Indiana : Safety by City
- Cedar Lake
- Crown Point
- Fort Wayne
- Michigan City
- Santa Claus
- South Bend
- Terre Haute
- Winona Lake
Terre Haute, Indiana, sits in the Wabash Valley of the Hoosier State and the Wabash River actually lines the west side of the city.
This is the home of Indiana State University and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, which ranks as the best undergraduate degree program for 23 years running by the prestigious U.S. News & World Report ranking.
There is West Terre Haute, which is a whole different city with its own leadership, and North Terre Haute, which is a separate census-designated place but is policed by Terre Haute police.
Terre Haute is a blue-collar community where 1/4 of the people live in poverty.
Even the people who don’t are living on an average of $37,000 a year.
With poverty and low income comes the risk of more crime.
It’s actually saddening to research this city because there’s so much potential in this city that has been plagued by crime almost from inception in the late 1800s.
Since 2017, crime rates have surged in ways I can’t really get a firm grasp of understanding.
From a lynching in 1903 with details almost too gruesome to read to true crimes left to rot for decades with no resolution to recent crimes like an officer killed walking out of the FBI office.
Many efforts are being made by the city to revitalize, renovate, reduce crime, and reinvigorate a frustrated community.
One thing to look forward to is the 2024 solar eclipse because Terre Haute is in the path of totality of the eclipse.
In a clever play on words, the city is marketing it as a “Total Eclipse of the Haute.”
(For those who might not get it, it’s playing off the title of Bonnie Tyler’s popular 1983 song “Total Eclipse of the Heart”, which is definitely stuck in my head as I write this article.)
Warnings & Dangers in Terre Haute
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
There is really no getting around the medium risk that exists in Terre Haute. The violent crime rate is three and a half times the national average and four times the state average. The spike started in 2017 when just 93 violent crimes were reported and surged to 837 by 2020.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : MEDIUM
The Terre Haute City Bus (actual name) is the public transportation in the city. If you use this while visiting, there's a rider survey you can take on the transportation website. You can also get taxis and rideshares. Having a car is a great option, but there's a 1 in 148 chance the car will get stolen. There's a medium risk with any option because of high violent crime numbers and bus driver shortage that is getting worse every year since 2018. You should be fully attentive to your surroundings if you choose to use public transportation, both on the bus and at bus stops.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM
There were just two purse snatching reported in 2020, which would make it seem like a low risk, right? Well, of the 1709 thefts, 1,460 of them were in a category called "all other", so that tells me there isn't a lot of detail going into the crime reporting. Because the overall theft risk is one in 34, we're going to have to give this a medium risk as well.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
You'll face the dangers of river flooding, severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, and extreme heat/cold, not to mention snow and ice storms in the winter. While those aren't going to be everyday risks, when they are happening they can get pretty severe. To keep you weather aware, we're going with a medium risk here.
MUGGING RISK : MEDIUM
22% of the robberies happened in public places in 2020 and the robbery rate is 40% higher than the national average. Given how the data was managed in 2020, if a robbery escalated to an assault, only the assault was recorded. With 725 aggravated assaults, it's safest to list this as a medium risk. I just can't really justify putting a low risk on this.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's a low risk of Terre Haute being a terror target. The criminals in the city are the real terrorists, holding a city hostage that could otherwise be a perfect slice of Americana.
SCAMS RISK : MEDIUM
Here's an interesting scam happening in Terre Haute I haven't heard of before. People will spoof a phone number and pretend to be a friend of yours asking for money. Many times they'll ask you to purchase gift cards for them. If anyone ever asks you to purchase a gift card for them that you aren't 100% sure you know personally, screenshot the conversation and the phone number and call the police. There's a medium risk because people here are looking for any quick way to get cash.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM
The sexual assault rate is 22% higher than the national average, but given how much higher violent and theft rates are, that's actually one of the lower crime rates here. There's a medium risk for women and you should use extra caution when driving around at night, or avoid it altogether if you can. Certainly don't go walking around here at night, even if you're with several female friends. Always let someone know where you're going and when you plan to be back in case of a worst-case scenario.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
I really enjoy researching cities that have American Water as their supplier. The company not only shows the water quality data, but has a lot of useful information for anyone who wants to learn more about water quality safety, how the scoring works, and what steps are being taken to make water even better in the future. That said, there's a low risk in Terre Haute and all water meets the standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Safest Places to Visit in Terre Haute
If it’s a nice day outside, look for all the sculptures in the 41/40 Arts and Cultural District.
This is the newest neighborhood in Terre Haute and has a great artsy vibe.
There are 21 sculptures and I’m particularly fond of “Urban Flowers.”
In that area around Indiana State University you’ve also got several museums to choose from:
- CANDLES Holocaust Museum & Education Center
- Swope Art Museum
- Terre Haute Children’s Museum
- Vigo County Historical Society Museum (honoring, in part, the birthplace of the curved Coca-Cola bottle)
- Veteran’s Memorial Museum
Outside of the downtown/ISU area, you can visit the Native American Museum at Dobbs Park and the Wabash Valley Railroad Museum.
There are several entertainment venues, from a children’s theater to a community theater, but the scene stealer is The Mill, a new venue bringing in some popular musical artists.
Fairbanks Park is right on the right downtown and has a fishing pier, boat dock, and numerous fairs and festivals throughout the year.
This is also where the Paul Dresser Wabash River Heritage Trail starts.
Who the heck is Paul Dresser?
Well, you can learn by visiting his birthplace right in the park.
Places to Avoid in Terre Haute
The north and northwest sides of town are the ones with the highest crime rates.
This includes a historic area known as 12 Points, which is undergoing revitalization and growth into an arts district.
The downtown and ISU area actually has some of the lowest crime rates in the area, but is surrounded by higher-crime neighborhoods on all sides, but again, mostly to the north.
If you don’t like big crowds, you might want to avoid the city on April 8, 2024, because that’s when the eclipse happens.
If you remember the crowds from 2017, you’ll know this is going to be a big attention-getter for the city.
If you want to be here for that, start planning and reserving now.
Not only will space go quickly, but it’s also going to start skyrocketing in price too.
For those who want to enjoy the Wabash River, avoid the far southwestern side where the city meets the water.
The state penitentiary is in that section of town.
While it’s a medium-security facility, it’s just not going to promote relaxation to see a prison nearby.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Terre Haute
- If you’re renting a car here, you should make a few safety requests with vehicle thefts being so high here. Make sure the vehicle has GPS, just in case it gets stolen, so police can track it. Ask if the wheels have locks on them so they can’t be stolen. You should also ask if they have vehicle deterrent devices like a steering wheel lock bar.
- Sign up for emergency alerts through Nixle.com. You can get alerts about any crimes, road closures, or weather emergencies right on your mobile device.
- The non-emergency number for Terre Haute Police is (812)238-1661. You can save this to your phone now just in case you need it. You can also reach out to the police department on Facebook, but the messages there aren’t monitored 24/7.
- If you’re using social media to get information about the community, I can tell you there’s a huge amount of tension from the community towards the police. I’m reading through their Facebook posts and even a thanksgiving question of “What are you thankful for?” turned nasty quickly. You can review the annual Use of Force report from the Terre Haute Police if you want to know more about rules, standards, and accountability for following proper procedure. Oh, and watch out for the guy who is hitting on just about every woman who posts on the Facebook feed. He’s relentless.
- This is a railroad town and there have been some issues with the crossing arms working correctly or people becoming impatient and driving around them. This led to two people being killed overnight in January 2022. The train hit their car with such impact that both passenger and driver were thrown from the vehicle. Never drive around the crossing arms, and if you think there’s a malfunction, there are signs at each crossing with an emergency number. You can also call 911.
- To find out about safe community events and hyper-local happenings, check out the website and social media pages for “The Haute.” This includes people not cursing back and forth at each other (like the police page) and includes activities day and night, with specifics if it’s family-friend or just for adults.
- 311 Citizen Connect is a feature of the city’s website that allows people to report issues or ask questions. You can report things like potholes or broken street lights. You can also dial 311 to get hold of someone or email 311Center@terrhaute.in.gov.
- For those riding the bus, the one-way fare is $1.75 and you must have exact change. You can also buy a 14-day pass for $21 and avoid having to count change.
- You cannot camp at any of the city parks, but there are county parks where camping is allowed. The website for county parks is vigoparks.org. The site link from the city website takes you to a spam site. I did report it to the webmaster, but if it doesn’t get fixed in time, you now have the correct one.
- If you want to go fishing in Terre Haute, you can find the perfect spot on the Indiana Department of Natural Resources website with an interactive map. There are dots that mark the fishing locations with all the specific information an angler needs.
So... How Safe Is Terre Haute Really?
I’ve spent a good couple of hours on the Terre Haute Police Department website and social media pages trying to find information about crime prevention and safety.
I’ll save you time – there isn’t any.
Shockingly, a city with such high crime rates doesn’t have basic safety information for locals and tourists.
You can find out how to report a crime, but nothing to help prevent crime.
I also asked the police department for the 2021 crime statistics, and apparently, only one person can get me that information and he’s on vacation for the next two weeks.
So, I’m forced to stick with 2020 data for now.
There aren’t any news conferences from the police department I can even watch to get more information.
In fact, the “news” section of the police department’s website is empty.
So here’s how the risk breaks down in Terre Haute:
- Violent crime: 1 in 69 risk
- Robbery: 1 in 758 risk
- Theft: 1 in 34 risk
- Motor Vehicle Theft: 1 in 148
I can tell you that 11% of the violent crimes happened against strangers and 67% of violent crimes happened in homes.
That’s a little more reassuring for a visitor that the bulk of violent crimes aren’t random.
We do know from the FBI and CDC that gun violence rates are going up across America, and Illinois and Indiana have been hit particularly hard.
There’s also an ongoing opioid epidemic leading to drug overdoses and increasing gun crime in the communities.
The unfortunate part is that no media outlet or government agency in Terre Haute is reporting WHY the crimes went so high so fast.
They are just reporting the actual crimes.
I wish I could give more context than that, but I’ve spent the better part of the past 8 hours looking for a specific cause to this effect, and I’m back at square one with just FBI data from 2020.
Maybe I’ll get more in “two weeks.”
How Does Terre Haute Compare?
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- Visas - You should begin the visa process at least four months before you plan to travel. There are several steps, including an interview, to complete before it is issued. You don't need your visa anywhere but the airport when you arrive in the U.S.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar (USD) here and, for goodness' sake, don't carry cash around here. Use one credit card with fraud alerts set up and take all receipts with you.
- Weather - You should plan for all four seasons here, with very cold winters and very warm and humid summers. It's a good idea to bring waterproof boots if you plan on spending time outdoors in case it snows, rains, or there's muddy ground after a heavy stretch of rain.
- Airports - Terre Haute has a regional airport but there aren't any commercial flights. The Indianapolis International Airport is 80 miles east.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance is a good idea for a city that comes with a long drive from the airport and plenty of risks along the way.
Terre Haute Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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