Downtown Detroit is great to go during the day, or at night---that is, if you stay in the general downtown area. Once you get into the neighborhoods, you're in a totally different element.
I have friends that live in the residential areas of the inner city. I admit, I am nervous leaving my sports car in some of those neighborhoods at night. The neighbors might be good people, but it doesn't mean the riff raff doesn't fly through from time to time.
There are some decent neighborhoods in Detroit but a good portion of the residential parts are run down and inhabited by "riff raff." Crime DOES happen mostly in the residential areas and parks. I strongly suggest sticking to the commercialized parts of the city, unless of course you are going to visit someone. Avoid Clark Park in the late hours of night. There have been talk of rough Latino gangs hanging around this area. Even if you're downtown, avoid Grand Circus Park in the late hours as well. Bums flock to it, and if they're drunk enough they may be more of a threat than not.
Detroit is a huge city. When visiting, you will often hear the locals describe their locations as "east side," or "southwest," for example.
Regarding southwest Detroit, I have a bit of a suggestion: The population is largely Hispanic---in fact, the area known as "Mexicantown" hosts some of the best authentic Mexican restaurants the city has to offer. The majority of SW's residents do speak English, but knowing how to speak Spanish definitely helps with the communication barrier, especially with the elderly people.
When dining at one of Mexicantown's many restaurants, keep in mind they are located in a residential area. This isn't the best area to be super late at night (especially around Clark Park) but the restaurants all have their own parking lots, and most close around 1 am. If the area makes you nervous, come with a group. The food is worth the trip!
Recently, I had the misfortune of getting stuck in a ditch in one of the worst parts of Detroit at night. Almost immediately, two homeless street walkers came by to "help" pull me out. A group of young hoodlums were across the street doing something-or-another over a metal barrel with a bonfire going inside, and started running towards my car hollering. The two bums "helping" me warded them off by telling them to "get the #$@% out, or they'd regret it!"
Anyway, one of them said he had a friend with a truck who would come pull me out. I waited in the car while the other bum stood around and guarded it, and a few minutes later, four or five rather large black fellows came out to assess the situation. I was told I'd have to pay them $20 and kick $10 more up to their boss, whom they called "Big Man."
A few minutes later a new guy, who called himself "Dreadlocks," came around the corner with a truck, and managed to pull my car out successfully. He seemed friendly enough, and after we got it out, I wasn't sure whether they'd ask me for more money, or try to steal the car then-and-there.
But, they didn't. As they started to walk off, I looked over where I'd left my cell phone, and noticed it was *gasp* MISSING! So was my $400 camera. I drove up past them and kindly inquired with "Big Man" if he knew anything about it. Perhaps I was being reckless, as for all I knew, he may well have stolen it himself, but he immediately turned around and shook down each of the guys with him, saying he'd "kill the mutha@#%#a" who did it.
As it turned out, one of the bums who first came over to help had lifted both my cell phone and my camera (how he did this I don't know, because my window was only rolled down for a second or two). "Big Man" gave both the cell phone and the camera back to me and personally apologized, then he and "Dreadlocks" proceeded to BEAT THE HOMELESS MAN TO A BLOODY PULP right then and there as I made a swift getaway.
I think crab walk is invented in Detroit by a Turkish girl who came for masters eight years ago and had to walk from her office to home at 4:00 am in the morning just to get a few hours sleep. Survival of the fittest. Your opponent, the passerby, the guy waiting in the bus-stop, the thirsty guy waiting out of the liqour shop in the corner because he is running short on the dimes etc. can simply be passified with a menacing look. Mean it. Don't forget, if you are on your own walking the walk at 4:00am in downtown Detroit, you have to be as threatening as anybody else may be. Keep looking, until he gives up.
If you are interested in seeing the worst that mankind can create for itself,, then visit the Brightmoor neighborhood. I am very familiar with the area because my Grandpa lived and died here. The area's heart is along Fenkell Road from Telegraph to lahser, Evergreen, and to Southfield. Despite what one may think, it NEVER was a nice area. It has been a place for the poor since it's beginning. A poor, working class neighborhood. But it was safe at one time.
I drove by recently to see what kind of property $10,000 could buy. Not pretty! On my grandpa's street there's about 8 houses standing in 4 blocks. The trees are taking over where criminals aren't. It's ugly, burned out & destitute. You could very well hear gunfire. However, I can honestly say that my Grandpa was never a victim of any crime here. (Athough, he may have perpetrated a few)
Brightmoor is on the egde of the city and it would be very hard for a tourist to get to and inadvisable to visit. But if you must see it, remember that Outer Drive can make this area difficult to navigate, and it's definitely best to lock your window's and look straight ahead while driving. And just remember all the cute kids playing in Brightmoor and send a check to Blight Busters!
Unless you like seeing this sort of thing, I highly suggest you stay away from this area. I have been through here many times in my life and have even conversed with some prostitutes, but i wouldn't recommend it. A drive through this area is like a scene from the Night of the Living Dead. Addicts wander back and forth aimlessly, mostly unable to rob you if they wanted to. This is Detroit's version of Skid Row; the home of 5$ a night , pay in advance motels. Ricky the homeless guy told me, "don't go there cuz they'll stab you and take your money!" so, I wouldn't advise booking a room at one of the hotels here. The good news is that the "Cass Corridor" is pretty much contained to a few square blocks. If you find yourself in this area, don't panic, just head E towards Woodward and you'll be outta there in no time. And it is ALWAYS a good idea to keep your doors locked wherever you go.
Recently, the Detroit Police Department has seen budget cuts. As a result, many concerned citizens have taken to patrolling the streets. Don't let their cheeky appearance fool you! They are TOUGH and they don't take any crap from anyone!!!! Take my advice and be on your best behavior at all times(Don't litter or jaywalk), and try to STEER CLEAR OF THESE RUTHLESS VIGILANTES!!!!
These people ranting that "Anyone who bad-mouths Detroit has probably never even been there!" make me laugh! Do you really live there- have YOU ever left your house? I lived on the "much safer" Far West Side (near Fenkell and Evergreen) for 18 years and saw my quiet street go down the toilet in just THREE! Sirens and gunshots and screams were a common sound at night. Crack-houses on every corner, people throwing their trash on their front lawns, 13 burned-out or vacant houses (with all of the windows broken and aluminum siding pulled off) in just four blocks! In Detroit, you won't see a storefront with GLASS in it anywhere- they're all bricked up! If you go into a fast-food restaurant, you have to yell your order thru inch-thick, bullet-proof plastic! And the houses all have bars in the doors and windows- doesn't that say anything to you? My sister lived nearby, and one afternoon she had a man come thru her back door with a sawed-off shotgun. Her 3 small children hid and watched as he made her help him load HER car with her microwave,TV and stereo. Then he tried to rape her, but she fought him off and he drove away in her car. My next-door neighbor still worked at The Ponchartrain at age 87 and he always used the same bank, near Grand River and Schaeffer. One morning, as he left the bank after cashing his paycheck, FIVE young punks jumped this frail little man, took his money, and beat his face in with a golf club! Then they stole his car and left him to bleed to death. If you leave a car unattended, there are thugs who will steal your wheels, your radio, or just take the battery out of it- and cut the cables so you'll be stranded if you buy a new battery! I know countless people who have been stabbed, shot, raped, robbed in daylight, had their home broken into (as I did) or were brutally murdered... I couldn't begin to list them all here. Oh, and you may find yourself turning down the wrong street and hear "What are YOU looking for, WHITE BOY??!!!" SURE- Detroit is just a GREAT place- to have MOVED AWAY FROM!
From a July 2005 issue of Wayne State's Newspaper:
"The crime rate has actually dropped in the downtown area. The city has become a safer place to live in and to visit.
The rate of downtown Detroit crimes has dropped 26 percent LOWER of that of the REST OF THE UNITED STATES, as well as 21 percent in the state of Michigan, according to Tom Walsh, columnist for the Detroit Free Press."
So when you hear about Detroit being a dangerous place, remember that the majority of the danger is for it's residents that live outside of the city center, in rough neighborhoods, like in most cities. So I would advise not purchasing any crack on your next visit if you want to stay safe. Crackhead.
Everybody but me in Detroit drives like an idiot. That's the problem. Everybody thinks that everyone but themselves drives like an idiot. And you are one of the idiots. So please, if you don't plan on driving at least 90 mph then stay out of the fast lane for your own safety! And just ignore all the other idiots.
If you are not from the area, I would not advise taking any shortcuts to your destination! Sometimes you may find yourself in an area that looks scary but there's nothing to be scared of. Other times you may be in a nice part of town and one wrong turn will have you in a nasty part of the city. As a visitor, get good directions, stay on course, or get a guide.
Everywhere you go, there will be someone standing/sitting on a corner trying to cajole you out of your cash. Some are legit, some are not. If you are anything like me, and a sucker for sad, pathetic people begging for food, use your discretion as to whether they look "legitimate" or if they're just trying to trick you into supporting their habit.
If you attend an event during the time of a baseball game, be prepared to search endlessly for parking, and/or pay an arm and a leg. Most lots like to hike their prices when they know you will park there like it or not. Some will charge up to $20 for a baseball game and beware of the $7 lots--they will charge you $10 anyway.
As any big city, always stay along the "beaten path" when visiting Detroit. It is full of one way streets and easy to lose sight of where you're headed. Watch your bags/wallets. Crime and theft are no strangers to Detroit, any less than any other big city you will visit.
Finally, the city of Detroit can host several events in one night, which will make for uneasy traffic congestions. Be patient when visiting Greektown, Hart Plaza or comerica park in these types of situations, as Detroit PD seems to think blocking off side streets makes matters better...personally I beg to differ!
People will continue to say "don't go to detroit alone," "don't go into detroit at night," someone said "I won't pass 8 mile!" Well i'm sorry but that is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. I am in Detroit almost every single day. I am a single white young lady. I am 19 years old. There is nothing to worry about. Sure some neighborhoods are scary but people arent going to come up and start harrassing you if you are minding your own business and being respectful. Don't go driving into a neighborhood with your music on full blast late and nigt - common sense. Use common sense and you'll be fine. I know white people are just scared to go into Detroit because Detroit is predominately black, WHO CARES? aren't we in the 21st century now? Race shouldn't determine where you go! Go to detroit and have a blast, go to belle isle and do as much stuff as posible!!! Most of all HAVE FUN! use common sense!
Detroit's worst enemies are the suburbanites. Those who have posted warnings seem to have survived their brushes with death, thankfully.
Seriously, Detroit is like any other city. Use common sense. Most crime is drug related and is not random (except maybe for motor vehicle theft, and Detroit is number 10 in the nation on that one).
You are more likely to get ripped off in the burbs than robbed in the city.
You have nothing to fear in Detroit unless you fear black people (which is the problem and root of Detroit suburbanites fear and desire to perpuate their own urban legends of crime (their parents taught them this - they never really experienced crime, I am sure).
P.S. I grew up in the burbs of Detroit and now I live Downtown and I am white - go figure :)