Warnings and Dangers in Chicago: Common Sense Advice / Sketchy Neighborhoods
With numerous famous skyscrapers, an incredible culinary scene, and a diverse, friendly population, Chicago is one of the most popular cities to visit in the U.S. However, it’s important for any tourist to know about the sketchy areas to avoid, and other dangers you may encounter.
Violent Crime and Gang Activity in Chicago
Chicago has a reputation as being a city with high crime and gangs, and although areas popular with tourists are generally safe, there are certain areas it’s best to avoid entirely not to risk being a victim of violent crime. Most of Chicago’s most violent crimes and gang activity are located on the West and South sides of the city. In general, the further South and West you go, the more dangerous the neighborhood.
That said, a few neighborhoods in South and West Chicago have benefitted greatly from gentrification. Hyde Park on the South Side, home of the University of Chicago, and Wicker Park on the West Side, a popular neighborhood with cool cafes and beautiful parks, are both generally safe during the day. If you go to either of these areas, walk quickly and confidently, knowing where you’re going at all times.
In most touristy areas, such as Michigan Ave. and Millennium Park, you’ll be safely surrounded by tourists, and while The Loop gets empty at night, it’s unlikely you’ll be mugged or robbed. Use basic common sense when walking or driving in these areas.
Homeless Residents in Chicago Neighborhoods
Chicago has a high homeless population, with shelters throughout the city. There is one notable homeless encampment in the South Loop, alongside the Chicago River. Chicago’s homeless struggle with poverty, mental illness, and drug use, and it’s best to walk quickly through any homeless encampments you see. Many of the homeless come to Michigan Ave. and other highly trafficked tourist areas to panhandle for money.
Although the homeless can be aggressive when panhandling, they’re very rarely dangerous. If you ignore the homeless person and keep walking, it’s very unlikely they’ll continue to bother you. If you find yourself in a homeless encampment, walk quickly and move to another area.
Use Common Sense When Using Chicago Public Transportation or Driving
Chicago’s L train and busses are generally safe, particularly in the central parts of Chicago, but use basic street smarts, particularly at night, to avoid being a victim of a crime. Make sure you get on the correct public transportation line and know where you’re walking when you get off at your stop.
If you’re driving, park at your hotel or another secured garage and avoid storing valuables in your car.
More from SmarterTravel:
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Editor’s note: The information contained on this page was compiled using real traveler reviews about warnings and dangers in Chicago.