus there, or a problem driving.
2. While the Division Street bars are in a very safe neighborhood (the Gold Coast) if you're drunk at night, you're running a fairly high risk of getting pickpocketed and some risk of getting mugged. The criminals know that this is a place to find drunk tourists and yuppies on weekend nights and that it's easy to run down to the El and get lost in the crowd.
3. Downtown can be quite deserted at night and this can be disconcerting. While there's not a high incidence of crime, there's also not much safety in numbers if somebody should threaten you. However, the busier north-south streets (Wacker, Clark, State, Michigan) have a decent supply of cabs. You can also usually find cabs near the Metra stations (Ogilve, aka the Northwestern Station, and Union Station) and some of the bigger hotels. The door attendants at these hotels are usually quite friendly about flagging a cab for you even if you don't stay at the hotel.
Attitude is a big part of safety. If you look like you know where you're going and that you know the territory, criminals will look for a safer target. If you wander from an area where you feel safe to one that feels wrong to you, retrace your steps and wait for a cab.
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Suburban Law Enforcement
Not everyone needs to worry about this tip, but it is a good idea to keep in mind that many of the suburbs tend to be much more conservative than the city itself and it is much easier to run afoul of the law. This may be unlikely to see you put in prison unless you do something really dumb, but it can cause you other kinds of inconveniences. For example, if you forget on turn your headlights on in the city, the police are likely to pull alongside you and shout, "Hey @$$hole, turn your lights on" and drive off. In the suburbs, the same offense is likely to have you ticketed and get your car sniffed by a drug dog. They aren't overtly racist, but if you are darker skinned or don't speak English very well, or are white but outwardly appear to conform to some negatively stereotyped group like bikers or rockers or rappers, you could find yourself drawing attention you don't want. Even if less than enlightened, these police agencies do have the full powers of law enforcement and they can make your life miserable.
Your typical tourist isn't likely to spend much time in the "burbs" and I don't want to overstate the warning here because 99% of you will never run into a problem, but it really is a very different environment with very different attitudes about authority, behaviour and conformity.
This is kind of a general word of advice rather than a real warning. Neighborhoods and safety levels can change very quickly once you leave downtown. In fact, very soon after you leave downtown. Some things that I use as warning flags are lots of beat up old cars or cars on blocks, lots of unsupervised children, lots of people apparently without much to do, security signs or measures in stores, and lots of curiosity about who you are.
Having read through a lot of the warning tips about Chicago, it seems that most people will want to caution you about the south side, though the west side can be much worse in places. The truth of the matter is, that some of the worst crimes happen in some of the best neighborhoods. Criminals aren't stupid, they go where the money is. Drug dealers aren't stupid either, they don't want heat where they do business. I go to some of the worst parts of the city depending on the reason and have never been hassled, seldom even draw a second look. Nevertheless, even I cross my fingers in some areas, especially later at night.
There are some areas of the north side that you might want to be more vigilant in. Rogers Park, Humboldt Park, and Uptown are the ones that come to mind. For all the improvements over the last few years, these areas have been left behind to one degree or another.
The south side is generally pretty safe towards the west. I'm not down there all that much, but I would say west of Pulaski. East of there, things can be a bit dicey, but for the most part, no one will bother you, especially during the day.
There are parts of Chicago that are not so safe for tourists. Parts of the Chicago's Southside are kind of rundown and are not that touristy (except for example, the Museum of Science and Industry, Hyde Park, and the University of Chicago). Personally I wouldn't want to walk alone on the streets of the Southside, both day and night. Downtown Chicago is fairly safe during the day as there are a lot of business and working people as well as tourists like you. But downtown also becomes dangerous at night, like in any big city. Avoid walking alone and use common sense.
General Advice-Dangerous Neighborhoods
I agree with dlant. I'm in sales, my territory being the South & West Side of Chicago. Although, I have been mugged once, generally speaking during the daytime hours you will be safe. The west side (Chicago Ave starting past 2000W block and continuing almost down to Midway) is by far the worst, and most dangerous. The South Side past Hyde Park and University of Chicago is also fairly bad. However, the South is experience a decent urban renewal and gentrification lately. For tourist, I would stay out of those areas, there's not much to see except for poverty, abandoned houses/factories, drugs and gangs. Generally speaking, you’re fairly safe during the day, and early on in the evening. Gang members are in the business of selling drugs, not shooting random people they don't know. They get nothing out of it and they wouldn’t want the attention from the police. However, shootings *DO* happen, maybe not towards you, but towards other gang members, and you don't want to be in the line of fire of a stray bullet. Long story short, stick to the main attractions of Chicago. If you find yourself accidentally in those neighborhoods, drive east towards downtown (this includes the South Side, you'll eventually end up on Lake Shore Drive, then take it North) Or if you're on foot, get to your destination quickly, but don't attract attention to yourself and do not let anyone try to pull you a side to “ask a question”. If you do find yourself in a situation where you are being mugged, don't try to be the hero or the tough guy, just hand over your wallet politely, don’t make a big deal about it and suck it up as a loss.
Generally, Chicago is a incredibly safe and friendly city, with lots of interesting things to do and see in the Loop, South Loop, North Side, and the Near West side (Greek Town, Buck Town, Logan Square, Wicker Park and China town). Just use some common sense, know where you are going and how to get there. Most of all enjoy your stay here and enjoy exploring!
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Hydepark and Englewood....
There is absolutely no comparison! The Hyde Park/Bronzeville area is one of the nicest I have seen and or lived in simce being in this city! There is crime EVERYWHERE... and these areas are no different. IDK what the poster is talking about, as the homes are beautiful, and chock full of professinals and students from the surrounding universities. Not to mention, we have tour busses daily coming throught to view the hostoic mansions as well as POTUS' home. What are you talking about? Have you ever been to teh area? Do not let on persons review allow you to miss out on the jewel that is Hyde Park!
What I love...
What I love about the fact that people perceive Chicago as dangerous is that it keeps the prices down at some of my favorite restaurants. I mean seriously...if everyone who visited chicago suddently realized that they wouldn't be immediately murdered, mugged or raped if they left the magnificent mile or lincoln park area, then demand would surely go up for the stuff that the rest of us love. Am I right?
Kidding aside...Chicago is only dangerous if you don't look before you cross the street. Those cabbies don't stop for anyone!
Contrary to how some protray the city Chicago is, overall, a safe place. Chicagoans take tremendous pride in their city and a very dim view towards crime. The vast number of "block clubs" and community policing organzations can attest to this. Some areas of the city are best avoided, including parts of the far west and south sides. Fortunately these areas contain nothing of interest for the casual visitor, unless the nature of your journey is sociological or humanitarian in nature, so you won't have to worry about accidentally wandering into them.
The exception is the Cabrini Green housing project as it is near a touristed area. Located just west of the Brown and Purple line tracks of the El that run near the gentrified Gold Coast and Old Town neighborhoods, it is defintely something to be aware of. Even though the "Projects" are coming down, this area is very unsafe.
At night I would avoid walking (especially alone) outside the gentrified areas of Gold Coast, Old Town and Lincoln Park. Unless there's a summer festival going on, even the Loop can be desolate and bleak at night.
As with anywhere else, be aware of petty street crime like pickpockets and con men.
Getting off the main drag ...
Many restaurants and other interesting places are out of the mainstream. Here we are walking north on Franklin Ave. towards the restaurant MK. You can see the building on Michigan Ave in the distance. In the day you will be fine in this area just north of the main gallery area, but at night you might want to use more caution.
Don't stay away from Hyde Park
I was just reading what other people thought of my home city (didn't get very far) and came across a rather ridiculous piece of advice lumping Hyde Park with Englewood.
Hyde Park is probably my favorite area in the city. 57th street is full of book stores and little storefront restuarants, Harold Washington Park has its own colony of monk parakeets, the residential houses are gorgeous, and both the University and the Museum of Science and Industry reside there.
Crime does occur from time to time (mostly from those who come in from the poor neighborhoods adjacent) but it is generally safe, one of the few areas on the south side that can claim that.
So don't let that person two posts down scare you, it is well worth visiting. It lies right off the electric line so getting there from the loop is a breeze.
Chicago Is A City Of Neighborhoods
I've lived in Chicago all of my life. Travelers, please understand that all neighborhoods within the city have their good and bad points. Just because you're staying in a fancy hotel on Michigan Avenue doesn't mean you cannot get robbed. Walking in an allegedly "bad" neighborhood doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to come to harm. Just like anywhere else, It's a matter of paying attention to your surroundings, and not being careless. If you follow the "avoid these areas" advice, you'll miss out on some true jewels such as Edna's Sout Food Restaurant, Buddy Guy's Legends, Ford City Shopping Center, Windy City Boxing Gym, Garfield Park Conservatory, etc., not to mention a whole lot of summer neighborhood festivals and off-the-beaten path attractions.
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