Indiana : Safety by City
- Cedar Lake
- Crown Point
- Fort Wayne
- Michigan City
- Santa Claus
- South Bend
- Terre Haute
- Winona Lake
Michigan City, Indiana, is like The Hamptons for Chicago residents in the summer, though much more laid back.
This city sits on the shores of Lake Michigan just minutes from the Michigan border, yet just 50 miles from Chicago.
Here you can see the only lighthouse in the state of Indiana.
You can sip fresh wine at a winery.
You can gamble at a casino with all the bells and whistles of Las Vegas.
You can explore a zoo or nature paths and enjoy the recreational events in, on, and around Lake Michigan.
Michigan City came on the music scene with the Johnny Cash song “Michigan City Howdy Do,” a tale about a prisoner who spent 70 years behind bars only to see a society that was very different than the one he left.
This song is based on a true story.
The Indiana State Penitentiary is still in Michigan City, home to more than 2,400 male inmates.
There is also an outlet mall here, which I call my mothership, and it offers nationally known brands at discount rates.
This is the main shopping area in the city, but there’s another Town Center area with some big box stores.
As we go through the crime statistics below, I’ve got the raw, detailed data from 2020 and some data released from the city police department in 2021.
The police didn’t give full details for 2021, just their own summary of the crime.
Requests for raw data were not answered.
Warnings & Dangers in Michigan City
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk in Michigan City. Beyond the beautiful shoreline and tourist destination, there's a working-class city with 23% of people living in poverty. The city saw a 23% increase in gun crime in 2021 and an 11% increase in drug crimes. Overall, violent crime was down by a fraction of a percent. This isn't a city too dangerous to visit, but one that definitely comes with concerns that we'll talk through as we go.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
The South Shore Line goes to Michigan City and can get you all the way back to the Chicago area. Michigan City Transit runs locally every day but Sunday. You can get taxis and rideshares, too. There's low risk with these options, but always use extra precaution if you choose public transportation.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM
There were no pickpockets or purse snatching reported in the 2020 crime data. However, there is a category called "All Other" and a large chunk of theft crimes do fall into this category here. This could be due to a lack of information on thefts or a large number of crimes like stealing from someone's yard. However, that answer is not available. There's a one in 30 risks of being a victim of theft here and because of that, we're going to give this a medium risk, even though technically there wasn't a pickpocket reported. It's to err on the side of caution in a city with a high theft rate.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Michigan City gets about four feet of snow a year, thanks to that lake-effect snow. There are ice storms that move through as well. You have to worry about flooding, severe thunderstorms, and tornadoes too. There's also a chance of water pollution from storm runoff. All this adds up to medium risk.
MUGGING RISK : MEDIUM
The robbery rate is one in 943, which isn't too concerning, but it's still above the national average. The real concern is the rise in gun crimes here and the potential for a robbery to turn more violent. Because of that, we'll give it a medium risk. 21% of robberies in 2020 happened in public.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's a low risk of a terror attack here. Chicago would be the closest hard target and Michigan City is far enough away that it wouldn't feel too much of an impact from that.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
There's a low risk of a tourist getting scammed here, but I did want to tell you about a recent popular scam that could impact you. Young people are trying to sell magazines, generally door-to-door, and say they want to raise money to go to college. Anyone peddling any product should have proof of a vendor's license. If they don't, you should report them to the police.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM
The sexual assault rate is slightly higher than the national average. There are a lot of places a woman can safely enjoy her time here, but there are the risks of walking around at night alone, or being a victim of a crime if they leave their purse unattended. Since the area has a medium risk, women do too.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2020 Annual Water Quality Report shows no violations and all testing meets or exceeds requirements. However, the deadline for updating annual reports is June 1, and I'm writing this on June 6 and there's still no 2021 Water Quality Report. It doesn't mean the water is dangerous. I just think it reflects an attention to detail that was overlooked. From the latest data I can find, there's a low risk.
Safest Places to Visit in Michigan City
Washington Park is the center for tourist activity in Michigan City.
Here you have a plethora of things to see.
There’s the old lighthouse and attached museum, where you can learn about the history of monitoring the Lake Michigan waters.
There’s a new lighthouse you can walk to seasonally, but there aren’t tours of the tower.
The Washington Park Zoo is in this area as well.
Don’t miss the observation tower with breathtaking views of the shoreline.
It’s definitely a moment you’ll want to have a camera for.
Depending on your group size, you can also schedule private tours of the zoo.
There are two miles of shoreline along Lake Michigan for sunbathing or wading in the water.
You can also book a boat tour or fishing charter here.
The sunset cruise is one of the most popular, so book as early as you can.
Michigan City’s Uptown Arts District is the nightlife and eccentric side of the city.
You can also visit the Barker Mansion for an elegant taste of the city’s history.
As of mid-2022, it was undergoing renovations, and no opening date has been announced.
Shady Creek Winery is a small, 20-acre attraction with wine made from grapes shipped from Michigan and Napa.
There’s live entertainment some nights, and you can also get some specialty foods with your wine selection.
Places to Avoid in Michigan City
The crime maps show the highest crime areas are the central part of town and along the beach.
This isn’t surprising because that’s where a lot of tourists go and is the central gathering point of a rather small city (just 32,000 people).
All the places you probably want to see are subject to being open seasonally.
Even some restaurants around the beach area close after October and don’t re-open until spring.
If you’re visiting in winter, you should always call ahead to see if your restaurant, store, or attraction of choice is open.
If you are visiting in the summer, you should book early.
This is a very popular place for Chicagoans to escape the summer heat.
It is going to be crowded.
You should only bring what you absolutely need to the beach during these high crowd times.
Like any “beach” community, you’ll want to get there early to find a parking spot.
This isn’t the side of the lake to visit if you don’t or can’t drive in the snow.
The lake-effect snow can dump snow by the foot at times.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Michigan City
- If you are renting a home here during your visit, make sure the person leasing it to you has a rental license from the city. Never wire money ahead of time.
- There are no lifeguards on duty at Washington Park, so you swim at your own risk. You can check the water hazards for any given day through the National Weather Service. There should be warnings at the beach as well. If you see big waves crashing, don’t go in the water. They bring dangerous rip currents with them.
- When visiting the zoo, you can bring a camera, but you can’t bring any selfie stick or tripods. Don’t try to sneak one in as it can be confiscated if you are caught or you might be asked to leave. Drones are also prohibited.
- The city website has a beach flag color-coded system for the beaches. You should print this out (in color, duh) or save it to your mobile device so you can better navigate around the shoreline. Parking is going to cost $15 a day.
- The water quality of Lake Michigan near the beaches is tested daily. You can call (219) 873-1406 extension 2 for the most updated water quality report. It will be the results from the day before. If any water quality test goes too high, the entire beach will close.
- Sign up for alerts from the city through the Notify Map section of the website. You can choose which information you want to get, from just emergency alerts to local events happening.
- When planning your summer trip, you should look at the list of events happening. There are regular summer events that can quickly fill up the local hotels and send prices skyrocketing. If you are flexible with your travel dates, moving the trip by just one weekend might help you save money. If you are going for one of these events, book as early as possible.
- You can call the Crime Tip Hotline 24/7 if you have non-emergency information about a crime. That number is (219)873-1488.
- Anglers need a fishing license from the state of Indiana to catch fish here. Check with your charter boat captain to see if they provide a fishing license. If you are going fishing solo, you can get a license from the Indiana Department of Fish & Wildlife.
- Winter visitors should note the locations of snow route signs on major roadways. When a snow emergency goes into effect, there is no parking allowed on these roads so the snowplows can get through. Parking there can get you ticketed, towed, or sideswiped by a snowplow.
So... How Safe Is Michigan City Really?
The highest number of police calls in 2021 were from the neighborhoods of Elston Grove, Eastport, and Westside.
The big categories of concern were the rise in gun and drug crimes, up 23% and 11%, respectively.
Overall violent crime was down a fraction of a percent.
Michigan City also had its first crime involving a machine gun in 2021.
This is as gun crime is rising nationwide and hitting Indiana and Illinois particularly hard.
Crimes against people and property were down an average of 5%, which is good because both were higher than the national average.
Here’s how the risks break down in Michigan City from the fully transparent data available in 2020:
- Violent Crime: 1 in 174
- Robbery: 1 in 943
- Theft: 1 in 30
Just 21% of violent crimes were against strangers, and 58% of violent crimes happened in private homes.
That means the real risk of being a violent crime victim is much lower, but it also comes at a time when we know more people are being arrested for having illegal guns in Michigan city.
If you’re using common sense and practical personal safety steps, you’re probably not going to notice the underbelly of crime here.
However, it’s important to realize that this community does have higher than average crime rates and you shouldn’t let your guard down.
How Does Michigan City Compare?
|La Paz (Bolivia)||52|
|Sao Paulo (Brazil)||45|
|Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)||43|
- Visas - You should begin the Visa planning process about four months before you plan to visit. If you cut it too close, you might not be able to travel. You will need your passport as well for legal identification when visiting Michigan City.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar (USD) here. If you're carrying a mobile device with you, it's a good idea to use mobile pay along the way. Then you won't need to pull out a wallet or worry about entering a PIN in public.
- Weather - Very cold winters and warm summers mean you should plan for the season and not just the place. You'll want snowboots that are waterproof here, and be sure to get ones that come higher than the ankle if you're a winter visitor. Water shoes are a great idea for walking along and in Lake Michigan to protect your feet. You should bring a jacket even in the summer because nights and mornings can cool down dramatically.
- Airports - South Bend International Airport is about 45 minutes away. You can also get to the Chicago area airports in about 90 minutes. There isn't a commercial airline in Michigan City.
- Travel Insurance - With unpredictable weather throughout the year, it's a great idea to have travel insurance to protect your trip to Michigan City, Indiana.
Michigan City Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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