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’re going to be saying the name Kankakee a lot when you visit Kankakee, Illinois, so make sure you say it correctly.
It’s “Kank-uh-KEE.” It is the biggest city in Kankakee County and sits along the Kankakee River.
It’s part of the Kankakee River Valley series of cities that also include Bradley and Bourbonnais (“Bourbon-ayy”).
The river flows right through the heart of the city.
Kankakee is making headlines for all the wrong reasons.
In 2020, it made the #25 slot on the highest murder rate in the nation’s list.
There were eight homicides that year and 2021 brought 11 homicides.
That in itself might make you switch travel plans, but we’ve got additional information on what is causing that spike in crime, so don’t leave just yet.
This city was also the place where the murder of two children by the same man led to Illinois adopting a community notification system for sexual offenders.
Timothy Buss had killed a little girl when he was 13, and then came back after serving his jail sentence and killed a little boy.
Kankakee and the surrounding county is, at its heart, a rural community with an array of outdoor attractions.
You can find fun on the river, in the wilderness, and through the city, leaders trying to rebuild a sullied reputation.
One of the oddities of this community is that in Kankakee the annual income is $39,000 and nearly 28% of people live in poverty.
Just five miles north in Bourbonnais, the average income is $77,000 and just 7% of the community is in poverty.
Warnings & Dangers in Kankakee
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium overall risk here, but the blessing in disguise is that there aren't any hotels in Kankakee. They are all near Bourbonnais, a much safer community.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
The River Valley bus system is the public transportation for the region. There are local routes and a shuttle or Midway International Airport and the Metra train station on the Southside of the Chicago area. You can also get taxis and rideshares, though not as plentiful as in bigger cities. There's a Transit Police Department to keep people on the buses and at bus stops safe, so there's low risk with a lot of caution needed.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM
The theft risk is one in 36, which is a medium risk as well. You should really only carry the very basic essentials of what you need when visiting here and don't ever leave a car unlocked or with the windows rolled down.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Flooding and severe weather that spawns tornadoes are the biggest concerns. You can look on social media and see several funnel clouds caught on camera over the past two decades. The river running through the city also puts it at a higher risk than Bradley or Bourbonnais. Then there's winter weather in the form of snow and ice storms. All this adds up to medium risk.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
The robbery rate is 42% higher than the national average, and with 244 violent crimes, there's a good chance some of those started out as robberies and then escalated, which would mean the worst of the crimes would be the one reported, not all the crimes involved. For what it's worth, this method of tracking crime changed in 2021.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here. The Chicago area, being just an hour away, is going to be a much more prominent target for terrorists. Enough people are terrorizing the city who live here anyway.
SCAMS RISK : MEDIUM
There have been several reports of callers and solicitors trying to scam money here. There's a medium risk because some of the scam reports are downright ruthless. In one example, a scammer pretending to be a police officer called a man. He said the man's wife had been in a bad accident and he needed the guy to send him money to help her.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
I would really recommend against a woman visiting here, especially if she's going alone. While there are some safe places to visit we can go through, being out after dark or even being seen in some neighborhoods driving alone could be dangerous. The sexual assault rate is almost four times the national average too.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The only low-risk you'll find in Kankakee is tap water. According to the 2021 Annual Water Quality Report, all tests were in full compliance with standards set by the state and the EPA.
Safest Places to Visit in Kankakee
“Visit Kankakee County” is a great website to show the variety of options you explore here.
There are several farms throughout the county, but none in the city of Kankakee.
Check the individual farm listings, as one of the options listed is actually closed for 2022 because the owner got hurt.
Make sure you check the farm of your choice and the seasonal opening dates, as not all of them are open throughout the year.
The B. Hardley Bradley House is open for tours.
This historic home is the design of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
You can also visit Wright’s second masterpiece here at the Warren R. Hockox house.
These are made in a Prairie design.
The French Heritage Museum and Stone Barn is another historic place to check out and reflects the first explorers who came to this region and forever left an imprint on the community.
Wondering if you’re related to someone from here?
You can research your genealogy at the museum too.
If you have a car, you’ll definitely want to do the Barn Quilty scavenger hunt.
This is a great way to road trip off the beaten path and look for a wide artistic variety of quilt designs put onto wood and hung on barns throughout the county.
You can download the Barn Quilt Guide on the tourism website.
There are 50 barn quilts in the search.
I am particularly fond of the one titled “Pursuit of Happiness.”
Let us know your favorite one if you go on this adventure.
There are 57 miles of the Kankakee River in the county and several lakes.
At Haigh Quarry, you can scuba dive and see the fish and artifacts under the surface.
For those who want to keep their heads above water, there are fly-fishing charters and canoe-ride tours to explore as well.
Perry Farm Park is a great place to go throughout the year, but if there are more than four inches of snow on the ground, you can rent ski equipment and head for the hills.
There are caves to explore and a petting zoo for the less adventurous.
Kankakee River State Park covers 4,000 acres of wilderness and camping is an option if you want to “rough it” and become one with nature.
Archery is also big here, so you can test your skill with a bow and arrow.
Places to Avoid in Kankakee
I haven’t even scratched the surface of all the great things to do in Kankakee County, so the safest way to visit here is to plan your excursions ahead of time.
Going with a tour group is a great idea because there’s safety in numbers.
Here’s one frustrating part of researching safe and dangerous parts of cities.
Some other websites show their own crime maps, allegedly reflecting crime data by zip code.
As I research this, I can tell you two sites show the exact opposite information about the most dangerous parts of the community.
Unfortunately, Kankakee doesn’t offer live crime mapping through the police department as many other cities do, so I can’t make my own comparison for you.
The problem with Kankakee isn’t necessarily the lower income or the poverty rate, though that does contribute to gun, gang, and drug violence.
This is a problem of juveniles throughout the community getting out of control.
Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe summed it up like this to a local newspaper, “The law is ill-equipped when dealing with juveniles who commit violent crimes,” Rowe said.
“They can be released after 30 days under juvenile justice law.
Some get picked up again shortly thereafter and after another 30 days they are back out on the street.”
The best advice for “places to avoid” in Kankakee is anywhere you don’t belong.
Stay on the route to the tourist attractions, don’t drive through neighborhoods, report any crimes you see and be a good witness if you are a victim.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Kankakee
- Let’s get you set up with the right numbers for the Kankakee Police Department. Of course, in an emergency, you’ll call 911. The non-emergency line is (815)933-3321 and it’s wise to call before you visit to check the crime trends at that time.
- If you want to visit downtown, it might be a good idea to visit during an event like the Farmer’s Market or Merchant Street MusicFest when there will be a strong police presence.
- If you are visiting during snowfall, you should review the snowplow route map and the parking restriction during snowstorms so you can find the safest place to park and drive. Parking on streets is limited after more than two inches of snow accumulates so the snowplows can get through and clean the roads.
- Sign up for CodeRED alerts through the city’s website. This sends you crime, traffic, weather, and safety information during your visit. You’ll get notifications on your mobile device.
- If you want to hunt or fish in the county, you’ll need a license from the state of Illinois. You can get that at the website of the Department of Natural Resources. There are certain hunting seasons, and different lakes and rivers have their own fishing rules, so do some research before you get there.
- If you see a group of young people, even juveniles, getting into trouble or fighting, you should alert the police immediately. We’ll talk about this more in a bit, but juveniles are among the leading causes of crime in this community. Don’t think “kids will be kids” when you visit here.
- I’m actually quite frustrated trying to research this story as the city’s website, including the police department’s section, has very limited options and some dead links when it comes to getting good, updated safety information. You should call or email the city well ahead of time to ask the questions because you aren’t going to get many answers online. I’ve had to call them twice so far for this article.
- For winter sports like ice skating and snow-shoeing/cross-country skiing, you can rent the equipment in town or at the venue and don’t need to bring it with you. When snow sledding, the hills are not going to be monitored, so you do so at your own risk.
- Bring bug spray and apply it often when outdoors. The mosquitoes here can be quite annoying. There is also poison ivy and oak to look for in the weeds, so always stay on trails and keep away from any plants if you aren’t 100% sure they are safe.
- Since there are a lot of places to drive to in Kankakee County, you want to make sure your car is loaded with safety items. In the winter, you should bring a blanket for every person in the car and a gallon of water per person too. Make sure to check the tire pressure before you go and make sure the spare tire is inflated. I was once stuck on the side of a busy Tennessee highway and I was so excited when I got the spare tire on only to find out it wasn’t inflated.
So... How Safe Is Kankakee Really?
I’ll be honest – while researching this story I had to actually walk away from the computer for a little bit because the reports of crime in this area were quite disturbing.
One of the crimes in Bradley involved two officers responding to a dog barking in a car at a hotel.
When the officers went to the hotel room, the suspects shot the officers.
One officer was killed with her own service revolver as she begged for her life.
The other officer was critically wounded.
The unfortunate parts of crime in this area are twofold.
One, it has so much potential with all the attractions and amenities.
Two, that juveniles are thought to be the root of the crime here.
The Kankakee mayor told a local newspaper that 147 guns were confiscated in 2021.
That’s a 39% increase since 2019.
The mayor said many of these guns are stolen from (UNLOCKED!!!) cars and homes.
Adding to the problem, Kankakee Police Chief Robin Passwater said that up to 75% of the shootings involve people under 21 years of age.
She estimates about a dozen juveniles are terrorizing the community for simple things such as disliking a post on social media.
“They see something on social media that they don’t like so they go out and shoot at one another,” Passwater said, adding, “They are shooting from cars at houses.
They don’t care who or what they hit.
We see it here, but it is everywhere in this country; there is a sense of lawlessness.”
Passwater is correct.
Illinois has been seeing a surge in gun crime over the past few years that is taking over strong communities like the Kankakee River Valley.
Pew Research Center posted data showing Illinois’ homicide rate was up 35% statewide in 2020.
On top of that, witnesses to crimes can be too scared to come forward or plan to handle it on their own, leaving police helpless to stop further crime.
The Kankakee United project aims to help young men and women learn about neighborhood safety, non-criminal life choices, and building trust in local law enforcement.
Prosecutors want to see stronger laws and rehabilitation so young criminals don’t just get 30 days in jail and then be released.
I know that’s a lot to throw at you when you’re just trying to plan a trip, but I think it’s important to look past the crime numbers and see what’s at the root cause of it.
How Does Kankakee Compare?
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|Siem Reap (Cambodia)||63|
- Visas - You don't need your Visa to get around the communities of Illinois. You will just need it at the airport when you go through customs.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here and you shouldn't carry cash here. If you do need to pull out your wallet for purchase, protect your PIN.
- Weather - You'll get all four seasons here and you'll need to dress accordingly. Summers are humid, so you're going to sweat a lot, and please don't forget that bug spray. Winters will need a lot of warm layers. Bring good walking shoes because there are a lot of places to explore.
- Airports - You can get a shuttle to Midway International Airport or drive about an hour north to get there. O'Hare International Airport is just under a 90-minute drive, but there is no shuttle from Kankakee.
- Travel Insurance - You'll need travel insurance since there are delays that can happen with airlines, shuttles, and road closures are a possibility too.
Kankakee Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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7 Reviews on Kankakee
Kankakee was always a blue-collar city, but rather well-off, with big employers such as A.O. Smith and Roper Stove paying good wages.
Those companies moved out in the 1980s, and Kankakee never recovered. Very high crime and many gangs nowadays. Drugs are a main reason. There is no nice shopping to speak of. Our family ends up driving to Chicago, as Kankakee is an “Aldi’s” sort of town.
I grew up in Kankakee in the 1960s, and it’s sad how Kankakee has deteriorated over the years.
Most all of the people I went to high school with left Kankakee long, long ago. The only reason I’ve stayed is because I’m the current owner of a third-generation business. My business has been broken into five times in the last couple of years in an industrial section of Kankakee.
Not much to see in K3
Kankakee itself is rather a dump. Kankakee has one of the highest per capita crime rates in Kankakee, and most of the city in run down and saw its better days decades ago.
I live in Chicago, about fifty miles north of Kankakee, and visit Kankakee regularly to visit relatives who have lived there since the 1950s. There is one nice area of Kankakee, near Cobb Park.
Prices of homes in Kankakee are reasonable, but that’s because very few people consider Kankakee a good place to live.
The Kankakee River State Park about ten miles away isn’t a bad place to visit.
1st and last trip to Kankakee
Is Kankakee safe to visit? In a word, no.
I stayed at a local hotel in the town next-door (Bradley), and there were two separate shootings the night before.
The east and the north sides of Kankakee seem to be the worst, but my Kankakee host said the entire city “has gone to the dogs.”
Get out of town quickly
i visited a friend at the Kankakee hospital, Provena St. Mary’s, on the edge of downtown. Downtown Kankakee is like the “Twilight Zone” episode where there is NO one on the streets. It has the most depressing downtown I’ve ever seen for a mid-sized city.
One trip is enough
There is an old train station Kankakee has restored, but you are correct. Kankakee downtown looks shabby, without any stores to speak of. I drove downtown from the Court Street exit, and drove past dilapidated buildings and fast food joints, dollar stores, etc. Very depressing city. Might have been a decent place eighty years ago.
I'd avoid Kankakee
I spent a week in Kankakee one night last fall. Very depressing city. Looks like a Flint, Michigan or a similar run-down factory town that has long since seen its better days. Little activity on the downtown main streets, Court and Schuyler, even during the day in the middle of the week. The downtown is devoid of any retail activity, with more empty lots than buildings. Courthouse looks attractive from the outside, though.
Don't bother stopping in K3
Kankakee is a very depressing-looking city. Retail is mostly fast food and dollar-type stores. Court Street is Kankakee’s main drag, and it’s sad-looking.
It’s comparable to Youngstown, Ohio, or Gary, Indiana, except on a smaller scale.
There is absolutely nothing in downtown Kankakee, and their one mall is “dead”-looking.
There is also a lot of crime in Kankakee, as the Chicago-area gangs moved into Kankakee in the 1980s and 1990s and have expanded their turf.