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
Carbondale, Illinois, sits near the southern tip of the state in an area known as Little Egypt.
While the climate is nothing like Egypt, and it’s a stretch how the area got its name, it is still stuck.
The city is home to Southern Illinois University (SIU) Carbondale and was once known for its crowded and popular Halloween festivities.
After some clashes during Halloween in the late 20th century, Halloween was put on hold until recently.
The college gives a liberal vibe in what is otherwise conservative countryside.
The city is home to nearly 22,000 people and the college brings another 15,000 to the city each semester.
The population nearly tripled during the 2017 solar eclipse and could bring more when 2024 brings another solar eclipse with Carbondale right along the path of totality.
Some now refer to it as the Eclipse Crossroads of America.
The city has plenty of family-friendly activities, but the real adventures start on the outskirts of town with Shawnee National Forest nearby among many other parks.
Warnings & Dangers in Carbondale
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
I had to triple-check my math and the data before coming to this ranking, but there's a medium risk here. It's mind-boggling to me as I spent many weekends in Carbondale during my early 20s visiting friends who went to school here. Never once did I feel unsafe, but that was two decades ago and the crime numbers certainly have changed for the worse.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
Token Transit is the public bus system. You can also get a taxi or rideshare quickly. Having a car here would be a plus, so you can explore all the parks outside the city limits. There's low risk with whatever option you choose.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM
The theft rate is more than twice the national average. The data reported doesn't give specifics on car break-ins versus pickpockets, but with a theft rate so high, I want to err on the side of caution and go with a medium risk here.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
There are year-round weather hazards, from spring thunderstorms and tornadoes, scorching summer heat, a second tornado season in the fall, and winter weather from snowstorms to ice storms. It's also not too far from the New Madrid Fault Line, so earthquakes are a risk too. With that much going on, we have to give it a medium risk.
MUGGING RISK : MEDIUM
The robbery rate is nearly two and a half times the national average, so there's another medium risk here. Violent crimes are also higher than the national average and more than twice the state average. This is not the Carbondale I once knew.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's a low risk. Carbondale is a small town in the middle of soybean and cornfields, so nothing makes it a hard target.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
Utility and police impersonator scams are going around to the locals, but nothing that would impact a tourist. You should still be wary of anyone who is promising a deal that seems too good to be true. When it comes to rental homes, never wire money ahead of time, no matter how "good" the deal seems to be.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk for women. The sexual assault rate is nearly four times the national average. As a young woman, my weekends here were spent at college bars and parties, and I can tell you it was a fun town, but a lot of ways for a woman to get into trouble. I always had a friend and we agreed to never split up and always have each other's back. Even back then, we took a taxi home instead of walking.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The water here complies with all federal and state standards according to the 2021 Water Quality Report. There's low risk when using it.
Safest Places to Visit in Carbondale
With all the great farmland outside of Carbondale, it’s no wonder that wineries are popular places in this neck of the woods.
I counted almost a dozen wineries that dot the landscape.
Be sure to get a rideshare back and forth so you don’t risk drinking and driving.
This is a town built to facilitate the railroad and, as any good railroad town would do – they put up a museum.
The Old Illinois Passenger Depot Railroad Museum is open to visitors.
This museum actually takes you through a locomotive from the engine to the caboose to see how it works.
The Little Egypt region is home to many lakes with all the outdoor accouterments.
- Devil’s Kitchen Lake
- Cedar Lake
- Crab Orchard Lake
- Little Grassy Lake
Outdoor recreation areas include:
- Shawnee National Forest
- Oakland Nature Preserve
- Flaglands Prairie
- Fernlands Preserve
- Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge
- Chautauqua Bottoms
- Brush Hill Nature Preserve
The Science Center in Carbondale is a nice mix of science, education, history, and math in an interactive setting.
Exhibits include an earthquake table, puppet show, 3D topographical sandbox, and a random iguana named Reptar that calls The Science Center home.
Places to Avoid in Carbondale
Crime maps show the area south of Main Street is the most dangerous in the southern central part of the city, but crime rates really do reach through all corners of the city limits.
The farther you get into the more rural areas, the lower the crime rate goes.
Carbondale is a college town with most events organized around SUI Carbondale.
As you can see from the list above, aside from museums, the university, and the outdoors, there’s not much to do there.
You really should be an outdoor lover if you aren’t coming here for a reason related to the university or to visit family.
You want to avoid pronouncing the “S” in Illinois.
It’s “Ill-in-oye” and even the nicest people will correct you.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Carbondale
- If you have any non-emergency information about a crime that happened in Carbondale, you can call Crime Stoppers at (618)549-2677 (COPS). You can choose to remain anonymous and might be eligible for a reward.
- Crime trends can always change and you can monitor the exact crimes happening closer to your visit through the police department’s live crime mapping function. It’s interactive, so you can search by location, type of crime, and a certain date range.
- Carbondale has a series of safe exchange zones throughout the community that are monitored by cameras 24/7. If you purchase something online and need to meet a person to exchange money for property, please use one of the safe zones. You can also go inside the police lobby between 8 am and 4 pm for the utmost safety.
- You need a reliable weather app here because storms can get pretty intense. In the Midwest, there will generally be some kind of weather “watch” issued ahead of severe weather, which is a heads-up for the potential of severe weather. You should avoid outdoor activities when storms are coming.
- Ask where the safe space is at your hotel in case of a tornado. Each hotel must have a place where you can go to be protected from the violent winds and debris. You must know this because storms can happen in the middle of the night.
- The city is a partner with a program called “See, Click, Fix.” This allows citizens and visitors to report any community issues, like big potholes, downed trees, malfunctioning traffic lights, and so on. This is a great resource to report a problem on the go.
- Sign up for CodeRED alerts so you can get emergency notifications on your mobile device. This covers severe weather, road closures, criminal emergencies, and civil issues. In winter, you’ll also get information about snow routes and plowing schedules.
- Recreational cannabis use is now allowed in Illinois and there’s a lot of publicity for marijuana shops and accessories on the tourism pages. This doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all when it comes to smoking pot. There are strict rules. You can only use cannabis if you are in a private home and the owner of the home allows you to do so. This law only applies to people 21 and older. You cannot use cannabis even in a private residence if a minor is around.
- Let me tell you from personal experience – this is a party town. If you are bringing young adults here, they can get into bars if they are 19 but cannot drink unless they are 21. Make sure you go to the bar with a friend or a group and don’t leave anyone behind. Stay together and guard your drinks against any potential tampering.
- You might have read about how Halloween festivities here turned into riots “a few years ago.” That was several decades ago now, and since the violence, Halloween was canceled. It was just in 2018 that Halloween celebrations returned and no incidents have happened like the riot of 2000.
So... How Safe Is Carbondale Really?
No part of this article is meant to pick on Carbondale, especially when I have such fond memories of the place.
There’s a problem with gun violence in the United States, as we know, but it seems Illinois has been hit particularly hard by it.
Don’t believe me?
Check out the details of Champaign, Illinois on our website.
Some sayings hold true here.
“There’s a crime in every city and it’s about perspective.”
This is true.
There are some neighborhoods in Chicago where they’d laugh at the Carbondale crime rate.
A lot of “how safe it is” depends on your feeling of safety at home.
“It impacts a lot of gang members and drug users.”
This is also true, to a point.
The more gang and drug violence, the more likely an innocent victim is to be caught in the crosshairs.
If you avoid parts of town that are more rundown, or you see a giant crowd of people fighting and go the other way, or you don’t go looking for drugs, you should be fine by following basic safety protocols.
You do need to lock the car doors and roll the windows up when you park.
Leave nothing inside the car, not even the trunk.
The theft rate here is one in 33.
Avoid setting yourself up to be a victim.
The robbery rate is still twice the national average, and there’s a one in 383 chance of being a victim.
The violent crime rate is at risk of one in 91.
Local leaders and police are working non-stop to bring down gun violence, and you can help with the information above by calling police with crime tips.
How Does Carbondale Compare?
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- Visas - You'll need a Visa to get through the airport when you arrive in the United States, but after that, you'll use your passport for an ID. Be sure to start the U.S. Visa process at least four months before your departure date.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here. Since there are a lot of bars here, to protect your money, it's best not to "open a tab" and leave a credit card at the bar. Pay for each round individually.
- Weather - You'll get all four seasons here, sometimes to an extreme. Bring warm winter clothing in the winter and layers of clothing in spring and fall, since it can be cold in the morning and warm in the afternoon. Summer is just hot and muggy, so bring clothes that can get sweat-soaked without concern.
- Airports - The closest major airport is in St. Louis, Missouri and it's about a two-hour drive. There are smaller airports in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and Paducah, Kentucky. Each of those will take about an hour's drive.
- Travel Insurance - You definitely want travel insurance for a place with extreme weather possible in all four seasons and make sure you are clear about what is covered and what isn't. Also, check your airline to see what coverage they provide for lost baggage.
Carbondale Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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