Indiana : Safety by City
- Cedar Lake
- Crown Point
- Fort Wayne
- Michigan City
- Santa Claus
- South Bend
- Terre Haute
- Winona Lake
Load up the RV and let’s head to Elkhart, Indiana.
This is, after all, the RV Capital of the World.
80% of the RVs on the road come from this part of Indiana.
Elkhart is in the northern part of the state, near the Michigan border, earning this region the nickname “Michiana.”
This is a working-class city of 54,000 people.
The St. Joseph River cuts right through the “hart” of the city, making for great outdoor waterside activities.
There are several cities connected in this area, such as South Bend, Mishawaka, Granger, and Goshen.
Each one has its own flair and you’ll find sweeping landscapes of Amish County once you leave the cities.
The Heritage Trail is a huge tourist boom for this region, and it takes you along lazy roads and scenic spots in Elkhart County.
There’s even an audio guide you can use to explain all the interesting things you’re seeing.
One travel tip for this area is that a lot of places are closed or have limited hours on Sundays, so as you plan your trip, keep that in mind.
Sundays might be best spent relaxing by the river, anyway.
Warnings & Dangers in Elkhart
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
There are many reports out there that Elkhart is one of the most dangerous cities in Indiana. I've researched just about every city, and while the crime rate is higher than average, there are many cities far worse off. A recent uptick in gun violence in 2022 is leading me to give this a medium risk, but it's not as dangerous as nearby South Bend.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
The Interurban Trolley is the bus system between Mishawaka, Elkhart, and Goshen (with plenty of stops at popular destinations). You can't get to South Bend using the trolley, but you can connect in Mishawaka to the TRANSPO bus service to South Bend. Taxis and rideshares are available. To enjoy this entire region, you should rent a car. I can't even imagine what an Uber cost would be on a Heritage Trail road trip.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
There were three pickpockets in 2020, which gives it a low risk. However, this is the part I found interesting. The FBI lists the crimes with the average amount stolen in a theft crime. Purse snatchings were the second-highest value of all the items listed. The average take for a purse snatcher was $735 and one wallet was stolen with a value of $510. We can't stress enough that this isn't the place to bring your expensive purse or to carry around a lot of cash.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
You'll have year-round risks here. Winter brings snow, ice, and sleet. Most of the time it's very manageable, but there can be blizzards or ice accumulations that stop all traffic in its tracks. Spring brings an enhanced risk of tornadoes with severe thunderstorms, and that risk lessens but still exists, through the summer and fall. With the river in the center of town, there's a flooding risk too. All of this adds up to medium risk.
MUGGING RISK : MEDIUM
One-third of all robberies in Elkhart happen in public, and some of them are quite egregious. There was a robbery here caught on tape where two people beat a paralyzed man in a wheelchair because they saw money sticking out of his pocket. Because of the increase in violent crime, and the ruthlessness of robbers, we're giving this a medium risk level.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here unless a terror group suddenly grows a hatred of recreational vehicles. There are no military targets or large population areas here, and terror groups are more likely to target places like Chicago or Indianapolis.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
There are plenty of phone scams going around Elkhart, but nothing that should concern a person visiting here. You should always be aware of the potential for new scams, and report any type of fraudulent activity to the police.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
The sexual assault rate here is slightly higher than the national average. If you are visiting the wide variety of attractions here and staying off the streets by yourself at night, there's a low risk. You just really can't let your guard down here at all and never go to a private home with someone you have just met. 64% of violent crimes here happen in private homes.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The water quality in Elkhart meets or exceeds the required standards, but there was one violation in 2021. The nitrate test wasn't properly analyzed, leaving a gap in information about water quality at that time. The City of Elkhart says the issue has been resolved and steps have been put in place to avoid this happening again. There's low risk when using the water and kudos to the utility for being transparent about its mistake.
Safest Places to Visit in Elkhart
You can’t come to the RV Capital of the World without seeing the RV/MH Hall of Fame.
You’ll get to see the specific footprint Indiana had on the growing trend of recreational vehicles throughout the decades.
Be sure to stop by the gift shop for the RV lover in your life.
Wellfield Botanic Gardens is open year-round for seasonal blooms among 20 themed gardens.
Even the kids have their own garden to explore.
Don’t miss the waterfall while you’re visiting.
During the holidays, the gardens are lit up in the spirit of the season.
Normally, I wouldn’t take you far outside of a city for a tourist attraction, but just 12 miles east is one of those “can’t miss” attractions for the region.
The Bonneyville Mill is a tourist attraction, historical landmark, and beautiful park all wrapped up in one stop.
The Mill is the oldest of its kind in the state and it’s open from April through November.
The park itself is open throughout the year and is a top cross-country skiing and sledding destination in the winter.
You can also go fishing here.
Check the calendar of events to see if there’s a festival or tour at the mill during your visit.
Back in Elkhart, it’s a bird.
It’s a plane.
No, it’s the Hall of Heroes Comic and Superhero Museum.
From one-of-a-kind superhero outfits to 60,000 comic books and original comic artwork on top of that, any superhero fan shouldn’t miss this unique stop.
Linton’s Enchanted Gardens is like a fairy tale made of flowers.
This is actually just a garden store, but this is far more elaborate than the flower section of Home Depot.
There are handmade fashion items and a restaurant on-site too.
A train takes the kids to a petting zoo or you can go mining for gems.
This is another great attraction open throughout the year.
You can’t visit this railroad town without seeing the National New York Central Railroad Museum.
One step into this museum and you’re back in the heyday of train travel when going across the country was a huge deal and the railroad paved the way for further exploration.
There’s really so much more to see in Elkhart and Elkhart County.
VisitElkhartCounty.com can help you better plan your trip.
Places to Avoid in Elkhart
There’s a large chunk of the central part of the community that lights up when it comes to crime data mapping.
There really isn’t a super safe part of town until you get to the very edges of the city.
You can search the interactive crime map in the area where you are staying and places you want to visit on the Elkhart Police Department’s website to get a better idea of crime trends near your visit date.
You should avoid visiting the nearby cities without doing some research on them.
We’ve covered most of the cities and towns in this region, so the answers are just a click or two away.
This is definitely an area where a few miles can be the difference between a very safe city and an extremely dangerous one.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Elkhart
- The City of Elkhart has an app where you can find out about local events, see the closest tourist attractions, and report any issues (potholes?) you come across.
- If you are the victim of a non-violent crime, like a car break-in, you can report it via an online form on the police department’s website. You’ll be emailed a summary of the report and a case number for follow-ups. If you need immediate assistance but don’t require a 911 call, you can call the police at (574) 295-7070.
- Since this is Amish County, you need to be focused on the road when driving, because Amish get around in horse and buggies. They have every right to be on the road, but it can be frustrating to get stuck behind a vehicle going 8 miles per hour. Give yourself plenty of time to pass and don’t tailgate a buggy.
- In the winter, you can only go sledding, tubing, or cross country skiing in areas dedicated to those activities. There are several parks in Elkhart and Elkhart County where this is allowed, so research the park website to find the one that is right for you.
- You’ll need a fishing license, even for catch and release fishing here. You can get that license on the website of the Indiana Department of Fish & Wildlife. Some different types of fishing require special permits or stamps on top of the license, so make sure you know exactly what you can and can’t do with the license you purchase.
- If you see any graffiti in the city or parks, you should report it to the police department by calling (574)295-7070. There is also an online form to fill out if you’d prefer. Graffiti can be indicative of gang behavior and its fast removal is important to lessen gang impacts on communities.
- The National Weather Service in this area covers Northern Indiana. The NWS code for this region is IWX. You can look at the Twitter account for the NWS local office or go directly to the website for forecasts each day and see any weather warnings that exist. As I write this, the entire area is under an excessive heat warning, which is critical information for a tourist who might not be used to the high humidity and hot temperatures this region gets each summer.
- It is not recommended to go swimming in the St. Joseph River, but nobody is going to stop you. The water quality has long been an issue with elevated levels of e. Coli, and while improvements have been made, it’s still not 100% safe. Then add in the strong river current and unseen limbs, rocks, and debris in the water, and you could get hurt, trapped, or pulled under. You should also check with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management about how safe the fish caught in the river are to eat.
- 22% of the Elkhart population lives in poverty. This has led to a homeless problem, especially in the downtown area. If you get panhandled or approached for money, just give a firm “No” and keep walking. There are homeless organizations in town you can make a donation to if you’d like to help.
- The winter weather here can do a number on the roads, so spring and summer bring a lot of road construction. Right now there’s a repaving project happening throughout the city. You’ll be able to keep up with construction updates on the city’s website or the 511in.org app. Your GPS system might not be updated with the most recent road closure for a hyper-local city.
So... How Safe Is Elkhart Really?
Elkhart is one of many cities in Indiana dealing with a growing problem of gun violence and drug crimes.
The low-income levels in the city aren’t helping.
One of the growing trends is that a small population of criminals is causing the majority of crimes in cities.
It’s the same in Elkhart.
Two 16-year-olds were charged in 2022 with a shooting at 7-Eleven.
Another man took his own life in a Kentucky Fried Chicken after stabbing his girlfriend to death.
That’s the biggest risk for a traveler here is getting caught in the crossfire of one of these crimes.
You can lock your car, hide your wallet, avoid rough neighborhoods, and avoid walking around at night, but stopping at a convenience store or fast-food restaurant is just part of traveling and it should be a safe activity.
The risk of being a victim of a violent crime here is one in 231 and the risk of being a theft victim is one in 79.
64% of violent crimes happen in homes, so there’s some assurance that public areas aren’t as dangerous as the data suggests.
Just 4% of the violent crimes were against strangers, so that helps ward off fears as well.
You just can’t let your guard down here, and if you stay alert, you’ll really enjoy the wide variety of activities Elkhart has to offer.
How Does Elkhart Compare?
|Siem Reap (Cambodia)||63|
|Phnom Penh (Cambodia)||61|
|Niagara Falls (Canada)||87|
- Visas - You'll need about four months to get your visa application processed, so start early. You'll fill out paperwork and be required to do an in-person interview. Once you are in the country, you don't need your visa to travel between cities or states.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here and you should avoid carrying cash. Use one credit card and set up fraud alerts before you go. Never throw away a receipt in a public trash can without shredding it first.
- Weather - You'll need head-to-toe winter clothing as it can get quite cold here. There are times that warming shelters need to open because it's too cold for the homeless to be on the streets. Dress in warm layers and don't forget a couple of winter hats. Summers are going to be muggy and you're going to sweat a lot, so pack accordingly. Also, bring bug spray for the warmer months. Mosquito bites can quickly ruin a fun outdoor adventure.
- Airports - South Bend International Airport is about 45 minutes away on the other side of the metro area. If you'd like to drive a little longer for a bigger airport, you can take the two-hour trip to the Chicago area airports.
- Travel Insurance - You should review travel insurance options for a trip to a place where the weather can be so extreme.
Elkhart Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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