Indiana : Safety by City
- Cedar Lake
- Crown Point
- Fort Wayne
- Michigan City
- Santa Claus
- South Bend
- Terre Haute
- Winona Lake
Did you know part of the Chicago area crosses state lines?
The first stop on the Indiana side is the community of Hammond.
If you can look past the massive industrial footprint of this city, you’ll see a variety of districts and neighborhoods with unique architecture and historical sites.
For the more modern traveler, you’ve got several casinos to choose from and several beaches to choose from on the shore of Lake Michigan.
For anyone who loves the holiday class “A Christmas Story” with Ralphie and his quest for a BB Gun should know this is the home of the author who brought that story to us.
While the movie was technically set in “Hohman, Indiana,” Hohman is not a real city and all the aesthetics were based on Hammond.
Hammond borders Gary, Indiana, where the Jackson 5 grew up in a modest home that is still open for a drive-by or stop-by tour.
You just can’t go inside.
Getting around Hammond, Lake County, and the Chicago area is easy with several public transportation lines, bicycle trails, and easily accessible freeways.
As a travel safety researcher, I always love a good challenge.
I want to warn you, my researching travel friends, that the Hammond city and police department websites aren’t as robust as you’d like.
They both look like something created shortly after the Internet was discovered and are best viewed on a desktop version unless you have the eyesight of a hawk.
Hammond is a working-class city with proud people.
They aren’t afraid of a hard day’s work and will give you the shirt off their back if you need it.
That said, it’s not one of the fanciest suburbs in the Chicago area.
There are beautiful shorelines, some outdoor attractions off Lake Michigan, and several casinos.
Add in the historical areas and it’s easy to see Hammond in one day.
Warnings & Dangers in Hammond
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk in Hammond, but it's nothing that basic safety protocol and good common sense can't overcome. The violent and property crime rates are higher than the national and state averages, with property crimes being up to five times higher.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : MEDIUM
You can ride the South Shore Line which runs to Chicago and South Bend on the far end, and Pace bus routes service here too. Taxis and rideshares are available. If you're renting a car, be sure to check if the vehicle has an EZ Pass device because you'll likely be traveling on toll roads. There's a medium risk on public transportation just to keep you aware of your surroundings and avoid any sketchy people at bus or train stops. Stick close to the security office or surveillance camera while you wait.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM
There were 23 pickpockets reported in 2020 with an average loss of $350. Due to medium risk, you should really whittle down what you bring in public and take extra steps to keep your purse or wallet out of sight.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk due to a lot of potential for natural disasters including flooding, flooding with toxic water, severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, winter storms, and ice storms. All of these risks come with plenty of warning and fall under the Lake County Emergency Management Plan.
MUGGING RISK : MEDIUM
40% of the robberies that took place happened in public places and 9% of violent crimes here happened against strangers. It's a medium risk that you should take seriously. Nearby Gary has one of the highest homicide rates in the country. You should never fight back if you're the victim of a robbery. Just try to remember as much detail as possible so you can be a good witness.
TERRORISM RISK : MEDIUM
Hammond wouldn't be a hard target itself, but being part of the greater Chicago area, it's going to come with a medium risk. One of the biggest terror concerns would be the poisoning of Lake Michigan, which in turn could impact the water supply to millions of people.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
The Hammond Police Department warns of several scams in the city, but they are all phone-based, and some target elderly residents. There aren't any tourist scam warnings, but you should always walk away from deals that seem too good to be true. There's a low risk for a tourist, but don't let your guard down.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM
Women who visit here should be very attentive to their surroundings. There are places like the casinos which are going to have constant surveillance. Being out after night isn't recommended if you aren't in a group. There's a medium risk just because of the high crime rates that impact everyone.
TAP WATER RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk in the water when reviewing the 2021 Annual Water Quality Report. There were a lot of categories where the water tested met or exceeded requirements, but there were two violations reported in 2021. One focused on the potential for lead or copper contamination in the water for a five-month period, and another was for failure to test during a certain month. If you have water quality questions closer to your time of visit, you can call (219)853-6439.
Safest Places to Visit in Hammond
The South Shore “Welcome to Indiana” center is a great place to review all the attractions when you’re visiting and you can see what’s open and what’s closed for the season or permanently.
There’s also an exhibit hall here with displays by local artists.
During the Christmas season, you can see a display that looks just like the one seen in “A Christmas Story” in the opening sequence.
The Challenger Learning Center is an educational experience dedicated to the astronauts and American teachers who lost their lives in the shuttle tragedy.
While this center is mostly for field trips, there are public events throughout the year.
Check the website to see the schedule of events.
Hammond’s Lakefront Beach is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day with swimming, boating, and fishing all available.
There’s a nearby trail where birdwatchers will love the sights and sounds.
Nearby is the Marina if you want to charter a boat or ask about tours.
The Horseshoe Casino sits on the lakefront and has all the excitement of Las Vegas nestled in northwestern Indiana.
This section of the lakefront with a casino reminds me very much of Biloxi, Mississippi.
If you want to avoid the Lake Michigan crowds, try out Wolf Lake and the surrounding wilderness area.
You can even walk there from the Marina.
There’s a pavilion here too, with concerts and performances scheduled regularly.
All the things you can do on Lake Michigan you can do on Lake Wolf.
This area is open throughout the year too, unlike the beaches that are only open seasonally.
Places to Avoid in Hammond
The highest crime areas are going to be south of I-90.
That’s also the more residential part of the city, so there’s not a whole lot of things for a tourist to explore there.
It’s important when we talk about high crime areas to really know what that means.
For example, the theft rate here is nearly twice the national average.
That’s a “clutch your purse” statistic, but let’s break that down even further:
- Shoplifting: 44% of all thefts
- Car Break-ins: 20% of all thefts
- Pickpockets & Purse Snatchings: 1%
- “All Other” (could be stealing stuff from yards or items left on the beach): 26%
You should also avoid looking for the house from “A Christmas Story,” as it’s not located here.
The exterior of the home is in Cleveland, Ohio, and is now turned into a museum.
It’s just the city of Hammond that inspired the movie, not the actual setting of it.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Hammond
- To keep better tabs on criminal activity in Hammond, you should follow the police department on Facebook and not just rely on the outdated website.
- You can call the Hammond Police Department directly if you can’t get the answers you want on the website (and you probably won’t). The non-emergency number is (219)853-6490.
- Using the Hammond 311 website, you can report issues like potholes, broken streetlights, graffiti, or submit a crime tip. This is all done by typing out a form that goes right to the police.
- Before going into Lake Michigan, you should check the hazardous weather conditions page of the National Weather Service. This will list things like rip currents, unsafe wave action, and water contamination issues. If you see large waves on the beach, even without a rip current warning, you should avoid the water.
- There are a lot of birding spots in the Hammond area. You are asked not to feed the birds under any circumstances. This can be dangerous to the birds and make other birds come flock around you looking for the next meal.
- If you don’t have an EZ Pass while taking the toll roads here, you can find out how much the toll is going to cost along the length of your trip. If you don’t have cash or miss a toll booth, you have 30 days to make the payment. Nobody is going to stop you from traveling if you don’t have payment on hand.
- Hammond is not an easy city to research. There’s not a city website just for tourists and other websites are about Indiana with just a slice of Hammond included. If you want to see what’s going on locally or learn about the latest news, you can view the Hammond TV website and watch local meetings or news conferences to get a better connection with the community.
- You’ll need a fishing license if you are going to fish in any lake or river here. It will be valid across Indiana. There are special stamps and permits for certain fish, so be sure to review exactly what you need on the website for the Indiana Department of Fish & Game before you finalize the purchase. A 7-day permit is going to cost around $35.
- One of the FAQs on the water department’s website is about a nasty smell coming from tap water. The water department says this is due to algae growth or byproducts. While it sounds gross, it doesn’t impact the safety of the water, according to the water department. This might be yet another reason to bring some bottled water for drinking.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has an app that reports air quality in any city at any given time. I use this app daily as I’m sensitive to certain air particles. It’s called “AirNow” and is free in the app stores. With so much industrial action around Hammond, it’s good to check the levels on any given day.
So... How Safe Is Hammond Really?
Hammond is a working-class city where 21% of the people live in poverty.
It’s going to come with certain risks.
Like any city in Indiana or Illinois, it has a drug, crime, and gang problem.
One of the benefits of Hammond, and I say this slightly tongue-in-cheek, is that it’s not nearly as dangerous as the bordering city of Gary.
Here is how the crime risks break down in Hammond:
- Violent Crime: 1 in 179
- Robbery: 1 in 803
- Theft: 1 in 40
Of course, those risks are all subjective based on where the person who’s reading them lives.
People from St. Louis, like me, might think “That’s not so bad compared to where I’m from,” while others from Scottdale, Arizona, might think it’s very dangerous.
I’ve researched hundreds of cities in this country so I can intelligently tell you the risks associated with these numbers in comparison to other cities in the country.
There is always the context, however, that escapes the broad-stroke reports like “Most Dangerous Cities Ever.”
For example, there were 433 violent crimes in Hammond in 2020.
However, 52% of them were in private homes.
That means a tourist’s risk is half as much if they aren’t going into private homes.
As we discussed in thefts, shoplifting is 44% of all thefts as of 2020.
That means the surface risk of “1 in 40” based on the numbers is really 1 in 71 if you take shoplifting out of the equation (because it doesn’t create a threat against tourists).
Anyone in Hammond who reads this might comment below that I’m being too hard on the city.
That’s just how proud this community is and we welcome all comments.
It’s not an unsafe place to visit, but you definitely need to practice good safety measures like locking car doors, bringing all belongings inside, and not carrying around large amounts of cash.
You can find trouble if you’re looking for it in Hammond, but you can also find some really unique activities that make memories to last a lifetime.
How Does Hammond Compare?
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- Visas - You only need your Visa at the airport when you enter the United States. You don't need to show proof of it as you travel throughout the Chicago area or northern Indiana.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here (USD) and if you need to exchange currency, it's smart to do it at the airport where there's plenty of security.
- Weather - The weather here brings all four seasons, so dress accordingly. Winter temperatures can get dangerously low, so layer up. You'll want good hiking or tennis shoes that can handle snow, ice, mud, or loose rocks. If you visit in the summer, bring water shoes so your bare feet don't touch the bottom of Lake Michigan.
- Airports - Midway International Airport is the closest Chicagoland airport, and it's under an hour away. O'Hare International is about an hour away. You should always check traffic maps before you head to the airport because traffic can be a beast in Chicago.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance is a great idea due to Midway being one of the top airports in the nation for flight delays. You also have a lot of weather risks that can impact air and ground travel.
Hammond Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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