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
Sycamore, Illinois is a small town that is generally connected in every sentence with the city of Dekalb.
The Sycamore/DeKalb area is home to about 60,000 people, with Sycamore the smaller of the two with less than 19,000.
This area is home to Northern Illinois University, which is technically in DeKalb, and that adds another 20,000 students to the area each semester.
Sycamore is less than 70 miles from downtown Chicago but feels like a world away.
It’s 40 miles from Rockford, to the northwest, but when comparing the crime rates, they might as well be on different planets.
This is also home to one of the longest cold cases involving a murdered child from the 1950s.
Maria Ridulph went missing while playing in the snow one night, and her body was found four months later.
It took until 2012 to get a conviction in the case and that was overturned in 2016 after evidence proved the jailed man was wrongly convicted.
There’s a plaque in Maria’s honor in the center of Sycamore.
Make no mistake that this is small-town Illinois.
There isn’t going to be an abundance of activities to do here, and to the south and west, there are just a lot of cornfields and other small towns.
Some people are surprised at how rural Illinois is outside of the Chicago area.
You’ll only have three hotels to choose from in Sycamore and might end up staying in DeKalb, which only has six hotels.
What you will find here is small-town charm and some historical sites with a few outdoor activities.
The city is home to a popular Pumpkin Festival every fall.
Warnings & Dangers in Sycamore
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here. The crime rates are low and there have only been two homicides since 2010. Don't let the cold case of that poor child make you think this isn't a safe place to visit.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
There is a bus system that takes you through Sycamore from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm. The "blue line" is the route you'll take. You can call taxis or rideshares, but don't expect them to show up quickly all the time. Small towns mean fewer drivers. You can rent a car if you'd like, too, but that will be done at the airport since you have to drive to get to Sycamore anyway. All options are low-risk.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
There is a low chance of being pickpocketed here. Identity theft counts for 1/3 of the thefts here. Shoplifting is another 1/3 of all thefts. The risk of being a theft victim is one in 331.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Search YouTube for "Sycamore Tornado" and you'll see how quickly a storm can turn into a dangerous tornado here. The most recent one was in 2021. You have to be weather aware during the warmer months when there's a risk of severe weather. Winter is going to bring snow and possibly ice storms, so that is another risk to prepare for when visiting. There's a medium risk because of the potential for severe or extreme weather, but on an average day, there's not much to worry about aside from the summer humidity.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
This city hasn't seen more than two robberies in a year since 2010, so there's a low risk of being mugged. It's a bit of an anomaly in a state where small towns are being rocked by increased gun violence. If you have Rockford on your list of places to visit while in the Sycamore area, I strongly recommend you read the article we have on that city because it's a totally different crime climate.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here because it's a small town and it's far enough away from Chicago that an attack there wouldn't have an impact here.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
You shouldn't have to worry about being scammed as this isn't a big tourist destination. Identity theft has been a big problem the past couple of years in the city, and the city police tell me that's because of unemployment fraud, and not because of stolen credit cards or bank statements.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Women have a low risk when traveling here, and might even be surprised at some of the shopping and spa amenities in this small town. You can't expect too much from it, but I've seen some small towns that hardly have a nail salon, much less a full day spa.
TAP WATER RISK : MEDIUM
This is a medium risk and I want you to hear the full story here first before you start hearing exaggerated tales in Sycamore. It started with some yellow water coming from the faucets of some homes in the past couple of years. If you look at the annual water quality report the city puts out, you'll see on paper that the water is perfectly safe to drink. The city even has a statement on the website that reads, "The results of tests confirm that the City of Sycamore water meets or exceeds all EPA drinking water requirements and is safe for consumption." However, residents fed up with the yellow water did their own testing and higher than acceptable levels of lead were found. Now, there's a lawsuit stemming from the public district of the city and an investigation into why different water quality tests show different levels. I'm really watering down this story (no pun intended) to give you an overview because it's much more complicated than that. However, if I were you? I'd bring my own bottled water and avoid ingesting the water here until the city gets it figured out. One defense for the city is that the water is clean when it leaves the treatment plant, but gets contaminated when going through the pipes of some neighborhoods. Other city leaders just insist the water is safe without further comment.
Safest Places to Visit in Sycamore
Aside from winter, there’s a farmer’s market downtown every Monday from 3:00 pm – 7:00 pm.
This is a great place to meet people and ask about upcoming community events.
There is also a calendar on the city website.
In summer, you can take a walking tour of the historic areas.
There’s a self-guided or docent-led tour.
The history museum has an exhibit showing “The History of DeKalb County in 100 Objects.”
There’s a walking or bicycle trail system between Sycamore and DeKalb, including one that runs back and forth between both cities and is six miles long.
Fall is a great time to visit here, not just for the Pumpkin Festival, but some of the local farms open their barns for corn mazes and pumpkin parties.
Johnson’s Family Farm in Sycamore is one of the most popular farms to visit.
If you are in the area on Thanksgiving weekend, visit Whispering Pines Reindeer Ranch and see the reindeer getting ready for the big journey on Christmas Eve.
Sycamore Forest Preserve covers 60 acres of outdoor trails and fishing opportunities.
In the winter, this is a great snowshoeing trail.
You’ll find many local or regional restaurants in Sycamore and some of the bigger national brand locations in DeKalb.
Places to Avoid in Sycamore
Crime maps show the highest crime area is the central west side of town, but you really don’t need to worry about ending up in a bad neighborhood here.
The community is safe and pretty quiet.
As you can see from the things listed above, there isn’t a whole lot to do here.
You should avoid driving too far, if at all when there is ice with any snowstorm.
The roads can become incredibly slick.
Even though this is mostly flat terrain, there are a lot of two-lane roads here without a median and one little slick spot could cause a bad accident.
If you’re just trying to find a fun small town to visit in Illinois, there are more lively places than Sycamore.
It’s a pretty standard town with a decent amount of history, but other than that, you’ve got to like trails or parks.
You might want to look to cities like Galena for a small-town vibe with a lot to do.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Sycamore
- There is an app called “Out & About in DeKalb County” where you can search by city or type of attraction. There are a lot of small towns, like one called Sandwich, to visit if you run out of things to do in Sycamore (which isn’t hard to do).
- If you are looking for nightlife, you need to travel to DeKalb. Even though it’s not that far away, you should still take a designated driver or call a rideshare, since the public transportation stops at 9 pm. There is a whiskey distillery there with live music and some craft beer restaurants. Don’t risk drinking and driving. With so little crime here, you can bet the police are going to be on the prowl for drunk drivers.
- In 2021, Sycamore police officers responded to 450 reports of keys locked in a vehicle – that’s more than one a day! Be sure to take your keys with you before you lock the door, and roll up the windows to deter theft.
- Sign up for CodeRED alerts through the Sycamore Police Department website. This will send weather, civil, and criminal emergencies to your mobile device.
- There is plenty of parking in downtown Sycamore and street parking has old-fashioned meters. Be sure to bring change to feed the meters. Each has a time limit of either two hours or 12 hours. More than 2,700 parking violation tickets were issued in 2021. Don’t forget to feed the meter.
- The police provided a map of the car crash location in the 2021 Annual Report. A surprising 83% of accidents happen during daylight hours (I told you there isn’t a lot to do at night here!). It’s illegal to text and drive in Illinois and even holding a mobile device can get you a ticket. Stay focused on the road, even in clear weather.
- If more than two inches of snow accumulates, you must move your vehicle from the public streets so the snowplows can get through. You can either get a ticket or towed if you don’t. This snow emergency information will be one of many things sent through that CodeRED app, so it’s another great reason to download it.
- If you are visiting during a spell of heavy rain, don’t ever cross a street that is underwater, even if you think it’s just an inch or two. It only takes a few inches of water to carry a car away and you could ruin your vehicle, not to mention risk your life. The Kishwaukee River, also known as The Kish, runs along the outskirts of the city and is prone to flooding. In fact, one of the parks there was a former mobile home neighborhood that flooded all the time, so they moved the residents and built a park.
- In the past decade, 10 tornadoes have hit DeKalb County. You must take tornado watches seriously and act on tornado warnings immediately. You should always know the safe space to go to in case of a tornado warning. If you don’t know where to go, find the most interior room like a closet or bathroom, and cover your head with pillows or a mattress.
- If you want to go fishing while you visit Sycamore or any city in Illinois, you’ll need a fishing license from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. You can’t use your hometown license here. Be sure to purchase a non-resident license.
So... How Safe Is Sycamore Really?
This is a very small town that seems to have escaped the bad gun, gang, and drug problems that plague some other small Illinois towns.
Here’s how the crime numbers look from 2021:
- Homicide: 1
- Rape: 6
- Aggravated Assault: 12
- Theft: 306
- Motor Vehicle Theft: 7
- Drug Violations: 26
DeKalb is a more dangerous city when you compare crime rates.
For example, the violent crime rate comparison is:
- Illinois Average: 4 per 1000 people
- Sycamore: 0.7 per 1000 people
- DeKalb: 6.4 per 1000 people
The property crime comparison is:
- Illinois Average: 15 per 1000 people
- Sycamore: 9 per 1000 people
- DeKalb: 26 per 1000 people
You are definitely choosing a safer option by staying in Sycamore.
There just isn’t as much to do and you’ll find yourself going to DeKalb more than likely.
How Does Sycamore Compare?
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- Visas - You only need a Visa when you are entering the United States. After that, a passport will be used to prove your legal ID.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here. You should have some cash and coin on you since the parking meters and some businesses only take cash or checks. Just don't carry your money around in a large wad or money clip to avoid being seen as a theft target.
- Weather - Prepare for winter with warm clothing. You'll want good snow or waterproof boots too. It can be bitterly cold in this part of Illinois and the wind chill just makes it worse. Spring is a great time to visit but the temperatures can fluctuate a lot, so plan for layers. Summers will be muggy, so bring clothing that can handle a lot of sweat and a rain jacket is great for those summer storms. Fall is beautiful but you'll want a hoodie or jacket for the cooler early mornings and evenings.
- Airports - You're going to need about an hour to 90 minutes to get to the Chicago area airports and always check traffic before you head out. That trip can easily take more than two hours if you are traveling during the rush hours.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance is just smart thinking when you are visiting a place so remote and so prone to storm activity. If you are renting a vehicle, make sure you know what the coverage is for hail damage, as storms here can produce hail up to baseball-sized.
Sycamore Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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