Ohio : Safety by CityUnited States - safety as a country Ohio - state review
Cleveland, Ohio, sits on the south shore of Lake Erie and is home to a wide array of attractions, most notably the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
The city is as rich in culture as it is in history, with distinct neighborhoods where you can feel at home or expand your horizons.
You’ll even find a Christmas gem in the Tremont neighborhood, where the house from A Christmas Story is now a museum.
If that’s not enough of an icon for you, how about visiting Glenville, where Superman was created?
(There’s a great story behind the creators selling the brand for $130, about $2700 in today’s value.)
The Cuyahoga (“Kai-uh-HOE-guh”) River weaves through the Cleveland region, giving fantastic views along the highway as the urban cityscape meets the dazzling blue waters of the river and lake.
A trip downtown will bring you into a modern urban core, but the historical architecture will leave you breathless.
Be sure to stop by The Cleveland Arcade.
This shopping Mecca gave birth to the tradition of the American Mall.
You also have access to every major league sports team in this city of 372,000 (the metro area is home to more than two million people).
Cleveland fans are devoted, albeit repeatedly disappointed.
Clevelanders are also used to ribbing about things like the river catching fire and being nicknamed “The Mistake on the Lake.”
Be nice while visiting, okay?
One of the best Italian meals of my life was enjoyed in Cleveland’s Little Italy.
Broadway-Slavic village brings a deep history of Czech and Polish immigrants.
The Clark-Fulton neighborhood is the epicenter of Hispanic and Latino culture.
Searching for soul food and African American culture in Cleveland?
The Lee-Harvard district is the place to be.
The city and surrounding suburbs have an extensive park system as part of an entity known as the Cleveland Metroparks.
If one of the 18 options isn’t good enough for you, then you are way too hard to please.
Download the app for Metroparks to start plotting your outdoor adventure.
Warnings & Dangers in Cleveland
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
While you don't have to worry about the Cuyahoga River catching fire anymore, you do have to worry about incredibly high crime rates. Cleveland is on the top 10 list of the Most Dangerous Cities. The violent crime rate is four times higher than the national average. There are certain neighborhoods much more dangerous than others, and we'll go through those in a little bit.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : MEDIUM
The Regional Transit Authority (RTA) has rail, bus, and trolley options to take you around the region. Taxis and rideshares are available everywhere, and rental cars are easy to get. A series of violent crimes on public transportation or at the stations led to the city creating transit ambassadors to monitor passengers and report issues. There are also cameras on every mode of transportation. It's best to avoid public transportation at night.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM
The actual number of pickpockets reported in 2020 was 36, but the overall theft rate is twice the national average, with a one in 41 risks. You must use caution in crowded spaces and try to put a zipper between your wallet and the outside. It's harder for a pickpocket to sneak open a zipper.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
What many people call a natural disaster Cleveland just calls "Winter." The city gets an average of four and a half feet of snow, and when lake effect snow falls it can pile up quickly. Bitterly cold temperatures are a concern in the winter. Spring brings severe thunderstorm risks, and tornadoes can happen here but aren't as common as in the Midwest and South.
MUGGING RISK : HIGH
There's a high risk here, with the average number of robberies nearly five times higher than the national average, and almost half of those robberies happen in public. Just looking at the data, crooks are more likely to take something from you by force instead of manipulation.
TERRORISM RISK : HIGH
This is a large metro area, and there's a U.S. Department of Defense location downtown. This does make for a higher risk, but it also makes for more security at the port and throughout the city.
SCAMS RISK : MEDIUM
While Cleveland has the typical scams of any U.S. city, you might find them to be more likely here, since it's a large city with elevated crime rates. The Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs actually has a SCAMO bingo car where you can learn about the prevalent scams. If you have questions about scams or need to report a scam, call the county Scam Squad at 216-443-SCAM (7226).
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM
Women are slightly less likely to be crime victims overall, but the sexual assault rate is about two and a half times the national average. Women should travel in groups and avoid walking around at night alone. Use a cab or rideshare instead of public transportation if you are alone during the day.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2021 Water Quality Report shows full compliance with required standards, and there are a lot of great details about the steps taken to keep the water safe. Cleveland Water will let the city know when hydrant flushing could impact the color or consistency of the water, so follow them both on social media to get updates.
Safest Places to Visit in Cleveland
With so many things to do, it’s hard to organize your adventures.
The tourism bureau at ThisIsCleveland.com has put together several “Passport” programs to try out some of the top attractions.
The passports are free, and the tours are self-guided.
- Historic Hidden Gems Passport
- Trailheads & Parks Passport
- International Restaurant Passport
- Cleveland Brewery Passport
- Expressions of Black Culture Passport
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a hallmark attraction of Cleveland.
Tours are available with advance purchase of tickets.
You can also buy passes at a discount to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame or the Great Lakes Science Center.
The Greater Cleveland Aquarium is another show stopper, as sharks swim over your head and you come face-to-face with some of the deep seas’ biggest predators.
Glow in the dark jellyfish is a popular exhibit, and don’t miss the pool where you can pet a stingray.
The Westside Public Market is a foodie’s dream come true.
Over 100 vendors serve unique Cleveland treats, and you can sample a little bit of everything as you wander around.
This is also a historical site, having been open since 1912.
Baseball fans should sign up for a tour of Historic League Park, the oldest ballpark in the country, and the Baseball Heritage Museum, with a diverse range of leagues and players throughout the decades.
I almost forgot to mention Ralphie’s house from A Christmas Story.
In addition to tours being open throughout the year, you can also reserve a night at the house.
There’s also the Bumpuses house next door, which is open to guests, with the Hound Dog Haven suite or the Stolen Turkey suite.
As I researched winter activities, Google gave me a suggested question: “How do people survive in Cleveland in the winter?”
Of course, you can survive and thrive in a Cleveland winter, but you’ll need to bundle up.
You can go ice fishing, walk the beaches of Lake Erie and see frozen gardens, lighthouses, and waterfalls.
Ice fishing is popular, and there are plenty of tours inside cozy shuttle buses to see the lake in its winter state.
Skiers can also head south of Bost Mills Ski Resort to hit the slopes.
While it’s not Aspen, it’s still a skiing adventure that is fun for all, and you won’t have to pay Aspen prices.
Places to Avoid in Cleveland
Cleveland has five police districts spread throughout the city.
District 3 is known as one of the higher violent crime areas, specifically between downtown and University Circle.
There are also some neighborhoods west of Ohio City to avoid.
Overall, crime happens everywhere in major cities.
If you aren’t slinging drugs or trying to get jumped into a gang, you escape a large part of what triggers violent crime.
However, you should use maximum caution in all that you do in Cleveland and ANY large city.
I can tell you I visited Cleveland twice.
Once alone and another time with a friend, and granted, it was about 20 years ago.
I didn’t have any moments of feeling unsafe as a female traveler, but I also grew up in St. Louis, so I have a certain amount of “street smarts.”
I stayed in my “lane” as a tourist and explored the main streets with minimal personal belongings.
As mentioned above, you don’t have to avoid Cleveland in the winter, but pack for some of the coldest temperatures you can imagine.
A lot of what I can tell you when it comes to travel advice is based on what I did wrong.
I visited Cleveland for a job interview in the winter.
I just had to walk a few blocks from my hotel to the television station.
I lived in Arizona then, so I didn’t have a good coat or hat – but it was just a few blocks away, right?
Lake effect snow had just started, and by the time I got to the station, I had a solid inch of snow on my head, which melted me into a wet, cold, soggy mess.
If you don’t have thick winter gear, there are now places where you can rent it for a trip like this one.
You don’t want to spend $300 on a North Face coat you’ll wear once.
If you do have winter gear, a travel hack is to vacuum pack your coat, gloves, scarves, and gloves, so there’s more room in your luggage.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Cleveland
- The Public Safety website for the city of Cleveland is extremely easy to navigate, with a lot of information right on the main page. You can find the commander of each district and how to contact them, read terrorism bulletins, and connect with all the important travel safety resources.
- Cleveland Police have a crime map on that website. Once you open the link, you’ll see an interactive map where you type in any address (your hotel?) and then search for crimes around that location. If you’re worried about robberies, select that crime category. Car thefts? Add that in too. There’s a lot of flexibility in this data, even allowing you to search by day, week, or month.
- Visit the Public Safety Media Gallery on the police department website. The first page is mainly about job openings, but beyond page two, you’ll find valuable resources like videos on river safety, crime tip lines, and other important information for visitors.
- Homeland Security in Ohio has a tip line for reporting suspicious items or activities. That number is 1-877-547-4683.
- Cleveland police, the city, and the surrounding county use CodeRED for emergency alerts. Sign up for these, and you’ll get emergency information right on your mobile device. This will include everything from water pollution issues to weather emergencies to road closures.
- The Cuyahoga River is a great place to visit and explore on a boat or kayak, but you’ll be sharing the water with massive freighters that can’t and won’t navigate around you. Please review the river safety document on the public safety website for best safety practices.
- When parking downtown, if you see a broken meter, don’t park there. Just because the meter is broken doesn’t mean you can park for free. The workers who write tickets “don’t have the authority to determine if a meter is broken” and could write you a ticket anyway.
- OHGO is the website for real-time traffic information across Ohio and into the Cleveland area. Download the mobile app so you can get information as you travel. Both the app and the city website have forms where you can report problems like potholes.
- If you are driving during a Cleveland winter, make sure you have an ice scraper, snow brush, blankets, a full spare tire, and a flashlight. Check with your car rental company to see what emergency items they provide. You don’t want to be stuck in the snow or ice without the right tools.
- Anglers need a fishing license and should be prepared to show the license upon request. You can purchase a non-resident license online and either print it out or save it on your mobile device. A one-day license is $14 or a three-day license is $25.
So... How Safe Is Cleveland Really?
Different perspectives greatly influence the answer to this question.
On one hand, crime data shows the incredible growth of violent crimes.
On the other hand, the mid-2022 report shows a modest decrease in certain crime areas.
Yet, just a month after that report was released, five shootings happened in 13 hours across the city, leaving three people dead and five more injured.
“The City of Cleveland and urban areas across the United States have been severely affected by skyrocketing violent crime statistics, including shootings and homicides.
While many of the cases can be traced to incidents of drug and gang activity, the exact cause of the drastic increase is unknown.”
That was a joint statement issued to Cleveland’s local media from the mayor and police chief.
On top of that, the city is short nearly 300 police officers, another harsh reality facing police forces across the country.
There’s a gap between community relations and the police, and several new programs are hoping to lessen the gap.
Many people will comment, “It’s a big city.. there’s crime everywhere.. if you don’t go looking for trouble, you won’t find it…” All of those statements are true, but what else is true?
The overall crime risks in Cleveland with some shocking risk rates.
- Violent Crime: 1 in 59 risk
- Theft: 1 in 42 risk
- Robbery: 1 in 234 risk
In 2020, 30% of violent crimes happened against strangers.
47% of robberies were in public places.
Now the upside.
Many of the neighborhoods tourists are most likely to visit are among the lower crime rates.
Ohio City, Tremont, University Circle, and downtown have pockets of safe and enjoyable locations.
One of the best tools you’ll have access to this is the concierge at your hotel.
If you don’t have someone there who can help, call the police force district where you are staying and ask them about safety.
Cleveland is too much of a fun city to avoid, but you’ll need the best safety advice you can get during your visit.
How Does Cleveland Compare?
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- Visas - Travelers from outside the U.S. need a work or travel visa and a passport. Bring both of them with you on the flight to show when you go through customs. You can travel freely throughout Cleveland without having to show proof of your visa.
- Currency - Try to purchase as much as possible through the tourism website or directly from vendors ahead of time. You'll need to have U.S. Dollar currency if you prefer to carry cash. There are plenty of places to exchange currency, but use a large bank in a safe neighborhood. Avoid street or public ATMs.
- Weather - Pack several layers of clothing so you can adapt to the weather in Cleveland. Base layers will be important to preserve body heat in the winter, and don't leave your head or hands exposed to the elements. Spring and fall bring a wide variety of temperatures but plan for jeans and sweatshirt weather. Summers can be wonderful here, but you'll get some humidity.
- Airports - Cleveland Hopkins International Airport is about 13 miles from downtown, but check a traffic map to see how long it will take to get there. Very early flights could be as quick as 15 minutes, but it could be upwards of an hour during rush hour traffic.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance isn't a waste of money. It's a great investment in case of flight delays, weather cancellations, or injuries during your trip.
Cleveland Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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