Illinois : Safety by City
- Arlington Heights
- Crystal Lake
- Des Plaines
- East St Louis
- Fairview Heights
- Granite City
- Mount Prospect
- Oak Lawn
- Rock Island
- Tinley Park
Bloomington, Illinois, is about as close to normal as you can get.
No, seriously, it’s right next to the city of Normal in central Illinois.
You’ll find in your research, as I did mine, there are a lot of Bloomington-Normal references, and that’s why.
You might even think the actual name of the city is Bloomingtonormal because it is so frequently said that way.
The whole area has about 132,000 people while 79,000 of those live in Bloomington.
This region sits about halfway between the major metropolitan areas of Chicago and St. Louis.
There is also a city named Bloomington in Indiana and Minnesota, so be sure you’re researching the one in Illinois.
Bloomington has a popular downtown area with some kind of event happening almost every week of the year.
When people refer to Uptown, that’s in Normal.
Each season brings new activities to Bloomington-Normal and it’s also part of the famous Route 66 that went all the way across the country and more than a dozen landmarks still stand to honor the route, but watch out for “Dead Man’s Curve.”
This is the city that brought Beer Nuts to the world and you should take a few bags home with you as presents for loved ones.
Bloomington is also the headquarters for the insurance company State Farm.
There are a lot of family attractions in Bloomington-Normal, from history museums to a popular zoo to outdoor farming adventures and a handful of wineries.
Warnings & Dangers in Bloomington
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low risk in Bloomington, which is a nice change of pace from an otherwise violent crime-ravaged section of the state. While Bloomington hasn't escaped feeling some impact of gun violence and the opioid crisis, it has managed to keep crime rates lower than in some other communities. 2022 is proving to be a tough year, and this city could easily move into a "medium" risk soon. We'll go into that in a little bit.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
There is a public bus system around Bloomington-Normal called Connect Transit. You can also get taxis and rideshares easily. Having a car here is ideal, especially if you want to ride Route 66 at your own pace. All options are low-risk and easy to access.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
There's a low risk of being pickpocketed but that risk goes up during any of the many festivals in this region when crowds are big and crooks are looking for crimes of opportunity. As it stands from the 2021 numbers, there's a one in 109 chance of being a theft victim.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Bloomington gets extreme weather potential throughout the year, so it's a medium risk that you need to prepare for. Spring can bring severe thunderstorms and tornadoes and that potential lasts until winter. Then the risk of snowstorms and ice storms comes up. There aren't many weather events here that come without warning, so you'll always have a heads up about the potential for severe weather if you're paying attention.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
With just 24 robberies, there's a low risk, but it's also still a potential risk. This is even more important as crime rates are up 10% in Bloomington in 2021.
TERRORISM RISK : MEDIUM
You can rest assured there's a low risk here. Terrorists are more likely to go after bigger cities like Chicago or St. Louis than the medium-sized city of Bloomington.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
Scams were one of the things driving up the 2021 crime numbers, but those were mostly focused on COVID-19 scams at a local level. It's not something a tourist would feel the impact of.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Bloomington didn't report sexual assault numbers for 2020, and the 2021 crime details just have one category of "sex offenses", which could be anything from rape to peeping toms. The last specific data available was in 2019 when eight rapes occurred. There are a lot of things to do for women here, and there's really nothing indicating there's any more risk for women than men. I would still stand by the "don't walk around at night alone" advice and practice basic personal safety. That will give you a low risk.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
According to the 2021 Annual Water Quality Report, "The City of Bloomington Public Works Department’s water meets state and federal standards for both appearance and safety." That's a low risk.
Safest Places to Visit in Bloomington
Whether you want to watch a wallaby or play near a red panda, Miller Park Zoo is the place to be.
The zoo has a strong social media presence and regularly posts videos and live streams to YouTube so you can get a feel for the attraction before you go.
Be sure to explore the rest of Miller Park and you can see a decadent home that’s also a dedicated war memorial.
There’s also a lake there where you can rent paddle boats in the warmer months.
For some outdoor exercise and exploration, walk or bicycle the Constitution Trail between Bloomington and Normal.
As it stands now, there are nearly 40 miles of trails, and expansion plans are in the works.
There are some really neat museums here too.
Arcadia is an interactive arcade museum where you play pinball until your fingers hurt or slay in Super Street Fighter.
The Funk Prairie Home Museum is the former home of the Funks and it comes with its own funky vibe.
Wait until you see the gem and mineral collection.
This museum is also free.
The Prairie Aviation Museum is a smaller museum in terms of aircraft count, but rich with film history as three of the planes are connected to the Top Gun movie franchise.
Grab a map of Historic Route 66 and take a ride down memory lane.
One warning – this road does stretch across the state of Illinois and, if you aren’t paying attention, you might drive all the way to Joliet, where it begins, or to the Missouri state line.
Downtown Bloomington is home to restaurants, boutiques, a farmer’s market, and Friday night musical stylings.
Check the city calendar for events happening during your visit.
This town has a wide variety of restaurants from many different cultures.
Places to Avoid in Bloomington
According to crime maps based on 2020 data, the central part of the city has the most crime, and the farther you go east, west, or south, the lower the crime gets.
You can search for crimes happening closer to your time of visit on the police department’s website.
There isn’t really a place to avoid or a bad part of town, but there are neighborhoods that might feel a little sketchy.
The great thing is the city is laid out well with its surface streets, so there’s not a lot of reason to cut through a neighborhood.
There are a lot of people who pronounce Illinois wrong, so I want to save you an eye roll from a local.
The “s” is silent, so it’s “Ill-in-noy”, not “Ill-in-noise.”
I grew up on the Missouri/Illinois border and I can tell you it’s downright annoying when people say the name of the state incorrectly and then argue with you about it.
With so many outdoor adventures here, you need to avoid going places like the Constitution Trail if storms are in the forecast.
You don’t want to be caught outside far away from safety as a shelf cloud is moving in or if heavy snow starts to come down.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Bloomington
- There are tornado sirens throughout the Bloomington-Normal area. These are meant to be heard by people outside when a tornado warning is issued. You won’t always hear these indoors, which is why having a reliable weather app with push notifications enabled is critical. Most modern mobile devices are WEA (Weather Emergency Alert) enabled by factory settings but double-check. There isn’t an “all-clear” siren after the threat is over.
- There is gang activity in Bloomington, and it’s pervasive enough that the city has a full document showing you signs of activity, what graffiti means, and the hand signal usage of gang members. It’s important to research this for your own safety and to help report suspicious activity during your visit. If you see graffiti, call the police at (309)820-8888.
- If you regularly go for a run and plan to do so during your visit here, the police ask that you always run against the flow of traffic so you can better see hazards. Keep one ear open for noises that might indicate a hazard. If you are running in the winter, wear a hat to prevent heat from escaping as it can get bitterly cold here. When crossing a street, never assume cars are going to let you through the crosswalk. Police suggest a “look thrice” rule of looking three times to make sure the path is clear to cross. Never cross outside of a crosswalk.
- Texting and driving or any use of a mobile device behind the wheel are illegal in Illinois. You can even get a ticket just by holding the phone in your hand (I know I have a bad habit of doing that even when I’m not using it). You can use hands-free functions.
- Winter weather can tear up the roads in places like Bloomington, and that means warmer months generally see a lot of construction activity. While this can make traffic worse, you should always obey the speed limits in construction zones and pull as far away from the construction work as possible when driving by. Speeding in a construction zone can also lead to a double fine.
- There is an Illinois Guide to Safe Driving and the last page of it is worth printing out. It’s a sign that reads “SEND HELP” that can be placed on your windshield if you break down or get stuck in the snow. Make sure it place it inside the vehicle so it can be visible from the outside but also won’t get messed up by precipitation.
- Illinois passed a law recently making recreational marijuana use legal. This doesn’t mean it’s open season for drug use. There are many restrictions that come with that, including how you can transport it in your car. Be sure to review the rules so you don’t get a ticket or worse – arrested – for violating the law.
- Evergreen Lake is a popular fishing spot just 20 minutes north of Bloomington. You can fish throughout the year here and there’s even ice fishing available in the winter. You do need a fishing license from the state of Illinois. Your home license won’t do.
- When you are ice fishing or ice skating on the water, many places won’t have supervision (I almost said lifeguard, but does that work for frozen water?). The McLean County Emergency Management offers this advice when judging the depth of ice: “Thick and blue, tried and true. Thin and crispy, way too risky.”
- There is a lot of free parking in Bloomington, but you can also pay to park at a toll booth on the way in and out of the parking garages. Be sure to check the city map of free parking areas. Most parking on weekends is free, no matter where you park.
So... How Safe Is Bloomington Really?
Many cities don’t offer the transparency of the Bloomington Police Department when it comes to crime data.
The most recent available data for most cities is from 2020 when departments submitted details to the FBI for an online report.
Bloomington Police have updated their numbers for 2021, which is very helpful.
They also have live crime mapping on the website, so you can search for yourself.
Here’s the challenge facing Bloomington in the 2021/2022 snapshot.
Homicide rates are going up.
There were four homicides in 2021, compared to just one in 2020.
As of April 2022, there have been five homicides already in Bloomington, setting the stage for a potentially record-breaking year.
The record of nine homicides happened in 2018.
Assault offenses went up in 2021, as did drug offenses.
Both of those could be tied to the growing gun violence, gang problems, and the opioid crisis.
Theft, stolen cars, and robberies were down in 2021.
Bloomington’s crime rates are generally around the state and national average, which is a nice break from cities like nearby Peoria, which have incredibly high crime rates.
If you’re choosing between Bloomington and Normal, they both have about the same rates with a slightly lower violent crime rate in Normal but a higher property crime rate.
How Does Bloomington Compare?
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- Visas - You should start the Visa process if you're coming from outside the United States about four months ahead of time, just to give yourself enough time to do all the steps. Don't put your Visa in the checked baggage because you'll need it at the airport before you get to baggage claim.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here and credit cards are widely accepted. You don't want to carry around a lot of cash if you don't need to. If you do carry cash, don't keep it all in one place.
- Weather - You will get all four seasons here and should plan accordingly. The Midwest can have some interesting weather patterns and you might get lucky and find a mild day in the winter or a cool day in the summer, but always plan for the worst. It is very humid here in the summer, so be prepared to sweat and bring bug spray.
- Airports - Central Illinois Regional Airport is on the east side of Bloomington with a good number of flights available. You can also drive 2-3 hours to St. Louis or Chicago for bigger airports if you choose, but be warned - there's a lot of flat countryside along the way and highway hypnosis can set in.
- Travel Insurance - Weather delays can be quite common, especially in the winter, so travel insurance is going to help protect the money you've invested in your trip to Bloomington, Illinois.
Bloomington Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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