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
Illinois might be landlocked, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a day at the beach.
Evanston, Illinois, actually has several of them.
This is a crossroads of city life, suburban relaxation, and beachfront access in one of the biggest metropolitan areas in the country.
This North Shore community of the Chicago area is home to Northwestern University, bringing a youthful vibe and politically-savvy population.
Evanston is also a diverse community in its residents, restaurants, museums, and entertainment.
You’ll also find some of the most stately historic homes on this side of Lake Michigan.
The art scene is bustling here with new exhibits coming in throughout the year and several theaters that house local and traveling shows.
The city is split up into several neighborhoods:
- Central Street
- Main-Dempster Mile
Evanston is also a movie star in its own right, having been the backdrop for some John Huges classics like Sixteen Candles, a coming-of-age film from 1984.
From a lighthouse tour to a late-night hotdog, there’s something for everyone in Evanston.
Warnings & Dangers in Evanston
OVERALL RISK : LOW
Forget what you've heard about Chicago's crime rate. Evanston has a low risk and shouldn't be lumped into other, more dangerous areas. At worst, it meets the national average in a crime category and, at best, it's far below.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
There's low risk with a lot of options for getting around Evanston. You can take the Metra train or Chicago Transit Authority's (CTA) "L Train." There is also a bus system. You'll need to dig through the Metra or CTA website because in a city this large there are a lot of stops and ways to get around. Taxis and rideshares are ready on demand. You can be in Evanston without having a car and not miss a thing.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
There's a low risk of being pickpocketed but the theft rate is one in 71, so you can't let your guard down. People in big cities like Chicago are well-versed in how to protect their belongings and you should be too. For example, in the winter, you can put your purse over your shoulder before you put on a winter coat. This makes it very hard for someone to snatch a purse.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : LOW
Evanston gets about four feet of snow each winter, mostly due to the lake-effect snow coming off Lake Michigan. Spring brings an increased risk of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes that last through the summer. There are far more dangerous places in the Midwest for tornadoes, but the Chicago area does get them from time to time. There's low risk on any given day, but if storms are forecast you need to have a good weather app to keep up with watches and warnings.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
There were just 37 robberies in 2020, which isn't that high for a city of almost 80,000 people plus Northwestern adds another 20,000 people. There's a one in 2111 chance of being a robbery victim. You should always be on guard because this is part of a big city.
TERRORISM RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk here because of the population size throughout the Chicago area. Terrorists like to target as many people as they can in one spot. There have been terror plots thwarted against Chicago, showing that Homeland Security takes any risk seriously.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
No matter how big or small a city is that I research, there's always a utility scam or a threatening call from a fake police officer demanding money. Evanston is no different. There aren't any scams that target tourists reported. You should always be on guard, however, because Chicago has some fast-talking people who could come up with a get-rich-quick scheme and try to find victims. Don't be one of them.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
As long as a woman is practicing basic personal security, there's a low risk here. The entire city had four rapes, and while that's four too many, it's an incredibly low rate compared to other parts of the Chicago area. There is also a lot for a woman to do here, so less chance someone will be wandering around bored.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
2021 marked another year of no water violations for the City of Evanston Water Utility Company. There's a low risk in the water and you are safe to use it.
Safest Places to Visit in Evanston
You can easily spend a day at the beach, starting at the Grosse Point Lighthouse.
You can go up to the lighthouse on weekends from June through September.
Reservations are not allowed, so get there early as only six people can go up at a time.
The grounds around the lighthouse are open throughout the year.
When you’re done at the lighthouse, you’ll be at Lighthouse Beach.
There are pavilions and plenty of beach space to kick back and watch the lake waters flow.
During colder months, the water is off-limits for swimming, but the sand is always open.
Lighthouse Beach is one of six beaches in Evanston.
See more natural beauty at the Ladd Memorial Arboretum and Evanton Ecology Center.
Check the schedule while you’re visiting as there might be a live performance of some kind.
You can also rent snowshoes here if there are at least three inches of snow on the ground.
You can also see hundreds of community gardens here.
The museums in Evanston reflect the diversity and astuteness of the community.
- Frances Willard House Museum and Archives at the Center for Women’s History and Leadership
- Mitchell Museum of the American Indian
- Block Museum of Art
- Charles Gates Dawes House
- Hallum Time & Glass Museum
Hundreds of restaurants are in Evanston of all ethnicities and price points.
A gentle reminder that Chicago is known for its deep-dish pizza, so you should try it while you visit.
A Chicago-style hotdog should also be on your culinary to-do list.
Places to Avoid in Evanston
There isn’t a place in Evanston that is dangerous to visit, but the crime maps do show the central part of the city has more crime than the north or south ends, with one exception at the far south end where it meets with the city of Chicago boundary.
A few things about Chicago to know before you go.
People will ask if you are a baseball fan and what your favorite team is.
The Cubs and the White Sox are both in Chicago, but separate leagues.
I’m from St. Louis and I’m a Cardinal fan, so people in Chicago (at least the Cubs fans) would hate my answer.
Football is a beloved sport here, though the Bears – I’m sorry “Da Bears” – aren’t the best team in the league.
It doesn’t matter how good or bad a team is. Chicago fans are fiercely loyal.
Do your research and avoid standing out as a tourist as much as you can.
There’s a lot to learn about how things work here, like public transportation.
This is a city that moves as fast as it talks and you don’t want to be standing on a crowded sidewalk with your head buried in your phone looking for Marta fare purchasing.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Evanston
- Evanston wants to help you now and when you visit. If you call 311 any time you are in the city or (847)448-4311 (you can text too), you can ask any question about where to eat, how to get around, what’s happening, if the Cubs lost, etc.
- Evanston Police Department has a crime map on its website showing the different sections of town and updated crime rates. This is very helpful when choosing where to visit or where to stay. There are charts and graphics that also break down annual and quarterly crimes. It’s very helpful to get an updated glance at crime rates and conditions closer to your visit.
- While you’re on the website, check out the series of videos about “Policing in Evanston.” You can learn about the use of force rules and the body camera system officers use during every interaction with the public.
- If you get information about a crime while you are there, you can “Text a Tip” to the police. You just start the message by spelling out CRIMES (274637) as the phone number. Before you type the information, write “EPDTIP.” Send as much detail as you can. Your tip will remain anonymous and you’ll be given an alias in case there are follow-up questions.
- If you are driving in Evanston, follow the speed limit. Since this is a highly residential area, neighborhoods have a 25 mph speed limit that is strictly enforced. You’re going to want to go slow to see the beautiful homes, anyway.
- Evanston has several marijuana dispensaries as part of the law in 2020 that allows recreational use in Illinois. If that sounds like something you want to do, please review the details of the law because it’s not a free-for-all. You can’t ingest or inhale cannabis in public. You have to be 21 years old and must be in a private home where the owner of the home is aware and okay with the act.
- If you are parking in Evanston, download the ParkEvanston app. You can find parking and pay for it right on your mobile device. There are a lot of parking options in the city with different time limits and fees, so this is a perfect way to safely review the information without getting out of your car.
- Anglers will love fishing on Lake Michigan and there are plenty of tournaments scheduled throughout the year. Evanston does have a marina and there are plenty more in other cities along the shoreline. You will need an Illinois fishing license. Your home state or country license won’t suffice.
- It’s illegal to text and drive in Illinois and, as a double whammy, it’s also illegal in Evanston. You can use Bluetooth or voice-activated functions, but if you need to touch the phone you should pull over.
- Evanston has a lot of free WiFi sections of the city. This does not mean your connection is secure. It’s up to you to get a firewall or a VPN to protect your personal information. If you aren’t sure how to do that, stop by an electronics store in your hometown for some help. You don’t want someone searching for unsecured connections while you’re checking your bank account. There are ways to safely use public WiFi.
So... How Safe Is Evanston Really?
I’ve spent the bulk of this day writing articles about Illinois cities and crime/safety information.
Evanston is a breath of fresh air from some of the more dangerous communities I’ve researched.
By every crime comparison, it’s one of the safer cities in Illinois.
Here’s how the crime risk breaks down:
- Violent Crime: 1 in 605
- Robbery: 1 in 2111
- Theft: 1 in 72
- Motor Vehicle Theft: 1 in 1301
You do have to keep in mind this is part of a very large metropolitan area and the safety risks can change as you cross city boundaries.
You should explore the whole metro region in-depth to make sure you aren’t staying in a safe place but visiting unsafe places.
The only downside to Evanston is it’s not the gritty city life some people crave when they come to Chicago.
It’s a blend of urban and suburban.
It’s a socially conscious community that isn’t afraid to protest injustices.
It’s also not immune to crime, so you shouldn’t let your guard down because of the good safety numbers.
As some Illinois cities have seen over the past few years, it doesn’t take long for a safe area to turn dangerous.
How Does Evanston Compare?
- Visas - You'll just need a Visa to get into the United States as you go through Customs. Border Patrol and Homeland Security will review your information before you leave the airport.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here and it's wise not to carry around a lot of cash. Pay for as much as you can in advance or use one charge card so you can better monitor fraud concerns.
- Weather - You'll get all four seasons in Evanston and each one brings pros and cons. Winters can be bitterly cold and you will need full winter gear. Don't forget snow boots. Spring and fall can have variable temperatures throughout the day, so dress in layers. In summer, you can't escape the humidity but you can cool off in the lake, so bring your bathing suit.
- Airports - You can get to both O'Hare and Midway airports in Chicago in about an hour. O'Hare is a bit closer to Evanston. Add extra time if you are traveling during the rush hours because traffic here is quite intense.
- Travel Insurance - It's smart to get travel insurance in case of any delays. I actually go out of my way to not fly through O'Hare because I always end up with a flight delay. I do, however, have the same bad luck at the Phoenix airport, so don't think that happens to everyone. Travel insurance just helps you in case it does happen to you.
Evanston Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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