Indiana : Safety by City
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Mishawaka, Indiana, is known as “The Princess City”, based on a legend of a Native American princess caught in a love triangle.
If Mishawaka is a princess, there’s definitely a villain in this story.
The city borders South Bend, known for high crime rates.
Sometimes Mishawaka gets an unsavory reputation because of that.
Sometimes that reputation is earned.
You’ll find in a lot of research that South Bend-Mishawaka is tied together as they are both in the metropolitan area.
The St. Joseph River runs through this area, giving its own set of risks and amenities.
Mishawaka is home to 51,000 people and has a thriving retail scene with a vibrant downtown.
The bulk of hotels in Mishawaka are on the north side of town near the retail corridor.
Compared to South Bend, Mishawaka is half the size, not as diverse, and slightly wealthier.
There are several ways to get crime data.
One is the report given to the FBI from the local agencies.
The other is directly through the local agencies, generally in an “Annual Report” from the police department.
For all the data listed in this article, I’ll be using the 2021 Annual Police Report.
There are several reasons for this; one, the 2020 data from the FBI and Police Department are very different (for reasons unknown to this investigative journalist).
Two, 2020 data is always a little iffy because of the pandemic and the impact it could have, for better or worse, on the real essence of crime in a city.
Three, 2021 is more accurate and updated.
While this data might conflict with other safety reports you see, you can read the 2021 police report for yourself to see that this is the most accurate and updated information available.
For example, the FBI UCR report shows there were no homicides in 2020 in Mishawaka.
Looking at the 2020 annual report from Mishawaka Police, there were six.
That’s a big difference.
Warnings & Dangers in Mishawaka
OVERALL RISK: MEDIUM
There's a medium risk here for a couple of reasons. First, it's next to a city with some of the highest crime rates in the nation, and you'll certainly be crossing the city lines during a visit. Next, while the crime rates are nowhere near as bad as South Bend, it still has some concerning areas of its own.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
You can use the TRANSPO bus service to get around South Bend and Mishawaka. The Interurban Trolley can take you around the greater metro area, including Elkhart and Goshen. Taxis and rideshares are available. Having a car is certainly a plus here. There's low risk because I can't find any data to support otherwise, but I'd use a lot of caution at bus stops and stay alert while riding public transportation in a region with this much crime.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
While the theft risk in Mishawaka is one in 35, there's a low chance of being pickpocketed with just two reports in 2020. I did have to go back to 2020 to get detailed data, so that number could be inflated now that things are getting "back to normal." The good news is the thefts only got the thief less than $55. That's smart for anyone to carry very little value with them when visiting this area.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
Mishawaka gets a variety of weather risks, from severe thunderstorms to tornados to winter storms to flooding to drought. Because of all this, there's a medium risk, especially if a weather watch is active. An average day is going to be low risk, but the weather can change quickly here, so always stay on top of the weather forecast.
MUGGING RISK: MEDIUM
The robbery rate here is more than twice the national average. That's medium risk. You can lower this risk by using common sense when out at night and by staying on main streets and well-lit areas. With the increase in gun crimes across Indiana, if you are confronted by a robber, don't fight back. It's not worth risking your life for a mobile device or purse.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
While the Mishawaka Emergency Management Plan does include a nuclear threat, it just links to the national Ready.gov website. There's no hard target in Mishawaka, so the risk is low. You should still stick by the motto "See Something, Say Something" to help keep Mishawaka safe.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
There is nothing in the scam reports from Mishawaka that target tourists, aside from the general concern about identity theft or people asking for money. Most of the scams target the locals. You should never throw away a receipt without shredding it and protect your PIN like it's your child.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: MEDIUM
The sexual assault rate is slightly higher than the national average here. The biggest concern for a woman is going to be theft, car theft, or car break-ins. The same medium risk exists for women, but in all honestly, that's a risk for everyone.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
Mishawaka Utilities answers this question front and center on its website by saying, "The bottom line: Our water is safe to drink." It's refreshing to see that because most cities make you dig through an entire report to figure out the answer. To verify, I did check the 2022 Annual Water Quality Report and all samples met or exceeded the requirements of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Safest Places to Visit in Mishawaka
Since I wrote the South Bend review giving specifics of that location, I’m going to stick to hyper-local attractions just in Mishawaka.
You can check out the South Bend article for a broader look at what to do here.
Shiojiri Niwa is a botanical tribute to Mishawaka’s sister city in Japan.
This tranquil garden includes small bridges connecting different areas of the garden, a teahouse pavilion, and unique bridge designs meant to keep you centered and focused.
The Otis Bowen Museum is located at Bethel University.
It’s open by appointment only, but history buffs will enjoy the memories and artifacts of this Indiana Governor and former secretary in the President Reagan administration.
Downtown’s Central Park connects you to the riverwalk along the St. Joseph River.
Here you can also see a “fish ladder,” which is a unique design to allow migrating fish to travel without getting stuck in a dam.
The riverwalk includes a trail for pedestrians and bicyclists and you can also walk across the river to yet another park.
I’m not a huge fan of walking across bridges, but this one is safe and very low.
I did the Google Map walk view of it and bridge-phobic people shouldn’t worry about crossing this.
You can get a riverwalk map on the city’s website.
The Beiger Mansion isn’t just a historical marker, it’s also a bed and breakfast inn.
This elegant piece of architecture is open to visitors who just want to take a look.
There are sometimes private events held here, so call ahead to see if you can visit the mansion.
Places to Avoid in Mishawaka
The closer you get to South Bend, the higher the crime rates go.
For visiting the river, the south side has much lower crime rates as well.
The safest areas are to the east.
The area where all the hotels are located is one of the safest in the community.
It’s really important to review the high crime areas in South Bend so you have a better feel for the entire metro area.
One crime statistic the two cities share is a high number of motor vehicle thefts.
In Mishawaka, the rate is almost twice the national average and in South Bend, it’s well over twice the national average.
You should avoid parking a car without taking all personal belongings out of it, park with the wheels turned to the side so it’s harder to tow and invest in a theft-deterrent device like a steering wheel lock.
The region can use all the crime-fighting help it can get, so don’t travel thinking you shouldn’t report things you see that don’t seem right.
In 2021, the drug problem here led to more than $1 million in cash being confiscated, along with 11 grams of cocaine, 387 grams of marijuana, 4 grams of heroin, and 10 guns.
Every little bit helps.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Mishawaka
- You can report a crime tip anonymously if you’d like. There’s a form on the Mishawaka Police Department’s website. You can also call Michiana Crime Stoppers to be eligible for a reward. That number is 1-800-342-STOP (7867).
- While you’re on the police department’s website, check out the crime mapping technology. You can search an interactive map for the latest crimes with a summary of what happened. This is very helpful in a place where crime trends change quickly. For example, in 2019, Mishawaka had no homicides, but in 2020 there were six.
- If you want to fish on the St. Joseph River or any nearby lakes, there’s a requirement for all anglers to have a fishing license from the Department of Fish & Wildlife. Your home license won’t suffice. There are special stamps and permits for certain fish, so be sure to review them before purchasing. You also need to make sure you get a non-resident license.
- Mishawaka Police say the best way to deter a criminal is to walk confidently and “with purpose” while keeping your head on a swivel, signaling you are very aware of your surroundings. Criminals are much more likely to go after a person wearing earbuds or looking down at their phone, completely unaware of what’s going on around them.
- The police department has a two-page document on ATM safety. While I can’t tell you how many crimes happen at ATMs in Mishawaka, the fact that someone typed up this elaborate document suggests it’s an issue here. You should avoid using an ATM if you can go into a bank, but if you must use an ATM, never use one at the corner of a building to avoid that blind spot. Always shield your PIN from anyone who might look over your shoulder or be across the street with a camera zooming in on your number. I promise you – when I use any ATM I look like I’m protecting the nuclear codes just to get $40. Don’t worry about looking paranoid. Worry about being a robbery victim.
- I’ve seen this warning in a handful of cities. It’s known as the “bump and rob.” This is when someone hits your car from behind, creating a fender bender. Your first instinct is to get out of the car, but thieves plan on this and might hop in the front seat of your vehicle and take off. If you have any suspicion about a fender bender, call 911 immediately. You can also signal for the other car to follow you and drive to a police station. Make sure you remember as much as you can about the other vehicle because criminals will likely take off once they suspect you are onto them.
- The majority of crimes that happen in this region are focused on a small percentage of the population involved in either gangs or groups of criminal activity. If you see any signs of gang activity, like graffiti, report it to the police immediately. You can fill out a form on the website or call the non-emergency number.
- Follow the Mishawaka Police Department on Facebook. You can get a feel for the crimes happening closer to your time of the visit and you might be able to help spot a thief, missing person, or abducted child. You can also leave comments and ask questions of local residents about safety.
- When you visit any of the Mishawaka city websites, there’s a safety warning that “this site isn’t secure.” While this could be as simple as a security certificate, you should not enter any personal information on the website like banking account numbers or social security numbers until it gets fixed. I’ve alerted the webmaster and, hopefully, by the time you read this it has been fixed.
- When visiting in winter, review the Snow Routes map to make sure you know where you can and can’t park. If you park on a snow route during a winter storm, your car will be towed. There is no parking allowed on snow routes when more than two inches of snow has fallen. This is to help the snowplows get through and make the winter streets safer for everyone.
So... How Safe Is Mishawaka Really?
Aside from thefts, the crime averages in Mishawaka are all above average, but not always by a lot.
For example, the average robbery risk in America is 79 per 100,000.
In Mishawaka, it’s 92 per 100,000.
Here’s how the risk breaks down for crime areas that might impact a tourist:
- Robbery: 1 in 1086
- Theft: 1 in 35
- Car Theft: 1 in 211
21% of thefts were car break-ins and 16% were shoplifting.
You’ll see reports that this entire region is one of the most dangerous metropolitan areas in the United States.
The statistics used to determine that come from the crime data for all of St. Joseph County, Indiana, and Cass County, Michigan.
That ranking comes from “crimes per 100,000,” which is how the FBI ranks data.
You’ll hear conflicting reports on how true this is.
Some will say it’s just criminal-on-criminal crime, while others will say how much worse it has gotten.
Even in May 2022, this region saw 4 homicides in a five-day span.
However, none of those homicides were in Mishawaka.
The city had four homicides in 2021 total, and six in 2020.
If you’re choosing between staying in South Bend or Mishawaka, Mishawaka is the safer choice.
That doesn’t mean it’s the safest choice in the region.
If you’re just looking for a safe city for an Indiana getaway, look at our review of Valparaiso and see just how different the crime rates are.
How Does Mishawaka Compare?
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You should start your Visa process at least four months ahead of time to meet all the deadlines. You can't travel to the U.S. unless you've completed all the steps. You will need your visa at customs when you go through the airport but won't need it to travel between different cities or states.
You can only use the U.S. Dollar here and try to avoid carrying cash. All purchases can be made via mobile pay apps or credit cards.
You'll get all four seasons here. Winter will require plenty of warm layers and waterproof boots. You should plan for summer to be hot and humid with occasional thunderstorms, so a rain jacket is a good idea. Spring and fall can vary in temperatures, so bring a mix of clothing if the temperatures plunge or skyrocket.
South Bend International Airport is the closest option and it's about 10 miles west. If you want the bigger airports in the Chicago area, plan for at least two hours on the road to get there. If you are driving, don't stop in Gary for gas, as that's another big crime area.
You should definitely get travel insurance due to the weather risks here and to avoid losing money on a flight delay or cancellation.
Mishawaka Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
|Temperature / Month
Indiana - Safety by City