Iowa : Safety by City
- Arnolds Park
- Cedar Falls
- Cedar Rapids
- Clear Lake
- Council Bluffs
- Des Moines
- Fort Dodge
- Fort Madison
- Iowa City
- Mason City
- North Liberty
- Pleasant Hill
- Polk City
- Sioux City
- Spirit Lake
- Storm Lake
- The Amana Colonies
- West Des Moines
There are a lot of cities named “Pleasant Hill” in America, but for this article, we’re talking about the one in Iowa, which is a suburb of Des Moines.
Be sure when doing other research you add Iowa or else you might be looking at California or Missouri or Ohio – you get the point.
When you look at Pleasant Hill on the map, your first reaction will be “There is nothing but a few streets and empty land!”
This is a city where you can appreciate what it is now and the development that is to come.
This is a fast-growing city with plenty of room for that growth.
Pleasant Hill is mostly residential but does have a few nice attractions and a couple (and by that, I mean two) hotels.
It’s also in a great location, being just 15 minutes from downtown Des Moines and 15 minutes south of the bustling suburb of Altoona.
The city was hit by a tornado in March of 2022, and several homes were destroyed.
The video of the storm is so hard to watch.
This was one of the strongest and deadliest outbreaks in Iowa in the past decade.
Storms like this are just a reality in the Midwest, and it’s a good reminder to always take storms seriously.
As I write this tucked into my Nebraska home, we have severe weather coming in tonight and my fingers are typing at warp speed so I can bring in the patio furniture and bring supplies to my safe space when I’m finished.
That’s just life in the Midwest, but the benefits far outweigh the risks.
Warnings & Dangers in Pleasant Hill
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low risk in Pleasant Hill. The crime numbers are low and there are just 10,000 people in this cozy community. You definitely don't have to worry about crowds here.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
The public transportation system for Des Moines is DART and there are routes that come to Pleasant Hill. You can even bring your bicycle to the bus stop and it can be transported with you. Taxis and rideshares are available as well. There's low risk with any option.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
You can rest assured there's a low risk here. With wide-open spaces and plenty of breathing room, it's unlikely you'll be in a crowded enough area to face this risk. You should still use caution when dining and make sure you place your purse or backpack in plain sight. I always prefer to get an extra seat at a table for all the purses of people at the table.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
As I said above, tornadoes are one risk. What gives even more confirmation to the medium-risk here is that three days after that tornado, the debris crews were delayed because of a big snowstorm. That's right. A tornado on Saturday, a snow storm on Monday - in March. Hail can fall the size of golf or baseball here at times too. If there is hail in the forecast, get your car covered in a garage or covered parking spot ASAP.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
With no robberies reported in 2021, there's a really low risk. Even the violent crime rate was low, with 20 incidents reported.
TERRORISM RISK : MEDIUM
Unless it was just for the sheer irony of it all, a terror group wouldn't directly target Pleasant Hill. The Greater Des Moines area is at a medium risk just because it's the largest city in the state. Even in large population areas, Des Moines wouldn't be a top target - but if there is a risk in Iowa, it would most likely be Des Moines. There was an incident involving a massive explosion in the 1980s when two teenagers went hunting and it is believed they shot at a storage building filled with dynamite. The boys were never found, aside from some bone fragments and pieces of clothing. The explosion was felt up to 50 miles away. That wasn't a terror act - it was just an accident.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
Given the residential nature of this area, the scams that happen here are the garden variety ones in any neighborhood. Things like IRS scams and utility bill payment threats are more likely than any tourist scam.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Women should feel safe visiting here with low risk. There were two sexual assaults in 2021, far below the national average. Remember to check the safety ratings for neighboring cities, because even just crossing into Des Moines might change that answer.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The water quality report for Des Moines Water Works is a bit confusing at first glance. After combing through it, there aren't any violations to worry about. The utility company does testing at the plant when the water is treated and again after it has traveled through pipes to the city businesses and homes. If you have any questions about this elaborate report, call Pleasant Hill Public Works at (515) 262-9465.
Safest Places to Visit in Pleasant Hill
Golfers will love this city.
Copper Creek Golf Course does have memberships, but there are tee times available for the public.
Members just get some added benefits that the general public doesn’t.
You can also go to Toad Valley Golf Course for a regulation green, mini-golf (the “Field of Greens”), and virtual golf.
Check out the schedule at Sleepy Hollow Sports Park and Event Center.
There are festivals held here throughout the year and there are camping sites for those attending the Iowa State Fair.
The facility wasn’t open in the winter of 2021-2022, but it does look like it opened in the spring of 2022.
You’ll have to check their website or social media accounts for updates, as right now there aren’t too many details.
There are several parks and wildlife areas to visit in or near Pleasant Hill:
- Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge: A great chance to get some exercise and see the wildlife of Iowa.
- Yellow Banks Park: Amazing river views from the bluffs.
- Easter Lake Park: Great fishing and boating with a beach in the summer. It’s also home to the only covered bridge left in Polk County.
The Great Escape is an entertainment complex with bowling, laser tag, arcade games, and virtual reality experiences.
There is food available there too from Social Eats & Crafts, so you don’t have to plan lunch or dinner around this visit.
It’s also worth trying out the Pleasant Hill Diner for hearty meals in an old diner atmosphere.
Places to Avoid in Pleasant Hill
Even the highest crime-rated neighborhood in Pleasant Hill is very low risk, so you don’t have to avoid any part of this town.
Just about everything you’ll need is near the Highway 65 and University Avenue interchange or along one of those major roadways.
If you are heading south on 65 and driving over the Des Moines River, you’ve officially left Pleasant Hill.
You’ll need to go down to Avon to turn around.
Sometimes, after a storm hits, people want to go look at the damage.
This is good advice for any community you visit in the aftermath of a disaster – don’t go look at someone else’s tragedy.
There was a couple in March that lost their home and their business in that one tornado.
Imagine if that was you and someone was driving by.
The National Weather Service and local news stations will cover an event like that, so you can see pictures and videos online.
If you are inclined to help, reach out to the Red Cross and ask how you can do so.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Pleasant Hill
- The Pleasant Hill Police Department has a 24-hour phone number for non-emergencies. That number is (515)286-3333.
- If you are renting a car for your trip, ask the rental company to have a car that comes with an anti-theft device. This benefits them as much as you, so they should accommodate the request. In the past two years, 50 cars were stolen in Pleasant Hill and 1,468 were stolen in Des Moines. (That Des Moines number is NOT a typo – I triple-checked.)
- If there is now during your visit, don’t park on the streets for at least 24 hours, longer if the road hasn’t been cleared. You can get ticketed or towed for violating this ordinance.
- One of my biggest pet peeves of winter drivers is when they just clean off the windows and windshield, but not the whole car. The snow and ice can fly off the roof and hit another car. The hood snow can fly up into your windshield and leave you blind on the highway. Take the time to clean off the entire car to the best of your ability.
- Don’t leave your car running in cold weather to warm up. This is an easy way to get your car stolen. Thieves will actually roam neighborhoods or hotels and look for people who have left their cars running and unlocked. Even if you have a key fob, the thief can still take the car. They just won’t be able to stop it and start it again.
- If you want to go fishing while you’re in Iowa, you’ll need a license from the Department of Natural Resources. You can purchase it online, and while you’re there, look at the best fishing lakes for the type of fish you want to get. There are a lot of great details to make sure you get a good catch of the day.
- If you are riding a bicycle in Pleasant Hill, always ride on the right side of the road and with the flow of traffic. This is safest for you and the drivers on the road. Don’t ride on the sidewalk unless there is an extreme reason to do so. You are expected to follow all the rules of the road as if you were driving a car. That means you have to stop at stop signs and stop lights, even if the flow of traffic is clear from other directions.
- On the city’s website, opt-in to the “Alert Me” section for the Alert Center. This will get you emergency information about flooding, road construction, parking bans, and so forth. You can also sign up for Alert Iowa to get weather information sent to your mobile device.
- Be careful when driving through neighborhoods because, for the most part, golf carts are allowed on the residential streets. They cannot be on city streets or highways.
- It is illegal to drive while distracted in Iowa. You can get pulled over just on suspicion of using your mobile device. If you get lost, pull over to the nearest parking lot to reset your GPS. To avoid temptation, you can also set your phone to stop notifications while your car is in motion.
So... How Safe Is Pleasant Hill Really?
It’s a safe city where you can feel comfortable sleeping, eating, and playing.
The only crime category close to the national average is theft, and that’s still just one in 74 risks.
Some cities I’ve researched in Iowa go as low as one in 29 risks.
That said, you can’t let the name Pleasant Hill fool you.
There is a crime here.
There was one negligent homicide in 2021.
There were 15 aggravated assaults, up 275% from the year before.
Burglary was up 51%.
There is no community in Iowa or elsewhere that is a “no-risk” community.
With a one in 507 risks of being a victim of violent crime, it’s safe to say you’re more likely to be a victim of petty theft than a violent act.
If you take all the good safety steps you know how to take, you’ll enjoy your time in Pleasant Hill.
Just be sure to research more about Des Moines, because the safety guidance changes at the city boundary.
How Does Pleasant Hill Compare?
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- Visas - You will only need your U.S. Visa when you go through Customs at the airport. There isn't a need for it to travel between cities in the Des Moines area.
- Currency - The U.S. Dollar (USD) is the only currency you can use in Pleasant Hill and the Des Moines area. Be sure to let your bank know you'll be traveling and set up fraud alerts for purchase amounts that exceed what you expect to spend.
- Weather - You'll want layers throughout the year, because temperatures can be quite volatile, even in summer and winter. I don't live too far from Pleasant Hill and we had the lowest June temperature ever a few weeks ago. There's a reason they say "If you don't like the Midwest weather, stay a few hours, it will change." You should bring warm winter clothing for when those temperatures do dip down. Summer will be muggy, so you'll want whatever you need to be comfortable when sweating. Bring bug spray too. The Iowa mosquitoes are annoying.
- Airports - Des Moines International Airport is just 20 minutes away, and there's a major highway to get you there, so you don't have to worry about inner-city traffic or stop lights. 511ia.org is a great website to use for traffic conditions in Des Moines and all of Iowa.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance will really be helpful here when you can't predict the weather far enough in advance to change flights or re-arrange dates.
Pleasant Hill Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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