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
Rock Island, Illinois, is one of four cities that make up the area known as the Quad Cities.
The Mississippi River splits the Quad cities as it flows in a rare east/west pattern before returning to its north/south route.
Moline (and East Moline) are the other Illinois cities in the area, along with Davenport, and Bettendorf on the Iowa side.
Rock Island is rich with history, including notorious gangster John Patrick Looney, whose life was the basis for the book and movie Road to Perdition.
Remember the Blues Brothers?
They were from Rock Island in the popular movie.
This city was also the birthplace of the National Football League, with the first game ever played at Douglas Field.
The city itself isn’t an island, but the Rock Island Arsenal sits on the actual island and is the largest employer in this area.
While it boasts a small town and a historic district feel in many parts of the city, it also has modern amenities like a casino comparable to those in Las Vegas.
The Mississippi River has been a blessing and a curse for the Quad Cities, bringing a lot of business and transportation through there, but also starting arguments between rival cities of St. Louis and Chicago as bridges were built in the late 18th century.
In today’s world, you’ll need to be comfortable crossing a bridge because there are many of them in this area.
The bridge architecture here has been trend-setting throughout the past couple of centuries.
Warnings & Dangers in Rock Island
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's low risk when visiting Rock Island, but some more concerning parts of the crime data. The city comes with the traditional Midwestern friendliness and a great sense of community.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
MetroLINK is the public bus system throughout the Quad Cities area. You can also easily get taxis and rideshares. There's low risk with any option.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
The theft rate is lower than the national average and one of the better parts of the crime data. There aren't a lot of crowds, aside from the St. Patrick's Day festival, so few chances to get pickpocketed or have your purse snatched if you are paying attention.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
You're going to have to worry about flooding with the river being such a central part of the community. There are also severe thunderstorms and tornado risks throughout the year, with the top season being spring. Winter is going to bring snow and ice, but that's just common around these parts.
MUGGING RISK : MEDIUM
The robbery rate is almost twice the national average and the violent crime rate as a whole is higher than state and national averages. There's a medium risk just because those numbers have traditionally been high. Illinois isn't as transparent as other states in detailing where the robberies occurred, so to err on the side of safety, we are elevating the risk a bit.
TERRORISM RISK : MEDIUM
You are at a medium risk here because of the Army Arsenal on Rock Island. Military installations are always going to be considered hard targets, but they will also get more protection from Homeland Security.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
A big scam happened to Rock Island County from a wire transfer scandal, but there aren't any scams that are targeting tourists. You should still be aware that asking for a wire transfer or gift card purchase from a stranger or an assumed businessperson is a sure sign of a scam.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
There's a low risk for women when visiting here, but don't walk around at night by yourself. The violent crime rate is high enough that it should warrant extra protection and vigilance when visiting.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The Mississippi River provides the drinking water supply for Rock Island and the 2021 Annual Water Quality Report shows all treated water was safe for consumption. There's low risk when using it, but I'd avoid swimming in the Mississippi River. It's only clean water once it has been treated.
Safest Places to Visit in Rock Island
Rock Island is split up into several neighborhoods and there are several historical areas to visit.
- Downtown Rock Island: Views of the river and plenty of shopping, dining, and entertainment.
- College Hilltop: A walkable area near Augustana College
- Watch Hill/Hillcrest: Tree-lined streets with rolling hills surrounded by historic homes.
- Broadway Historic District: More than 500 homes with stunning architecture from different eras.
In a place named Rock Island, it makes sense to have a geology museum.
You can visit the Fryxell Geology Museum on the Augustana College campus.
From a flowing rock wall to fully rebuilt dinosaurs, this is a unique experience for the whole family.
The Rock Island Arsenal Museum is one of the oldest in the history of the Army.
Here you can view the history of the small arms collection, testing, and deployment through various displays and exhibits.
You will need to go through a background check upon entering the island in order to take the tour.
Sunset Park is a perfect place for a picnic.
It sits right on Lake Potter, which flows to the Mississippi River, but is a much safe place for water activities.
There are also 250 acres to hike.
The Quad Cities Botanical Center is on Rock Island right on the river.
Each season brings a new theme to the center and you can explore everything from flowers to fossils.
There is also a Children’s Garden that comes with the price of admission.
Places to Avoid in Rock Island
Crime maps show the northern side of the city has higher incidents of crime than the southern side.
People in Rock Island refer to neighborhoods as “above” or “below” the hill.
Visually, it’s easy to see if you are in a historic neighborhood or a regular neighborhood.
The term “Rock Island” can be misleading when doing research because Rock Island is also a gun manufacturer based in the Philippines with headquarters in Nevada.
Rock Island is also a park in Tennessee.
It’s important to add “Illinois” or “Quad Cities” to search terms to get you to the right place when researching this area.
Avoid calling Illinois “Ill-in-noise” because that drives locals crazy.
I grew up in St. Louis right is right across the river from Illinois, so I have to take a moment to tell you to call my home state “Miz-our-ee” not “Miz-our-uh.”
Safety Tips for Traveling to Rock Island
- The city police department releases a list weekly of arrests and crimes committed. It’s not in an easily searchable map, but it is a list of crimes that occurred. This can at least help you see crime trends closer to your point of the visit.
- As much as the Quad Cities are a region, some people will talk negatively about each city within. Some say Rock Island is super dangerous. Others will say Davenport has more crime than anywhere. The argument goes on. Researching the crimes happening helps you make a smart travel decision. Wherever you pick, standard personal safety tactics are going to help keep you safe. Each city has risks and benefits.
- Anglers will need a fishing license in either Illinois or Iowa. There are some places where a license from one state will suffice in another since some of the waters are shared. Be sure to research the license requirements of both states to get the right non-resident license for yourself.
- You are required to have liability insurance if you are going to be driving in Illinois. The state-approved strict laws in 2020 requiring that all vehicles be insured to stop a rash of uninsured motorists causing crashes.
- There is a marina on Rock Island but there aren’t any boat rentals available. You’ll have to make a new friend with a boat or stick to renting a kayak, which is available.
- It’s important to know the flood stage of the Mississippi River when visiting here. The area is at a high flood risk every 30 years or so. In 1992, the Missippi River flooded from Minnesota to southern Illinois. This area was severely impacted by floodwaters. I was in St. Louis at the time and I remember the floodwaters came within a fingertip touch of the floodwall downtown.
- The are several parks and downtown areas that provide free WiFi for visitors. You can read the “how-to” instructions on the city website. Remember when using public WiFi, there is no guarantee of privacy. You are responsible for having a VPN or Firewall to protect your personal information.
- Parking in Rock Island comes with a variety of time limits and there are unlimited free parking areas. You can review the maps on the city website to see where the best parking is for you. A “Snow Route” marking means that if more than two inches of snow falls, that will be a road to be plowed as a priority. No cars are allowed along snow routes when the snow has fallen. First, you’ll get ticketed, then towed.
- If you see graffiti when you are visiting Rock Island, be a good friend to the city and report it through the city’s graffiti reporting portal. Graffiti is illegal and a code violation, but it can also be a sign of gang activity. There are community volunteers that help quickly clean up fresh graffiti. Don’t assume someone has already reported it.
- With so many bridges to cross getting around the Quad Cities, it’s important to remember that even when it’s not snowing, cold temperatures can still create black ice. This means nearly invisible patches of ice could be on the roads and cause dangerous driving conditions. Bridge pavement is sure to freeze over first because nothing is warming the road from below. Use extra caution on bridges and don’t drive while distracted.
So... How Safe Is Rock Island Really?
Rock Island is a working-class city with traditional Midwestern values.
It’s safe to visit, but not safe enough that you should ever let your guard down.
The violent crime rate is particularly high, with a one in 174 chance of being a victim of a violent crime.
The city had seven homicides in 2020, which is a ten-year high.
There’s a one in 742 chance of being a robbery victim, which doesn’t seem too risky.
I can tell you that most cities I research have had a robbery risk in the one in 1,000+ range.
While the national rate of robbery is 38 per 100,000, in Rock Island it’s 134 per 100,000.
The theft rate is lower than the national average.
The crime data given to the FBI for reporting is missing a lot of specific elements that other states provide when it comes to breaking down topics like theft.
In general, I’ve seen a trend of about 1/3 of thefts being car break-ins and anywhere from 1/4-1/3 being shoplifting.
I don’t have that data on Rock Island, just that the overall theft rate is relatively low.
You should still lock your car and roll up the windows when you leave it.
The good news is you don’t like what you’ve learned about Rock Island, you can still research Moline, Davenport, and Bettendorf while still being in the same area if you like one of those better.
How Does Rock Island Compare?
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- Visas - Plan for at least four months to complete the Visa process. You'll be required as part of that process to do an interview. The Visa will be checked when you arrive in the United States and after that, a passport will be your legal ID.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here. Just about everything you need can be charged or paid for with mobile pay. You really don't need to carry cash here, and it's safer that way too.
- Weather - You'll get all four seasons with extra humidity in the summer. The closeness of the river brings a lot of bugs too, so bring bug spray. Winter won't give you much of a break, so pack the full gear of winter coat, gloves, scarf, and hat. If there's one thing to know about Midwestern weather - it's that it changes often. It could be 45°(F) one day and below zero the next.
- Airports - Quad Cities International Airport is just four miles from Rock Island. The Chicago area airports, O'Hare and Midway, are about three hours away. The St. Louis airport is four hours south.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance is a great idea for a location where severe weather can happen throughout the year.
Rock Island Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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