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
You should probably visit Galesburg, Illinois before it disappears.
Ok, that was a little dramatic, but the city’s population is shrinking with each census check.
This is the epitome of small-town Illinois in the town named after George Washington Gale who also founded Knox College, which still stands to this day in Galesburg.
That college also hosted one of many Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1858 and tours of the hall are still held.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Carl Sandburg was inspired by the life of Lincoln and grew up here and his works are still cherished to this day.
Ok, enough about history.
What about the present?
Galesburg offers several attractions that do honor the history of the city, like a railroad museum, the Carl Sandburg State Historic Site, and walking tours of historical areas.
You can also spend a day at the beach in this landlocked state out at Lake Storey.
Even this small town of 30,000 has a lot to offer shoppers through several districts, from red brick roads with unique boutiques to incredible antique deals and more modern shopping at Seminary Square and Henderson Street.
Dining options are abundant, with everything from a fancier steakhouse to a sweet treat store to BBQ you can smell several blocks away.
One of the only things that stinks about Galesburg is the crime rate, a phrase I’ve written different ways for many different cities in Illinois, which is currently plagued by increasing gun violence.
Warnings & Dangers in Galesburg
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk here. The crime rates here are all at or above the state and national averages. Now, it's worth mentioning that crime rates are given by the number of crimes divided by population and then multiplied by 100,000. This gives a risk of "per 100,000", which is how the FBI ranks cities. The small towns can get a bad rap for this because a few crimes in either direction could greatly skew the results. However, even the police chief states in the 2021 Annual Police Report that crimes against people are up nearly 40% since 2017 in Galesburg.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
The city has a bus system with four routes. The buses don't run on Sundays and they stop running every other day at 6:15 pm. Taxis and rideshares do exist here, but they won't be as on-demand as you'd probably like. If you really want to enjoy everything Galesburg and Knox County have to offer, you'll want to rent a car.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM
There is a one in 36 risks of being a theft victim here. The annual report didn't break down how many of those were pickpockets or shoplifting, etc. However, the general risk of something being stolen is medium, so we'll assign that risk here too.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
One quick search of Galesburg 2015 on YouTube and you can see all too well the tornado risk this area faces throughout the spring, mostly, but also summer and late fall. Severe thunderstorms happen more often. Winter is going to bring snow and ice. All storms come with fair warning, but you need to be prepared for how to handle them. I grew up with tornadoes, so I'm one of those people who chases them. However, many people have never been in a tornado risk area until they visited here, so you should study the emergency management section of the city's website to be prepared for all extreme weather.
MUGGING RISK : MEDIUM
The robbery risk is the only crime category that doesn't make you cringe. The risk is one in 2003. However, the violent crime rate is 40% higher than the national average, so sometimes a robbery can technically be listed as an aggravated assault if force is used. I don't want you to take any chances, so we're going to call this a medium risk, as violent crime is on the rise here as of 2022.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here. The biggest threats come from people within the community who are criminals and no terror group would put Galesburg as a hard target.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
Most of the scams here are targeted at residents, but there was one in 2019 I want to warn you about. A man flagged down a car and said something was wrong with the tire (even though nothing was wrong with the tire). He then pretended to do work on the tire, claimed to be a mechanic, and demanded money. He was forceful but never showed a weapon.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM
This is a crime statistic I haven't seen in my 25 years of reporting crime data. The sexual assault rate is double the robbery rate. So, we're going to call it a medium risk. While 31 sexual assaults might not seem overwhelming, it's still a rate that is far too high and is almost three times the national average.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2021 Water Quality Report shows that no violations were found in the drinking water and all water meets the requirements of the state and EPA.
Safest Places to Visit in Galesburg
There are no less than eight self-guided walking tours that are catered to areas of interest like architecture, churches, history in general, or the history of presidents.
There’s even a list of common architecture terms so you can learn or teach the little ones as you go.
For summer visitors, Lake Storey Beach is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
There are no lifeguards on duty and no gas-powered boats are allowed, but you can rent kayaks and paddleboats.
Anglers will find plenty of catfish, walleye, and muskies in the waters.
The surrounding park is open throughout the year and is a great place for some snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.
Galesburg’s Discovery Depot Children’s Museum taps into the railroad history of the city and the imagination of every visitor.
There are plenty of interactive exhibits to keep every family busy.
You’ll find several attractions named after George Washington Gale Ferris, the inventor of the Ferris Wheel, who is from Galesburg.
For a deeper look into the railroad history here, visit the Galesburg Railroad Museum.
You can see train cars and engines from throughout the eras of railway transportation and learn about the future of railroads.
There’s even a memorial garden for those who lost their lives doing railroad work.
There are several shopping and dining districts in Galesburg:
- Seminary Street: More historic shopping area
- Downtown District: Locally owned shops
- Henderson Street & Seminary Square: Modern shopping
You can also attend the Farmer’s Market every Saturday from late spring through fall.
This is at the corner of Simmons & Kellogg.
Given that this is farmland, you’ll find the traditional fruits and veggies, but also locally produced meats.
Places to Avoid in Galesburg
Galesburg isn’t that big of a city, but the most crime happens along, south, and southwest of Main Street right through the heart of town.
There isn’t any imminent danger in this area, but you should use consistent personal safety tactics, like locking the car and removing all belongings before leaving it parked and protecting your purse and wallet from being easy to snatch.
There might still be some maps that show the Sandburg Mall on it, but that mall closed down in 2018 as the death of the traditional local shopping mall has hit many communities across America.
There are plans to turn the mall’s skeleton into a convention center, so you might see that construction happening when you visit.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Galesburg
- With crime on the rise here, it’s good to have the non-emergency number to the Galesburg Police so you can ask questions before and during your visit. That number sis (309)343-9151.
- To report crime information anonymously, you can call Crime Stoppers at (309)344-0044. If you have information that leads to an arrest you could get a reward. There’s an online form where you can submit information too. The program handed out almost $3000 in reward during 2021.
- Like most Illinois communities, Galesburg has a rule you can’t park on the street if more than two inches of snow have accumulated and this “snow emergency” law goes until 12 hours have passed or the road has been plowed. You can get ticketed or towed if you don’t adhere to the law.
- You’ll need a fishing license from the state of Illinois if you want to catch fish while you’re here, and you should study the fishing limits at your preferred fishing hole too. While many lakes are catch and release, some lakes limit the number of fish you can take with you.
- If you are outside and a storm moves in, any body of water is off-limits until 30 minutes after the last rumble of thunder. While this is a self-guided law, since many swimming holes outside of the rec areas don’t have lifeguards, it’s in your best interest to follow this rule.
- If you are using public transportation the average fare is $.60. You can use cash if you’d prefer, but the drivers won’t make a change for larger than a $5 bill. You can buy a pass at the Galesburg Maintenance Facility. There is a 10 punch card for $5 or a month-long pass for $20.
- Visitors will love the sled libraries available in the winter. These sleds are available at the two sledding hills, located at Rotary and Debbie Klapp parks. The plastic sleds are available in bins and you just grab one, use it, and return it when done.
- Bunker Links Golf Course does allow cross country skiing, but please stay off the golf course greens so the soil doesn’t get damaged for the next golf season.
- Use of a mobile device while driving isn’t allowed and even holding a phone in your hand can get you a ticket. Be sure to activate hands-free options before hitting the road.
- You can use recreational marijuana in Galesburg, but there are plenty of limits to the law. Even with the legality of recreational marijuana, there were still 190 pounds seized and 62 violations recorded in 2021.
So... How Safe Is Galesburg Really?
In Spring of 2022, the Knox County Sheriff’s Department suffered a terrible loss while a deputy was deploying spike strips for a suspect on the run.
The suspect’s car hit the deputy and killed him.
This was devastating for the community.
In 2021, four people were killed and six others were victims of attempted murder.
Nine people were arrested in connection with those crimes, so at least there is hope for justice for the victims and their families.
Nearly 60 reports of aggravated gun discharge resulted in 31 arrests and 25 guns taken off the streets.
I’m not just randomly throwing data at you.
I want to show that even with the increase in crime, the Galesburg Police Department and Knox County Sheriff are going after the criminals.
As the country struggles with an Opioid Crisis, authorities in Galesburg and Knox County took 13 pounds of meth off the streets too.
Aside from robbery, all the crime rates are higher than the national averages.
The police chief told KWQC in 2021 that there are more guns on the streets being fueled by increase drug activity.
Chief Rusell Idle said a lot of factors are driving the increase in crime, from mental health, pandemic impact/recovery, and desperation of people without jobs.
The county does have strict gun crime sentencing and a “no plea bargain” mentality.
The chief summed up a question bout increasing crime rates by saying this, “We always want community members to be vigilant, to pay attention, but I also want community members to know Galesburg is a safe community to live.”
How Does Galesburg Compare?
- Visas - You will need to plan for the Visa process to take about four months, so start this early. You will show it to Customs agents when you arrive in the country, but you won't need to show it as you travel around the different cities.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here. While I didn't find any place that only accepts cash, there generally are some in small towns like this. If you do carry cash, you should avoid large sums of it being visible in your wallet. I like to put $20 in one pocket and maybe a few $5s in another.
- Weather - You'll get all four seasons here, so plan accordingly. Summers will be humid, so you'll sweat a lot. It might be a good idea to bring a baseball hat to cover up the sweat on your forehead. Winters can get extremely, if not dangerously, cold, so plan warm layers with waterproof boots.
- Airports - You can fly in and out of Peoria or the Quad Cities, but the latter is going to be closer to 44 miles away. Peoria is 48 miles away. Each drive should take less than an hour, but plan more time if there is winter weather happening.
- Travel Insurance - You'll be thankful for travel insurance as you explore the natural outdoor amenities here.
Galesburg Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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