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
Welcome to Siouxland in Sioux City, Iowa.
This northwestern corner of the state is known as Siouxland, covering part of Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota.
Making it even more confusing, I am making an effort not to accidentally type another name with the word “Sioux” in it (FYI – Sioux is pronounced “Sue”.)
Here’s how to keep it straight:
- Sioux City: In northwestern Iowa
- South Sioux City: In Nebraska, across the Missouri River from Sioux City
- North Sioux City: In South Dakota, part of the Sioux City metro area
- Sioux Falls: In South Dakota, but not part of the Sioux City metro area (I remember this because South Dakota gets very cold in the winter, so the temperature “Falls.”)
- Cedar Falls: An Iowa city in the eastern half of the state
Do NOT confuse Sioux City with Sioux Falls.
It seems there’s a rivalry and downright near disdain for the South Dakota city toward the Iowa city.
It doesn’t help that the airport code in Sioux City is “SUX”.
Sioux City is home to 86,000 people, making it one of the top 5 largest cities in the state of Iowa.
Just about every single one of them loves hot dogs, so get ready for a hot dog restaurant overload on your trip here.
Is Sioux Falls wrong to say that Sioux City is “SUX”?
Or are they absolutely right with the construction jokes and ongoing banter about being better?
Let’s look at what you can expect in Sioux City, Iowa.
Warnings & Dangers in Sioux City
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk in Sioux City thanks to high crime rates. Even the police chief stated about one crime category, "We’re seeing it pouring over at alarming rates, which scares me." While I will always err on the side of caution when it comes to ranking safety levels, I'm not going to sensationalize anything. There are just certain risks in Sioux City that a visitor needs to know.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
Sioux City Transit is available to get around the area and the stops are now available to be seen on Google Maps. There are no Sunday routes, so you'll need a taxi on rideshare on that day. There's a low risk, but stay aware of your surroundings at bus stops. Don't leave your headphones on and lose that critical sense of hearing what's happening around you.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk of being pickpockets or being a theft victim. The theft rate is 40% higher than the national average. We're giving every crime category a medium risk because of high violence and property crime rates and that mysterious crime category that is out of control (we'll explain it soon, I promise.)
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Iowa has a lot of cities built along rivers. That was ideal back in the pioneer days, but it does expose even modern-day cities to the risk of flooding. There are also those Midwestern thunderstorms with tornado-producing capabilities. Even without a tornado, there can be straight-line winds, derechos, large hail, and intense lightning. Winter can bring ice and snow storms. There's a medium risk and you should really educate yourself on the risks during the season you visit. It will help reduce anxiety if a storm does develop.
MUGGING RISK : MEDIUM
The mugging risk is actually below the national average, which has been an odd trend in Iowa. However, the way crime data is calculated, if a robbery turns into a physical altercation, it gets upgraded to an aggravated assault. The assault is reported, but not the robbery. Because of the violent crime here, it's a medium risk and you really shouldn't fight back if a robber does approach you.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here due to a small population. If a terrorist wanted to impact a big city, they'd go for Omaha just down the river. The real terrorists are the criminals that continue to get away with crime in Sioux City.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
There's a low risk of a tourist being scammed because all the scam warnings from police are targeted at locals. However, there's a risk that you might get a similar call regardless of where you are. The best practice is to know law enforcement will never demand money over the phone to excuse you from an arrest warrant. Never wire money or purchase gift cards in exchange for a prize. Common sense and skepticism go a long way here.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM
The sexual assault rate is twice the national average with 83 rapes and sodomizes reported. Sometimes, in smaller cities, the way national rates are tabulated can make sexual assault averages seem worse than they are. However, this is a big enough city that the risk holds up. Don't walk around at night alone. Don't take a drink you didn't see a bartender make or open. Don't meet someone you met online in a private place. Stay in public, well-lit areas, and bonus if you can see a surveillance camera nearby.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
It's frustrating when cities like Sioux City put their required Water Quality Report out there in a confusing array of numbers and abbreviations the average person wouldn't know. There is a fine print stating that "all regulated substances were well within the limits EPA has set." See how hard that is to read? The water is safe with low risk, you just need to have laser vision to see it. If you have questions about the water quality report, call (712)279-6130.
Safest Places to Visit in Sioux City
Once you’ve left SUX (sorry, I can’t resist SUX jokes), there are plenty of safe places to visit, despite the high crime rates.
ExploreSiouxCity.org is a tourism website and there’s a lot of great information about the different districts and things to do.
The Sergeant Floyd River Museum is one of the top visitor attractions in the city.
There’s a traditional museum building and a dry-docked riverboat to visit at this one site.
Sergeant Floyd was the only casualty of the Lewis & Clark Expedition.
He died in Sioux City in 1804 from a ruptured appendix, long before there was any treatment for the common health emergency.
You will see many places in Sioux City bearing Sergeant Floyd name.
There’s a Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Sioux City.
Here you can play table games, slots, or visit the sportsbook.
There are several entertainment venues on-site as well.
The hotel even caters to travelers’ dogs with a special package just for canines.
There isn’t a spa on-site, which bums me out because I’m quite a spa connoisseur, and the Rock Spa in Las Vegas was among my favorites.
However, neither the spa nor the Hard Rock exists in Vegas anymore, but that’s for another blog post.
Long Lines is a recreational facility with rock climbing walls and a yoga studio.
There are different difficulty levels on the wall, and it’s open to beginners as well.
Children are allowed to take a turn on the rock walls as well.
The Fourth Street Historic District is the place to be for architecture lovers.
This is a business district with facades dating back to the 1880s.
The architecture is described as “Romanesque Revival.”
There are unique boutiques and eateries here too.
There is a walking tour map available for this area and three other historical parts of the city.
Downtown Sioux City is just outside the casino, and you’ve got an abundance of cultural and fun options.
There’s even an art gallery called Art SUX where you can see the work of local artists.
There’s a pedal bar available for rent, where you hop up on a barstool and the bar is pedaled around the streets.
The Sioux City Railroad Museum is near North Sioux City, but still on the Iowa side.
Here you can learn about the history of railroads in this region and see some engines and cabooses on display.
My dad, may he rest in peace, was a huge railroad fan and he would drag his daughters to museums like this.
Let me tell you, sons and daughters reading this, if your dad wants to come here, don’t whine and complain.
They are some of the best memories of my childhood seeing his face light up at the sight of trains.
Cone Park is fun during any season, but it’s the best place to go for sledding or ice skating in the winter.
There is a warming center there too if you need to get out of the cold before going back into the elements.
There’s a memorial along the river off Larsen Park Road for United Flight 232 that crash-landed at the Sioux City airport in July 1989.
Despite the fact that 112 people died on the airplane, 185 people somehow survived what was a dramatic crash without landing gear.
The heroic pilot told the control tower, knowing a crash was imminent, “Whatever you do, keep us away from the city.”
The memorial honors the victims and community members who helped in the aftermath.
Places to Avoid in Sioux City
The crime areas are very spread out across Sioux City.
Basically, any place that looks fun to visit is in an area with a high crime rate.
There are a bunch of hotels downtown and another gathering of hotels on the south side of town near the Southern Hills Mall.
One of the unique hotel experiences in a safer part of town is the Chocolate Mansion.
It’s a historical three-story home turned into a boutique hotel.
There’s a Marriot just across the river in South Sioux City, Nebraska, that is in a safer neighborhood (at least by just looking at crime maps).
It also would provide a great view of the Sioux City skyline.
After doing extensive research on Sioux City, I can tell you the variety of tourism websites for the different districts have a lot of dead links.
I spent about an hour emailing the agencies to let them know the links weren’t working.
This could be an error or a computer system change.
It could also mean a business or attraction didn’t survive the pandemic.
Be sure to call ahead to the places of your choice to make sure they are still open.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Sioux City
- The non-emergency number for the police department is (712)279-6960. You should call 911 if there is a life-threatening emergency, but the non-emergency number is good for submitting crime tips or letting officers know about things like graffiti or a loud party. You can also report crimes to Crime Stoppers if you want to be anonymous and eligible for a reward. That number is (712)279-6411.
- If you are involved in a car accident, you only need to report it to the police if there was more than $1500 damage done. You can still report a fender bender, but you don’t have to if you can resolve it on your own with the other driver.
- The different districts in the area are policed by different patrol groups. You can find a list of names and emails for each district on the department’s website. This gives you a point person for safety questions and helpful advice for each area.
- If you are renting a car or driving your own here, use anti-theft devices to deter thieves. You should also never leave the title in the car. This can make it easy for thieves to sell them. Keep the title in a safe place at home. If you are pulled over, you’ll just need to show your license/passport, proof of insurance, and the vehicle’s registration.
- If you want to fish here, you’ll need a license from either Iowa, Nebraska, or South Dakota. You don’t need all three. There is a reciprocity agreement in place that the connecting waters of the states are covered by a fishing license from one of the states. To get an Iowa non-resident fishing license, visit the website of the state’s Department of Natural Resources.
- The downtown area can really stink. There are factories and a wastewater treatment plant close to the downtown amenities, and the stench can be really hard to tolerate. The city has taken steps to mask the odor from the wastewater plant, so you can at least be comforted knowing it’s not as bad as it used to be.
- If you don’t like hot dogs or get grossed out at the thought of what’s inside them, keep it to yourself. This city is built partially on its love of hot dogs and you’ll see a lot of vendors. There are some locations that have been there since the early 1900s, so it’s as much about history as it is about hungry stomachs.
- When you hear people joke or complain about construction, it’s a valid comment. The I-29 construction project was a massive undertaking and took more than a decade to complete. This led to a lot of other “Sioux” cities making fun of the ongoing and relentless construction here. Sioux Falls particularly likes to make jokes about it, with one person even tweeting, “The year is 2078. Man kind has suffered a great loss at the hands of global warming and alien invasion, which wiped out most of humanity. The few remaining colonies have found safety along the Missouri River. Only to continue the construction work on I-29.”
- When driving around this region, there are two things to look out for – farm equipment and ATVs. You’ll see a tractor from a good distance away, but the ATVs can sneak up on you or be hard to see. There are laws requiring limits on the usage of ATVs. However, the vehicles can be on two-lane roads. If you get stuck behind a piece of farm equipment, there might be times it takes up so much of the lane you can’t even pass. Just suck it up and accept that this is a farming community until you find a safe place to pass.
- The downtown area has skywalks connecting different buildings. Check out the map on the city’s website so you can see where the connections are. There are two miles of skywalk hallways to protect visitors from the outside elements, and it’s a great tool in the cold winter.
So... How Safe Is Sioux City Really?
I would tell you the answer, but I think Police Chief Rex Mueller sums it up well.
“Clearly the continued rise in violent crime is a cause for concern.”
Sioux City isn’t an anomaly because of its growing gun violence and drug crimes.
The opioid epidemic is just hitting the city particularly hard.
That’s the crime the chief said actually scared him.
The problem isn’t just the drug use or the habit-forming drugs given to patients with an assurance of safety several decades ago.
Now drug dealers, in an effort to save money, are lacing the drugs with Fentanyl.
The powerful opioid can kill the average person with barely enough product to fit on your fingernail.
People who buy the drugs think they are buying prescription drugs at a discounted rate, or are so addicted they keep buying drugs, not knowing there’s a lethal dose inside.
“We’re going to see those effects in the days and months ahead.
We’re going to see more in our community dead because of fentanyl overdoses.
It’s guaranteed,” Chief Muller said.
The chief also addressed the rising gun violence rates by saying, “Clearly the continued rise in violent crime is a cause for concern,” Chief Mueller wrote in a crime statistic memo.
“Many of these violent crimes are gun-related, and current departmental initiatives are doing a very good job of identifying and prosecuting our most dangerous local offenders.”
The city is making strides to focus on the top offenders and hold them accountable.
There is also an ongoing call for community members to report anything suspicious they see or to share information about crimes, even if those crimes involve friends or family.
Community policing is the only way a city with a high crime rate can get a hold of the problem and reduce the problem.
Should you avoid Sioux City?
What you should do is treat it with the same safety steps you’d take in a big city like Chicago.
How Does Sioux City Compare?
- Visas - You'll need to plan a few months ahead of time to get a U.S. Visa if you're visiting from outside the country. There are several steps, including an in-person interview. Don't wait until the last month hoping you'll meet all the deadlines. You won't be able to travel by air without a Visa.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar in all three states of this region. There might be some cash-only places, like the hot dog stands, but carry as little as you need. Otherwise, a credit card or mobile payment app can be used for more purchases.
- Weather - There's a lot of variety in the weather here, so always pack layers. In winter, don't skimp on warm clothing to save space in your baggage. It gets downright cold here and you don't want to risk frostbite because you didn't want to pay to check baggage. Summers will be humid and hot. I'm actually about an hour from Sioux City, and this whole area is under a heat advisory for the next two summer days. Bring or buy a water bottle and keep it full during your adventures.
- Airports - The Sioux City airport (SUX) is on the south side of the city, about 15 minutes from downtown. It's in Iowa, so you won't have to cross the river to get to it.
- Travel Insurance - You should look into travel insurance to protect your flight and personal belongings on a trip here. Between the high crime rates and weather that can impact air and road travel, you want as much protection as you can get.
Sioux City Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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