Michigan : Safety by City
- Ann Arbor
- Battle Creek
- Farmington Hills
- Flat Rock
- Glen Arbor
- Grand Rapids
- Mackinac Island
- Mackinaw City
- Port Huron
- Sault Ste. Marie
- Sterling Heights
- Traverse City
Saginaw is a mid-Michigan city known more for its crime rates than anything else.
Is Saginaw really that dangerous?
Is it really more dangerous than Detroit?
The city is part of the tri-city region, which includes Saginaw, Bay City, and Midland.
Saginaw is not the same as Saginaw Township, but they are right next to each other.
This entire region is historically known for innovation, automotive, and agriculture.
Saginaw was once home to nearly 100,000 people.
That has now dwindled to fewer than 42,000 people (and shrinking).
“It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw, I’ve gone to look for America.” – Simon & Garfunkel, 1968
The folk rock song indeed predicated what would become of Saginaw – a place people would leave and never return.
Even if leaving meant walking a few miles to another township.
The suburban boom encouraged growth outside the city lines.
That took away much-needed tax dollars and new business, leaving old businesses broken and blighted.
It also left behind those who lived in “redlined” districts (primarily home to African Americans and other minorities) to survive in a city that was dying a slow, poverty-stricken death.
Even in 2020, the poverty rate was hovering near 36%, with a family over four being considered at the poverty level when making $26,500 a year.
The average income in Saginaw is just $5,700 more.
It’s important to know this side of the Visit Saginaw story to prepare for what you’ll see – a city systemically let down by the government and industry seeking greener pastures at the expense of the lawn that built them.
Saginaw is split by the Saginaw River – a watery defining line between the “haves” and “have-nots.”
Look beyond the blight to see a city rich with history, recreation, and serious attempts to rebuild despite all the odds against them.
Warnings & Dangers in Saginaw
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk in Saginaw and a high risk in certain neighborhoods. The city overtook Detroit as the most dangerous city in Michigan, per 2021 crime data. It also ranked as the 4th Most Dangerous City in America. Luckily, the hotel groupings are all in a safer part of the city.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
Saginaw STARS is a public transportation system with fixed routes throughout the city and adjoining townships. Taxis, rideshares, and rental cars are easy to find. Provided you use bus routes covering the safer parts of the city, you will be safer. Having your own car would be ideal.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
Seven pickpockets and purse snatchings were reported in 2021. Those thefts were valued at more than $2,000, which suggests the thief knew they were taking valuables. Limit what you carry to the bare minimum.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : LOW
Winter storms can be fierce here, but Saginaw also gets a dose of severe weather in spring and summer. Extreme heat and cold are possible in summer and winter. Flooding around the Saginaw River is also a risk. All concerns come with warnings and safety guidance. Check the Emergency Management's website to prepare for seasonal risks during your visit.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
Robberies have plummeted 300% in the past decade but still sit just above the national average. 33% of those robberies happened on sidewalks or streets, so use caution - especially at night. Stay out of the bad neighborhoods and on the well-lit, safe streets, day or night.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
The risk of an international terror attack is low, but there's an ongoing risk of Lone Wolf acts or domestic terrorism in any community. It's important to note that even something like a 10-year-old child saying he was going to "shoot up the school" led to an arrest, so violent threats from anyone of any kind will be treated seriously.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
Phone scams are a big concern here, but that's likely only to impact residents. A Facebook scam posing as the animal shelter and purportedly selling bulldog puppies was also reported. You should be on guard for scams because poverty can lead to desperate measures and conniving plots.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Women are slightly more at risk of being victims of violent crime, and with some dangerous parts of this city, you can't be too careful. Know basic self-defense and learn to trust your gut. Stay west of the river if you can.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2021 Water Quality Report for the Saginaw Region is a document jam-packed with information. Since the water utility covers a vast region, the report details all the cities and townships under its purview. While a few minor paperwork violations were reported, the biggest concern in this area (and Michigan) is outdated lead pipes, which are more impacted by the age of pipes in your hotel or business. Read the document for the best advice to keep lead out of your drinking water. It can be as simple as letting a stagnant tap run for a minute or two before consuming.
Safest Places to Visit in Saginaw
Saginaw doesn’t have its own tourism site, but you can use the Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce site and Go Great Lakes Bay, run by the regional convention & visitors bureau.
The Downtown Development Authority is a great resource for finding new businesses and events downtown.
It’s important to say that Saginaw has some very dangerous parts, but that’s not reflective of the region’s tourism experience.
You will find plenty of things to do while helping support a struggling city.
Most attractions will be in the downtown area or Old Town.
These will run the span of the city’s riverfront.
On the east side of the Saginaw River, you’ll find:
- The Saginaw Castle Museum of Saginaw County History: Yes, it’s actually in a castle. The building itself is worth the trip, but the inside exhibits are even more valuable.
- Saginaw Children’s Zoo: Animals, train rides, carousel rides, and nature-centered attractions.
- Japanese Cultural Center: Visit the center, gardens, and only authentic teahouse in the Midwest.
- SVRC Marketplace: An indoor year-round marketplace mixes craft fair, food hall, and sidewalk sales into one location.
West of the Saginaw River:
- Old Town: You’ll find some bistros, breweries, and shops here. It’s not robust, but it is an integral part of Saginaw’s history.
- Mid-Michigan Children’s Museum: Interactive and hands-on exhibits for kids of all ages.
- Saginaw Art Museum: Wander through 2,000 pieces of art dating back more than 4,000 years inside a 1904 mansion with elaborate gardens.
The Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge covers 10,000 acres and has a seasonal seven-mile wildlife drive.
The refuge is open year-round with 15 miles of trails and one of the best birding locations in mid-Michigan.
Fishing and kayaking are also popular here.
Places to Avoid in Saginaw
What is truly tragic about Saginaw is that the places to avoid are the same pieces of land “redlined” back in the 1930s by the government.
Not only are these areas poor and dangerous, but they were also forced to stay that way because minorities couldn’t get business loans or mortgages from the start.
Places east, and southeast of the river, outside the downtown area, should be avoided.
That is especially true east of the river and south of Rust or Holland avenues (M-46).
While the downtown area has its share of crime, the spaces we’ve discussed are safer than just wandering the streets looking for something to do.
Some places might be closed seasonally or have limited hours due to staffing challenges, so call before you visit a particular location.
Reserve tickets in advance as much as you can to guarantee a spot.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Saginaw
- Saginaw has its own police department, as does Saginaw Township. You can tell them apart in searches by using the phrases “Saginaw Police” or “Saginaw Charter Township Police.” Saginaw Police encourage people to use their Facebook page since they are “very active” there. The department posts a monthly SPD newsletter with highlights, lowlights, and events for the month.
- The Saginaw community is active in the Neighbors App by Ring, with police sending emergency alerts on the account and neighbors reporting non-urgent crimes and showing Ring camera videos of crimes. It’s a good resource to keep track of crime while you’re there and not just the information police are willing to share.
- SPD has Community Watch Programs in each neighborhood. The contact information for each one is on the department’s website. You’ll be contacting citizens actively engaged in improving the community, so you could get more direct information than the police will share with you.
- To report a crime tip or any suspicious activity, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-422 JAIL (5245). You can remain anonymous while still being eligible for a reward.
- Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge is a great place to visit, but flooded, or damaged trails can lead to closures. You should check the social media pages or call the park ranger’s office to confirm if trails are open before you go. Some trails are closed during the hunting season, and you should follow that guidance. You don’t want to get mistaken for a deer. In the utmost of safety, you can wear Hunter Orange when visiting a wilderness area during hunting seasons.
- You will need a hunting license to take part in any variation of the sport. The rules and restrictions are stringent, and most tourists won’t take the time to get the required safety training. Getting a fishing license is much easier. You can learn more about both through the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
- Use the Mi Drive website to check traffic, closures, construction, and weather risks on any Michigan road. You can create an account and set up alerts for your routes. The maps also include roadside parks and rest stops.
- Saginaw’s roads get torn up by winter weather and the freeze/thaw cycle. Help keep the roads safer for everyone by reporting potholes. You can call (989)399-1311 and give the street address of the pothole. Don’t assume someone else has reported it because those suckers can pop up quickly. You can also use that number to report an unplowed road or other weather damage.
- If you’re genuinely concerned about visiting Saginaw, check out the WE BUILD section of the city’s website. This is a video essay exploring the rebuilding of a disenfranchised city. I know this article is about safety, so it might be more doom-and-gloom, but there are some great parts of this place to experience.
- For those renting a car in a mid-Michigan winter, ask the rental company if they provide vehicles with snow tires. These tires are legal as long as they are used seasonally and can help your vehicle grip the road in the worst of the winter weather. You should also consider an all-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicle.
So... How Safe Is Saginaw Really?
Researching Saginaw leaves a pit in your belly.
The injustices from the start with an underserved community struggling to survive should make anyone want to make more calls for action.
That’s what happening in Saginaw.
The city got a $350,000 Project Safe Neighborhood grant from the federal government to prevent crime and catch criminals in the city.
Saginaw Police Chief Robert Ruth said non-fatal shootings were down 60% in 2022.
“Everybody working together as a team is what’s getting these guns off streets.
We’ve made some very good arrests this year, which has slowed gun violence down.
Is there still more work to do?
Oh yeah, there sure is.
We got a lot of work to do, but at least it’s a positive improvement over the last few years,” Chief Ruth added.
The first homicide of 2023 happened at a gas station on Holland Drive, right off a main road where any tourist could stop.
It is, however, in that area we told you to avoid.
A 16-year-old was killed in that shooting.
While official 2022 crime data hasn’t been released as of this publication, the 2021 data showed a violent crime rate six times the national average.
That number lacks the context you need as a visitor, so here you go:
- 68% of violent crimes happened in homes
- 8% of violent crimes happened against strangers
In May 2022, a major drug bust cut a Mexican drug cartel distribution system off at the knees.
11 people, 10 from Saginaw, were indicted in more than a dozen charges.
Drugs are still a problem here, and while you should never do drugs, getting involved with this illegal activity can be lethal.
That includes a problem with prescription drugs being made illegally and laced with deadly Fentanyl.
Since this metro area covers Bay City, Midland, and Saginaw, we wanted to take a quick look at the safest cities on that list.
Here they are in order of safest to least safe:
- Saginaw Township
- Bay City
How Does Saginaw Compare?
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- Visas - A valid passport that's not within six months of expiring, plus a visa, are required to get through Customs at the airport. The visa process is what takes the longest, so start planning early. Visit the State Department website for new rules in 2023 that could expedite your visa.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here. You'll get the best conversion rates if you exchange currency at home, plus you'll pay lower fees. If you do wait until you get to Saginaw, do not use a public ATM. Go inside a bank where there will be plenty of security.
- Weather - All four seasons make it pretty easy to pack here. Winter is going to require a lot of warm layers and waterproof outwear. Bring snow boots and sneakers. Spring and fall can give you whiplash with changing temperatures. Pack layers and be ready for freezing temperatures or warm afternoons. Summers will be hot and humid. Avoid expensive name-brand clothing, purses, and jewelry, so you don't stand out to a would-be thief.
- Airports - MBS International Airport served the tri-cities, and it's 15 miles from Saginaw, about halfway to Midland. If you are flying in or out of Detroit, plan for two hours on the road.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance is a great idea with the intense winter weather that can wreak havoc on airline schedules in the Midwest.
Saginaw Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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