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
On the southwest side of Chicago, just near the city limits, sits Oak Lawn, Illinois.
There is also Oak Park, Oak Forest, and Oak Brook, so don’t get them confused.
It’s not surprising so many cities have the name “oak” in it here, as the neighborhoods are rich with trees.
Oak Lawn is a city of fewer than 60,000 people and a primarily dense residential area with just three hotels.
It’s very close to Midway International Airport, so you’ll find more hotels as you get closer there.
This location is ideal for being close to the city without being in the city.
This is the site of a deadly tornado in 1967 that killed 33 people and left more than 1,000 hurt.
The city was pretty much leveled, and brick homes were torn down to their foundations.
Many people can still vividly remember that night and still tell stories of the horror.
Some of the people killed were sitting in rush hour traffic when the EF-4 twister came through.
The city was rebuilt and then went through another downtown renaissance in the early 2000s when a dwindling population prompted city leaders to bring people back to this area.
You’ll find the typical shopping amenities here with a few tourist attractions, including one of the most popular haunted houses in Chicagoland (if you are visiting around Halloween).
That’s really one of the only scary things about Oak Lawn, Illinois.
Warnings & Dangers in Oak Lawn
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here. The crime rates aren't quite as low as some of the North Shore neighborhoods, but it's still lower than state and national averages in property and violent crimes.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
The Metra rail line and PACE bus service both come through Oak Lawn. There is a PACE bus that takes baseball fans directly to the ballpark where the White Sox play. You can also readily get taxis and rideshares. There's low risk with any option.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
You have a low risk here, but you should never let your guard down, especially when taking the aforementioned public transportation. The theft risk is one in 87.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
The horror of 1967 shows just how prone this entire area is to tornadoes. They are most prominent in spring but can happen any time of the year. Severe thunderstorms are common in the warmer months and there have been many technological advancements in storm warnings since the 1960s. Winters will bring snowstorms and extreme cold at times. There's a medium risk because of the potential throughout the year.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here, but keep in mind that risk could change as soon as you cross into Chicago. The robbery rate is half the national average in Oak Lawn.
TERRORISM RISK : MEDIUM
Any part of the Chicago metro area is going to have a medium risk just because this is one of the largest population centers in the country. You can read about the terrorism emergency management plan on the city's website. Oak Lawn itself wouldn't be considered a target.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
The Oak Lawn Police Department does have a financial crimes section, and there are some great tips to avoid being a victim of identity theft. There are no scams that directly impact tourists.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Women are safe here with low risk, as long as they are following basic personal safety steps like avoiding walking around alone after dark.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The latest Water Quality Report from 2020 shows there are no violations in the drinking water tests done, so there's a low risk.
Safest Places to Visit in Oak Lawn
Oak Lawn is a city where the popular places to visit will be community events happening throughout the year.
The Village Green hosts a lot of these events and you can view the schedule on the city’s website.
There is no tourism website for Oak Lawn.
The Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn is one of the best family-friendly attractions in the city.
Here you will learn about everything from the Constitution of the United States to animal care to topography.
There is even a special area just for toddlers to explore their developing senses.
The Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanical Garden are just a few miles away in Palos Heights.
Here you can walk on paved trails or softer woodchip trails.
You can also rent kayaks and paddleboats when the weather is warm.
The Oak Lawn Park District has nearly two dozen parks to explore, an ice rink, a pool, and a golf course.
There are activities available throughout the year, but be sure to bundle up in the winter.
Chicago Ridge Mall is the quintessential American shopping mall with plenty of stores and restaurants to explore.
There’s also a movie theater there.
Places to Avoid in Oak Lawn
Crime maps show the northwest, northeast, and south parts of the city have the most crime.
Even with that, there aren’t bad neighborhoods in Oak Lawn that are too dangerous to explore.
Avoid going into the Chicago area without having researched the crime rates there.
There are parts of the Southside of Chicago you shouldn’t even drive through, much less get lost in.
This entire region has crime risks that can change at the city boundaries.
Avoid pronouncing the “s” in Illinois, as it drives people nuts.
It’s pronounced “Ill-in-noy”, not “Ill-in-noise.”
Also, don’t get into a battle about “best pizza.”
You won’t convince anyone in Chicago that there’s a better pizza than a deep dish.
Growing up in St. Louis where we revel in our ultra-thin crust pizza, I’ve gotten into family battles with my Chicago kin and we’ve just agreed to never eat pizza together.
It’s like arguing about barbecue between Kansas City and Memphis.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Oak Lawn
- The Oak Lawn Police Department has a section of its website called “Current Alerts.” This is where you can learn about the most recent crime trends. For example, as I write this, there’s a trend of detached garages getting robbed with some pictures of the suspects.
- As an investigative journalist, I like to do a deep dive into any area I visit. If you like it too, there’s a sub-site of the police department’s website called “Police 2 Citizen” that has live, interactive crime mappings, daily bulletins, traffic information, sex offender searches, and so much more. This also covers several jurisdictions in the Southland area of Chicago, so you can get more information than just Oak Lawn.
- There is Oak Lawn, Texas, which comes up a lot when researching this city. I should correct myself – it’s a village. Be sure you’re adding “village” or “Illinois” to your search to make sure you’re in the right place. Even in some Reddit forums, people are asking about crime and safety, but they’re asking about the wrong “Oak Lawn.”
- Gangs are a part of life in Chicago, and even safe suburbs aren’t immune to the problem. Oak Lawn police have a hotline set up for anyone who can provide information about gang activity, even if it’s just a report of graffiti. That number is (708)499-7884. You can also email OLPDgangunit@oaklawn-il.gov.
- Oak Lawn has cameras at major intersections that can capture video of people running red lights or not following the “right turn on red” laws. I’ve lived in many places with red light cameras, and I can tell you they don’t issue a ticket unless you really, completely, no-question-about-it, ran a red light. People going through yellow lights aren’t ticketed.
- Never try to go around the crossing arms on a train track. Oak Lawn has been established as a “Quiet Zone” for trains, which means the train operator can’t blow the horn as loudly or as often as is normally required by law. To get Quiet Zone approval, a number of safety steps have to be put into place to reduce the risk of people or vehicles getting hit by trains. Never try to beat the train or work around the system because trains are generally closer and going faster than you think.
- Oak Lawn has more than 18,000 trees on main roads, which makes the community very pretty during nice weather. During storms, those trees can become dangerous with lightning strikes, fallen limbs, and broken branches in ice storms. If you ever see tree debris in the street, call (708) 499-7756 to get Public Works to come remove it.
- It’s not really easy to find attractions or things to do in Oak Lawn with a simple web search. Most of the attractions on other travel sites are going to list things in the greater Chicago area, and not just Oak Lawn proper. You can visit the Oak Lawn Chamber of Commerce website to get more specific information in the city, but keep in mind these are just businesses that pay to be members of the chamber.
- Anglers are going to need an Illinois non-resident fishing license. Your home license won’t suffice here. You can easily get a license at the website of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
- Recreational marijuana is legal in Illinois and that includes Oak Lawn. You can’t just use it in public or drive after using it, however. There are a lot of restrictions. For example, you have to be 21 and can’t use it around anyone under 21. You also can only use it in a private residence where the owner of the property ok’s it.
So... How Safe Is Oak Lawn Really?
It doesn’t have the North Shore region’s level of safety, but it’s still a rather safe community.
There isn’t a crime category that is above Illinois or the national average for crime.
The risks break down like this:
- Violent crime: 1 in 627
- Robbery: 1 in 2804
- Theft: 1 in 87
While Oak Lawn doesn’t give detailed crime information, in my research experience over the past decade, I’ve found that about 30% of thefts are shoplifting, which won’t impact a tourist.
Another 30% are generally car break-ins, so if you aren’t driving a car here you don’t face that risk.
The city hasn’t had a homicide since 2017.
There were eight sexual assaults in 2020.
The benefit of Oak Lawn is that it is a safe community.
That’s a great plus for the residents.
A tourist, however, is going to find a lack of hotel options and not a lot of things to do unless they are visiting local friends or family who have better insight into the popular restaurants and safe places to visit outside the city.
There is a tourism website for Chicago Southland Convention and Visitors Bureau, which can provide more insight into the region.
How Does Oak Lawn Compare?
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- Visas - You'll need to start the Visa process about four to five months ahead of your trip to make sure you complete all the steps in time. You'll show your Visa after you get off the plane but before you go to baggage claim, so bring it with you on the flight.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here and there are plenty of currency exchange locations in the area, but it's safest to take care of that at the airport if you can.
- Weather - The weather here is the best and worst of all four seasons, but winters can be mild at times and summers can be cooler. There's a reason they say in the Midwest "If you don't like the weather, wait a few hours - it will change." You'll want to pack for snow activities in the winter and in summer it does get humid, so pack whatever you'll feel comfortable in if you get sweaty.
- Airports - Oak Lawn is closest to Midway International Airport, which is just seven miles and about 20 minutes away. It's about 40 minutes to O'Hare International Airport.
- Travel Insurance - You'll want travel insurance because even with major airports here, there can still be numerous flight delays or cancellations. Plus, the weather can be unpredictable many times of the year.
Oak Lawn Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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