Michigan : Safety by City
- Ann Arbor
- Battle Creek
- Farmington Hills
- Flat Rock
- Glen Arbor
- Grand Rapids
- Mackinac Island
- Mackinaw City
- Port Huron
- Sault Ste. Marie
- Sterling Heights
- Traverse City
The Mid-Michigan city of Lansing is the state capital and home to Michigan State University, exchanging lighthouses and lakefronts for lawmakers and college students in this land-locked community.
We want to welcome the international visitors reading this article, as you’re likely related to or one of the 8,000 students that attend Michigan State.
While it’s technically in East Lansing, right next door, we’ll cover both cities here.
The tourism website for Lansing does have an International section in several different languages to learn about amenities and attractions.
Downtown Lansing is a mix of activities, from state capital tours to walks along the Grand River to innovation at museums and history at its finest.
All that is just in a few square blocks, with more to see outside the downtown corridor, such as the Potter Park Zoo and nearby nature center.
In the middle of all that, two General Motors assembling plants work to keep the economy going while lawmakers work on budgets to build up a struggling state.
Lansing is somewhat large for a college community, with 540,000 people in the metro area and 112,000 of them in Lansing.
More than 1.5 million people visit this area yearly for business, tourism, and education.
Lansing is also halfway between Detroit and Grand Rapids, making for great day trips or weekend getaways.
Warnings & Dangers in Lansing
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
Lansing has a medium risk due to a crime rate four times higher than the national average, and unlike some cities, there isn't a particular part of town that's dangerous. Crime is widespread but also not inevitable, especially if you know the safe and fun places to visit.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
The Capital Area Transportation Authority (CATA) is the public bus system with nearly three dozen routes across the metro area, including the university. Taxis and rideshares are easy to find, and rental cars are available. It's worth noting that one of the shopping areas between Lansing and East Lansing removed two bus stops because of criminal and destructive behavior associated with them. It might be better to stick with cabs or rental cars here.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM
With 15 pickpockets in 2021 and many crowded spaces, it's wise to treat this as a medium risk. Don't leave briefcases, backpacks, or purses out of sight while sitting down.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : LOW
Winter storms can be intense here with ice, sleet, high winds, and heavy snowfall. Spring starts the tornado season, and severe thunderstorms with tornadic activity can run through fall. All storms should come with plenty of warning if you have the right notification systems.
MUGGING RISK : MEDIUM
The robbery rate is nearly twice the national average, and 25% of those happen on public streets or sidewalks. Treat it with medium caution and limit walking around at night to lower your risk.
TERRORISM RISK : MEDIUM
There's a slightly elevated risk because it's the state capital, and you should avoid any rowdy protests. Always report suspicious activity and stay in touch with Emergency Management's social media feeds to learn about potential risks. Homeland Security also issues advisories every few months with an update on terrorism concerns. While it's not a high risk, it's worth staying vigilant.
SCAMS RISK : MEDIUM
One of the biggest fraud risks in Lansing is someone getting your credit card and making unauthorized purchases. You will also likely see panhandlers downtown and on city streets. Don't listen to any pressured or persistent pitches for products or gift cards. This is another medium risk.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM
Sexual assault cases are three times higher than the national average, and there are some really shady parts of this city. Use city smarts when visiting here, even though it's not a large urban area like Detroit. Crime data from 2021 also shows women at 9% more likely to be victims of violent crime. Treat this as a medium risk, and you can always ask for a security escort at a shopping area or entertainment district if you don't feel safe getting to your vehicle or ride home.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2021 Water Quality Report shows all standards were met, but there's good information in there about lead risks and some other quality issues outside the immediate area. You can read that on the Lansing Board of Water & Light website.
Safest Places to Visit in Lansing
Lansing.org is the official tourism site for “Greater Lansing Michigan,” meaning you’ll get all the surrounding cities.
There’s a section for Michigan State, including nearby hotel and restaurant options.
Special sections cover accessibility and sensory-friendly activities.
To focus on downtown, use downtownlansing.org.
Downtown East Lansing is four miles from downtown Lansing with its own interactive map of places to visit.
You can see that on East Lansing’s city website.
Lansing also has a separate Old Town district with its own website, iloveoldtown.org.
Let’s talk about the Social District in downtown Lansing first.
Most major Michigan cities created these as entertainment spots after COVID crippled tourism economies.
In the social districts, you can walk around outdoors with alcoholic beverages under specific conditions.
The districts have clearly marked boundaries and rules.
Downtown Lansing runs along both sides of the Grand River with two bridges you can walk, bike, or drive across to easily get between them.
The east side of the river has the Impression 5 Science Center, where kids and adults can explore various exhibits that pique interest in science and innovation.
If you have children under the age of five, don’t miss the First Impression Room.
The nearby R.E. Olds Transportation Museum taps into the rich auto industry of Michigan.
Exhibits include primitive cars, hot roads, historic models, and the future of transportation.
You can even rent a few select models of chauffer driven automobiles for special occasions.
The Lansing River Trail runs along the east side of the river, just part of its 20-mile trek through the region.
Parks and a beach also line the river, with a kayak launch at Willbro Beach.
More parks can be found on the west side of the river, with Adado Riverfront Park bringing festivals and events throughout the year.
Also on the west side of the river, weave through shops and restaurants in Washington Square before heading to the Michigan State Capital for a tour where you can learn about “Michigan’s Three State Capitols.”
Once inside the capital, look up for an ornate done that’s definitely Instagram-worthy.
Old Town is northeast of the city center and was once a thriving blue-collar community eventually left in ruins.
Revitalization and community dedication have made this an eclectic and artsy community.
A five-part audio walking tour can be used to accompany you on your adventure.
Don’t miss the Turner-Dodge House and Heritage Center.
The Red Cedar River splits off from the Grand River and runs through the part of town with Potter Park Zoo, Crego Park for paddling and fishing, and the Fenner Nature Center on 130 acres with self-guided tours and interactive exhibits.
As another waterway, Sycamore Creek, splinters off, it leads you to Scott Woods Park, a more wooded retreat with trails and wildlife.
A few cultural experiences await in the Greater Lansing Area as well:
- All Around the African World Museum: Just north of the zoo, this museum celebrates African global influences in art and culture. Guided tours by appointment only are available.
- Nokomis Cultural Heritage Center: Just 10 miles from downtown Lansing, this center explores and preserves the heritage of the Anishinaabe people in Michigan.
- Michigan Women Forward HERStory Museum: Celebrate the innovation and accolades of Michigan women in the past, present, and future.
Last but certainly not least – nor an exhaustive list of things to do – check out the schedule for the Michigan Princess.
The paddlewheel boat, reminiscent of a Mark Twain novel, offers themed and scenic cruises throughout the year and is also available for private rentals with five-star accommodations.
Places to Avoid in Lansing
Lansing is one of those cities that is hard to pin down a bad part of town, as it can be hit or miss in many neighborhoods.
Crime data and resident input back that up.
Feeling like you should avoid an area in Lansing is really dependent on where you are from.
For example, people from urban Detroit would walk at night anywhere in the community.
Those from the Upper Peninsula might avoid neighborhoods altogether.
Regardless of your comfort level, you’ll be a lot safer if you plan your itinerary and stick to it, using main streets and highways to get around instead of “winging it” and going through different neighborhoods.
If you do get turned around, you’ll be able to tell by the neighborhood blight or deterioration if it’s a safe place to be.
The capital and downtown areas will have more police and security presence, with more security cameras from businesses and city services.
Lansing is very much a place where you likely won’t find trouble if you don’t go looking for it, but you need to keep your guard up and be aware of your surroundings at all times.
Being that the state capital is here, there are likely to be protests or issue-based marches to send a message to legislators.
Assuming there isn’t violence or blocking of roadways, this is a constitutional right of Americans to “peacefully assemble” as part of free speech.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Lansing
- Lansing has its own police department, and to be sure you’re looking at the right Lansing Police Department and city website, visit lansingmi.gov. Even as a Midwestern-born-and-raised woman, I was surprised to see several states have Lansing cities, though the Michigan one is the most known. Just always confirm you’re on a Lansing or East Lansing website when searching.
- The Lansing Police Department (LPD) offers annual reports on its website. Giving credit where it’s due, I’ve noticed many police forces where crime rates are high or growing will skip the annual report. Maybe it’s due to COVID or staffing restrictions, but the transparency of LPD is appreciated and helpful for visitors.
- The Michigan Legislature meets yearly starting January’s second Wednesday. Sessions can run throughout the year, with recesses leaving the capital barren or special sessions bringing legislators back. If you’re looking to avoid the busy legislative time, the first three months of the year will be the busiest.
- Lansing offers two kinds of emergency notifications, and it’s smart to sign up for both. One is for Lansing Alerts, including incoming weather, warnings/watches/advisories for dangerous weather, and storm aftermath information. The other is for specific city alerts, like local events, newsletters, and traffic advisories. You can sign up for both on the Emergency Management section of the city’s website.
- “Do 1 Thing” is a weather and emergency preparedness program in Lansing. You can read about the most common weather events, how to prepare, and what to do in the aftermath of an emergency. If you aren’t used to winter weather, it’s critical you review that section.
- Lansing is known for reckless drivers and street racing, mostly along major roadways like MLK. This is most likely to happen at night on barren roadways, so you can’t expect an empty street to be a safe one. If you notice revving engines and street racing, just get out of the way and call the police to report it. The city is working with law enforcement and the community to stop this safety hazard, but it’s a real problem as of late 2022.
- Use the Passport Parking app to find open spots in Lansing and pay for parking from the safety of your vehicle. If you’ll just be parking for short periods of time, check out the Value in Parking (VIP) card for discounts. Solar-fueled pay stations are also available for those who don’t want to use the app.
- Winter visitors should review the Winter Parking Ban and Snow Emergency information on the city’s website, as parking in the city and on residential streets will be impacted, so snow plows can get through. Businesses and homeowners are responsible for clearing the sidewalk in front of their own establishments or homes. You can report unplowed or salted walkways by calling the city public works department.
- Before fishing, kayaking, or touching the water in Lansing’s rivers, visit the Ingham County “River & Streams Sampling” section for water quality and beach safety reports. If you want a fishing license, you’ll need to review the requirements on the Michigan Department of Natural Resources website.
- While some attractions will close in the winter, some places will have special winter or holiday events – like the Ice Safari at Potter Park Zoo. Check the city website and social media pages for those events. The Lansing City Pulse website and publication is another great free resource.
So... How Safe Is Lansing Really?
The worst part about Lansing’s crime for a visitor is its unpredictable nature.
Since crime can be widespread or on certain blocks of larger neighborhoods, it’s hard for tourists to plan a trip around those neighborhoods.
While statistically, East Lansing is safer than Lansing; there’s still a surge of crime in both cities as of late 2022.
In September 2022, East Lansing Police Captain Chad Pride said, “There is an uptick in violent crime.
We are seeing it a lot in the downtown area, especially after dark.”
While the majority of crime here involves people who know each other, the brazenness of the crimes in a public space can make it unsettling for visitors.
There’s a carelessness and callousness of crimes in Lansing, fueled by juveniles who either don’t understand the accountability of such crimes or assume they can get away with it since they are juveniles.
The majority of violent crimes are retaliation or drug/gang-related, but a guest of the city should never intervene in a crime in progress.
It’s just too risky.
Police work with community members in special programs that cover crime hot spots as they evolve and offer safer alternatives for juveniles who would otherwise end up in criminal activity.
For some reassurance, here’s some content on the high crime rates of 2021 in Lansing:
- 9% of violent crimes were against strangers.
- 58% of violent crimes happened in homes.
- 40% of all thefts were car break-ins and the majority of those involved valuables left in cars or unlocked cars.
- Women are 8% more likely to be victims of violent crime, but there’s not a rash of random acts of violence against women. Most of these are domestic issues.
For those at MSU, you can sign up or see MSU Alerts of criminal activity on campus or in East Lansing.
Follow MSU Police on Twitter @MSUPolice.
How Does Lansing Compare?
- Visas - You will need a passport that doesn't expire within six months and a visa. There's a difference between a travel visa and a student visa, so confirm you are applying for the correct one and follow the steps from the U.S. State Department's website. Border Patrol and Customs & Immigration websites also offer great information.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here, and with such a large international population, you can find plenty of places to exchange currency. That said, you'll pay lower fees if you use your home country's bank or have a U.S. bank account where you can make the exchange.
- Weather - Lansing gets all four seasons, with spring and fall fluctuating often in temperatures. People joke that you can get 2-3 seasons in one day with the wild swings in temperatures and precipitation. Bring layers of clothing with sturdy winter gear from November through March. Bring bug spray and sunscreen, and don't forget several pairs of comfortable walking shoes.
- Airports - Capital Region International Airport (LAN) is 15 minutes from downtown Lansing with flights to major cities like Chicago and Washington, D.C. Delta and American fly out of this airport. If you want to drive to Detroit, plan for 90 minutes on the road to get to Wayne Country Metropolitan Airport.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance is a wise investment to protect against weather delays and cancelations. International students at Michigan State will be required to get health care insurance through the university.
Lansing Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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