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
Peoria, Illinois, is a tale of two cities in one location.
On one hand, you’ve got a medium-sized city with some big city attractions and just a few hours from either Chicago or St. Louis.
On the other hand, you have a city marred by gun violence, drugs, and gangs, with 2021 reaching a record high number of homicides.
While the increased violence isn’t unique to Peoria in Central Illinois, it does have its fair share of contribution to the problem.
Newly enacted laws and law enforcement tactics are focusing on community policing and getting more officers on the streets.
When you take away the ugly underbelly of Peoria and try to put aside the “Bomb Squad” gang that wreaks havoc in certain neighborhoods, you really see a pretty cool Midwestern town.
The city sits where the Illinois River blossoms into Peoria Lake.
There are more than 113,000 people living here, and that doesn’t include the nearby cities of East Peoria, Morton, or Bartonville.
The city has its own zoo, casino, food scene, and outdoor adventures.
One of my favorite parts of growing up in St. Louis was heading into Illinois in the fall for some apple picking or pumpkin patch hayrides.
There are plenty of farms around Peoria for these and many more activities.
Despite all of its unique traits, Peoria has become a standard of acceptance and popularity for products and marketing nationwide.
The well-known phrase of “Will it play in Peoria?” is used to determine if the general public nationwide will like something.
If you have a choice of which side of the river to stay in during your visit here, the East Peoria community has a lot lower crime numbers.
Drive 10 miles more to Morton and you’re in one of the safest communities in the state.
That’s the rub with Illinois these days – one of the most dangerous cities and one of the safest can be just 10 miles apart.
Warnings & Dangers in Peoria
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk in Peoria. Looking at the crime numbers, I debated going with a high risk, but I think it's better to say there's a high potential for crime. Plus, I would consider it a high-risk city somewhere you shouldn't even visit because it's too dangerous. Peoria isn't that place - yet - and there are a lot of people trying to reverse the trends.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
CityLink is the public bus system in the greater Peoria area. You can also call for a taxi or rideshare. There's low risk with any option, but use extra caution when waiting at a bus stop or after dark for a ride.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk with the theft rate being 40% higher than the national average. You should carry as little as necessary in a purse and use a crossbody bag so it's not easy to snatch. For wallets, wrap a rubber band around it and put it in your front - not back - pocket. This makes it much harder to take.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Peoria has gotten some very nasty tornadoes throughout the years, and the season heats up in spring, but a devastating EF-4 tornado hit in November of 2014. You must have basic severe weather safety knowledge before visiting here. Winters bring snowstorms and some ice storms, but there's plenty of warning. Overall, it's a medium risk, but on an average day, you wouldn't notice it.
MUGGING RISK : MEDIUM
The robbery rate is more than twice the national average and with such high violent crime numbers, this is medium risk. While that doesn't reflect the likelihood that you will get mugged, it means that there are criminals here - more so than in some other cities - who won't think twice about forcefully taking something from you. Again, this is a potential risk and not necessarily a risk given due to hundreds of tourists being mugged.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
Terrorists would be more likely to target Chicago or St. Louis, which are bigger metropolitan areas 2 to 3 hours away. There's a low risk here and the biggest threats to Peoria come from the criminals who live here.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
Most of the scams reported in Peoria are normal ones throughout any city (I guess even scammers ask "Would it play in Peoria?"), but there is one to be wary of. It involves someone calling from the park service claiming the person won a free trip. While this has been limited to calls, you should know it might evolve into an in-person claim. The scammer then tries to get personal information. Don't fall for this. No free trips are being given away by the Peoria Park Service.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM
Women should be very careful here after dark and shouldn't go into neighborhoods where they don't know anyone. There's less of a chance that women will be targeted but a bigger risk of being caught in the crossfire of another crime or being the victim of a crime of opportunity. Plus, the sexual assault rate here is 40% higher than the national average. Overall, it's a medium risk for women.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
Illinois Water provides the tap water here and passed all requirements in the annual water quality testing. The utility company also invested nearly $200 million in upgrading tap water systems.
Safest Places to Visit in Peoria
The Peoria Zoo is a family-friendly adventure that takes you to Africa, Australia, and Asia through its animal displays.
Whether you want to see a massive snake or a white rhino, the Peoria Zoo has you covered.
There is also an interactive barn for kids to feed the animals.
Check the Facebook page for the Zoo for upcoming events.
You can even buy birthday gifts for the animals there.
To make your wilderness visit more wild, head to Wildlife Prairie Park.
This mixes a regular park and an amusement park for more adventures than you might be able to fit in just one day.
You can take a train ride around the animals or get a behind-the-scenes bus tour.
There are fishing, hiking, kayaking, and bird watching available here too.
This park covers 1800 acres, so wear comfortable shoes and bring plenty of water.
There is a hotel on-site if you want to stay close to this natural gem.
Check out one of the many “U Pick Em” farms in the Peoria area, though some might be a 30-minute drive away.
Some of the more popular farms are:
- Ackerman Family Farms
- Tanners Orchard
- Arends Orchard
- Christ Orchard
- Orchard Hill Farm & Country Store
- Partridge Point Orchard
- Pleasant Row
- Roth Pumpkin Patch
Be sure to check the hours and seasons, as some are open throughout the year while others are only open seasonally.
Peoria Playhouse Children’s Museum is a great rainy day or muggy summer day activity.
There are several hands-on exhibits and special events to enjoy.
There’s also a family farm section to learn about farming in the Midwest.
The Peoria Riverfront Museum might be more interesting to adults, but there are some attractions for the kids.
It’s located downtown by the river.
There’s also a planetarium there.
The construction equipment company Caterpillar had its headquarters here for many years, so you’ll see that name all over town.
The Caterpillar Visitor Center is more of a museum than a building filled with brochures and you’ll start the visit with a ride on a mining truck.
There is a local minor league hockey and baseball team, so depending on which season you are there, you can catch a game at affordable ticket prices and have a fun night with the family.
Places to Avoid in Peoria
The highest crime areas are along the river and about two miles to the east.
The farther north and west you go, the more crime rates go down.
Crossing into East Peoria also comes with exponentially lower crime rates.
Even West Peoria has lower crime numbers than Peoria.
The best advice is to avoid the neighborhoods around downtown.
Stay on the main roads and don’t try to take a shortcut.
You might see other tourist sites mentioning a riverboat tour on the Spirit of Peoria.
As of April 2022, this attraction is not just closed, but it’s also not even there.
The boat was purchased by a Florida company and has gone on to different waters.
Avoid pronouncing the “S” in Illinois. It’s pronounced “Ill-in-oye.”
You’ll be corrected or get eye rolls if you say it wrong.
Also, the phrase “Does is play in Peoria” doesn’t play in Peoria.
You won’t hear locals saying it.
That’s more for marketing teams at big companies outside of the area.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Peoria
- There’s an interactive crime map on the Peoria Police Department website. You can choose the type of crime, the address you want to search for, and the dates of those crimes. This is a great way to see what crimes have happened closer to the time you plan to visit.
- In the first four months of 2022, nearly 150 cars were stolen in Peoria. When you are parking downtown be sure to lock your car doors and roll up the windows. Do not leave anything in plain sight. Try to park near a crowd of people or directly in view of a surveillance camera.
- You can text 911 in Peoria County as well as call. A text should be treated with the same seriousness as a call. Only use the text to 911 function in case of a legitimate emergency. Note that East Peoria is NOT in Peoria County.
- Sign up for CodeRED alerts through the police department website. This will send you information about weather emergencies, road closures, and criminal activity. This is a great tool to keep informed while visiting the city.
- Know the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning. A watch means conditions are likely that storms could produce tornadoes in the next two to 12 hours. A warning means a tornado has been spotted, either by a person or by radar, and you should seek shelter immediately.
- If you have information about a crime or if you were a witness to a crime and have additional information, you can sign up for a Tip411 account and send your information directly to the police. The police department also has its own app where you can contact the police and submit information.
- You’ll need a fishing license in Illinois if you want to catch fish. Your home license won’t suffice here. You can get a license online at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources or purchase one when you arrive in town.
- Recreational marijuana is now legal in Illinois but it comes with a slew of rules. You can’t use it in public and you must be 21 to use it. You also can’t use it around anyone who isn’t 21. You can’t use it in a private home unless the owner allows it. That’s just the beginning of the rules. Make sure you realize the full spectrum of rules before even considering trying it.
- The Illinois River Bluff Trail goes through Peoria and you can walk or ride a bicycle along with it. There might be hazards on the trail and the park district would appreciate a call if you notice anything like a downed tree or trail washout area. The number is (309)691-3098.
- Check the weather report daily. Some of the worst tornadoes I’ve seen in my life came on days that started with clear skies and sunshine. The weather can develop quickly here and you need to know if storms are in the forecast. If there is a severe thunderstorm or tornado watch, don’t go into wilderness areas. You don’t want to get stuck outside in a storm. If you doubt how bad the weather can get here, go to YouTube and search for “Peoria Tornado” to get the point across.
So... How Safe Is Peoria Really?
The crime in Peoria has gotten so bad it has reached the state level of acknowledgment and action.
The city has dozens of neighborhoods and most of the crime comes from just a handful of them.
Much of the crime stems from acts of violence against known entities, like gang wars or domestic violence.
The problem with having this much crime in an area is that there is always a risk an innocent person will be in the wrong place at the wrong time and be a victim or get caught in the crossfire.
Now some people have lived here for decades who will say it’s not that bad and it’s just the local news that makes it look bad.
I feel that because I’m from St. Louis, one of the “most dangerous cities in America”, but I also know the areas to avoid. 80% of the area I’d travel through happily, and the other 20% I would avoid at all costs.
The state has started several programs to combat crime, including mental health resources for criminals, paying for funeral expenses of crime victims, and creating systems that allow witnesses to be able to safely report crime without fear of retaliation.
There is a local group called “Peoria Community Against Violence” that aims to help the more crime-ridden areas by getting into the communities and educating the youth before the cycle of crime can start and offering single mothers the option to get a positive male role model in the lives of children.
Peoria isn’t the only Illinois city that would otherwise be a peaceful community without rampant gun violence.
This is a pandemic in the state and it’s happening at a time when police departments are having a hard time finding officers.
Without enough officers on the street, crime will continue.
There’s a fair chance you’ll visit Peoria and only see crime on the local news if you even watch it.
However, it’s important to be aware of the risks when visiting so you can have a safe trip and take the necessary precautions to enjoy your time here.
How Does Peoria Compare?
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- Visas - You will need to show your Visa when you arrive in the United States and before you go to baggage claim, so be sure to carry it with you on your flight. You don't need to show your Visa as you travel throughout the different cities or states.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here and you want all your purchases to be as safe as possible. You don't need cash here as everything can be purchased with credit cards or mobile pay apps. If you do carry cash, don't keep it in a large wad in your wallet. You don't want to draw any attention to yourself.
- Weather - Peoria enjoys all four seasons, but some dangers come with each one. Winter will require warm clothing from head to toe. Spring and fall can have varying temperatures from morning to afternoon to evening, so bring layers. Summers are going to be hot and muggy. You should bring comfortable walking shoes throughout the year.
- Airports - Peoria has its international airport that's less than seven miles from downtown Peoria. If you want a bigger airport, you can choose St. Louis or Chicago, but you'll need to drive nearly three hours to get to either one.
- Travel Insurance - You should consider travel insurance as part of the costs for a visit to Peoria, Illinois. Make sure you know what kind of weather delays or accidents are covered because severe weather can happen any time of year here.
Peoria Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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