Indiana : Safety by City
- Cedar Lake
- Crown Point
- Fort Wayne
- Michigan City
- Santa Claus
- South Bend
- Terre Haute
- Winona Lake
Valparaiso, Indiana, also known as “Valpo”, looks to be on its own land island in northern Indiana, but there are plenty of ways to visit the South Shore and the Chicago area, even from this small community of 34,000 people.
Valpo also bucks the crime trends that are haunting many Indiana communities.
Not only are the crime rates here lower, but the city is also ranked as the 11th safest in the entire state.
It’s home to Valparaiso University, a private Lutheran college that was once close to becoming a Ku Klux Klan college called Ku Klux College.
That was just a century ago when the white supremacist group had a stronghold in this state.
Thank goodness the Lutheran Association stepped in and purchased the college instead because the Klan couldn’t come up with the money.
Things really get poppin’ here in September during the Popcorn Festival, named in honor of the former resident Orville Redenbacher.
Some of his descendants still live in the city.
In many ways, Valparaiso clings to a simpler America with its drive-in movie theater, ice skating rink, the downtown square surrounding a park, and nature trails to wander around.
The modern amenities such as being a foodie destination and an opera house paint Valpo as a place rooted in history but growing safely into the future.
Warnings & Dangers in Valparaiso
OVERALL RISK : LOW
It's nice to finally say this after writing a few other articles about Indiana this week, but there's a low risk here. The crime rates are very low, especially compared to some other dangerous cities just a short drive away.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
You can get to Chicago through ChicaGO DASH. South Shore Connect is the bus line throughout the South Shore area. Yes, Valpo isn't technically on the shore, but it's considered part of that region. There's also the V-Line, which is the hyper-local transit in Valpo. This is a very walkable community as well. You can call a taxi or rideshare without waiting a long time. There's low risk with any one of the many options.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
There was just one pickpocket reported in 2020 and it was a theft of $135. There are times when this small city is crowded with people, and you should definitely use extra caution if you're there when it's crowded. There's a low risk, but you shouldn't let your guard down.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
You'll have risks in any season, from tornado season in the spring to summer severe thunderstorms, to winter storms and the occasional ice storm that shuts down any city. There's a medium risk and you should study up on the weather risks during your visit through Porter County's Emergency Management Guide.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
There were just five robberies in 2020 and only one of them was in a public place. There's a low risk. I did see a couple of travel forums where people talked about getting robbed here, so it's no "no-risk." The main message with robberies is not to fight back.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here since it's a small town. Terrorists will likely go after harder targets like the city of Chicago.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
The Valparaiso Police Department has a section on its website dedicated to scam protection, but there isn't a scam that is out of the ordinary. There's a low risk and many of the scams mentioned target people who live there, not tourists.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Women can travel here at low risk. This is a college town, so you should use standard caution if you're going to be out in the bars or nightclubs. Don't walk around alone at night and stay on the main roads when traveling.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2021 Annual Water Quality Report shows no violations and declares all water meets or exceeds requirements. You can enjoy the water at low risk.
Safest Places to Visit in Valparaiso
Central Park is a great place to start.
The grassy area is home to farmer’s markets and craft shows plus some nighttime entertainment and it’s surrounded by a bunch of cafes and unique stores.
Be sure to find the bronze statue of Orville Redenbacher and take a photo on the bench with him.
The Gabis Arboretum is a mix of a park and a botanical garden that stretches over 300 beautiful acres.
You can enjoy the railway garden, spot birds, or wander through wildflowers.
There are five gardens to roam in and three types of landscapes.
The arboretum is open year-round.
Since the 1950s, people in Valpo have been enjoying movie nights at the 49er Drive-In Theatre.
It’s still open with double features and has consistently ranked as one of the best local attractions.
It’s the only one of its kind in this part of the state.
Anderson’s Winery and Vineyard is a dog-friendly winery with a robust menu of food and drink.
You can fancy it up by sipping in the tasting room or enjoying a picnic on the patio with a locally harvested bottle of wine.
Live music plays on weekend nights.
Zao Island is fun for the whole family with miniature golf, an arcade, laser tag, and go-karts.
There’s a restaurant on-site as well.
This is a great rainy day activity or a way to escape the summer heat or winter cold.
Places to Avoid in Valparaiso
The closer you get to Interstate 90, the more dangerous it becomes.
This is good news since the bulk of things to do are far south of that area.
When you’re traveling around the South Shore area, it’s critical to know that most of the other cities along the shoreline don’t enjoy the low crime rates like Valpo.
You should research those, especially Gary, before you go.
Avoid letting the safety rating make you too comfortable.
It’s important to always practice good personal safety techniques and you should always check the crime rates of an area closer to your time of visit.
Facebook pages for police departments and crime mapping technology help you see new trends that might be occurring.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Valparaiso
- A safe city stays safe because of people reporting any crime or suspicious activity. You can do that by downloading the Tip 411 app. This will allow you to send crime tips to the police, and you can choose to remain anonymous or request a callback.
- Traffic here can become dense, especially during a festival, sporting event, or a beautiful weekend day. This can lead to road rage. The Valpo police recommend you never stop during a road rage incident and always drive to a police station to keep yourself safe or lock the car and call the police, staying on the line while you wait.
- Several railroad lines go through Valpo. You should never try to “beat the train” or cross the tracks if a train is approaching. A local real estate agent told me the train stop can last anywhere from 10-20 minutes, so always plan this time in addition to your travel time.
- When parking downtown, pay attention to what zone you are in. On one street you might be able to park for three hours for free, but a few streets over, it’s just two hours. There is only one parking garage that offers all-day free parking and it’s on the southeast side of the city.
- Use caution when you drive around because some streets are approved for residents to drive golf carts on them. You can see a map of the golf cart-friendly streets on the city’s “map” section of its website.
- All local parks close at 10 p.m. This is for your safety and the safety of others. Be sure you’ve gathered all your stuff and are out of the parking lot by 10 p.m.
- Valparaiso is one of many communities adding roundabouts to intersections. I’ve long joked that the website “People Roundabouting Wrong” would be a great money maker. You should know how to navigate roundabouts before you visit here. There are plenty across Indiana as well.
- Anglers need a fishing license from the state of Indiana’s Fish & Game Department. Make sure you are purchasing a non-resident license and check the stamps & permits section. Some fishing activities require more than just a basic license.
- The police department lists crime statistics on its website, but only by the year. As of mid-2022, the 2021 crime statistics haven’t been updated yet. However, there is a spot at the bottom of the website page where you can ask additional questions. You should definitely ask about the crime happening closer to your time of the visit and see if there are any scams or other safety concerns to be aware of.
- Valparaiso University has its own police department. If you are walking on campus and an emergency happens, you can still call 911 or find a nearby blue or yellow phone designated only for emergencies.
So... How Safe Is Valparaiso Really?
It’s still very safe even if it wasn’t 26 miles from one of the homicide capitals of the U.S. in Gary, Indiana.
As I write this, I’ve just finished up Michigan City, Indiana, which is a city of similar size to Valparaiso.
The differences are eye-opening:
- Valpo Violent Crime: 1 in 794 risk
- Michigan City: 1 in 174 risk
- Valpo Theft: 1 in 116 risk
- Michigan City Theft: 1 in 30 risk
Michigan City is also one of the safer communities I’ve researched.
However, Valpo isn’t without its risks.
There were five homicides in 2020.
There were 184 violent crimes.
There were 17 rapes and 343 robberies.
The statistics are nothing that you can’t avoid by practicing good personal safety.
You still need to lock doors and windows at night.
Double bolt the hotel room door if available.
Lock your car and roll up the windows when you park.
Leave no personal belongings in the car.
The basics are your best bet for having a safe trip in the already relatively safe community of Valparaiso.
How Does Valparaiso Compare?
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- Visas - You should plan the Visa process about four months before your travel dates just to be safe. Once you get a Visa, you'll need to show it at customs when you arrive in the U.S. Of course, Americans don't need a visa or passport, just a valid driver's license.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S Dollar (USD) here. There are plenty of ways to spend money in Valpo. Try to purchase what tickets you can ahead of time, so you aren't pulling out your wallet more often. You still should avoid letting people see your PIN during purchases and carry only the cash you think you'll need.
- Weather - The best and worst of all four seasons happen here. You should bundle up in the winter. Bring snow boots, too. Summers are going to be warm and muggy, so prepare to sweat a lot. Fall and spring can vary in temperature, so dress in layers. The beach is just 25 minutes away, so if you're visiting in the summer, don't forget your swimsuit and sunscreen.
- Airports - The South Bend Airport is about an hour east. If you're going to travel that long, you might as well pick one of the Chicago area airports, since they are larger with more direct flights. You should plan two hours for the trip to Midway or O'Hare, but you might get there sooner. It all depends on that infamous Chicago traffic.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance is a great idea when you're visiting a place with such volatile weather.
Valparaiso Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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