Any which way you look at it, Detroit, Michigan, is an iconic city. It’s the birthplace of American cars, as well as multiple types of culture-defining music. The Motor City also flaunts a distinctive skyline, diverse museum offerings, and truly great public art, including Diego Rivera’s famous automotive industry murals.
Although Detroit is undoubtedly gritty and struggles with abandonment issues and plenty of crime, its hardy citizens have rejuvenated their beloved city so much in recent years that Lonely Planet ranked Detroit as the world’s number two travel destination for 2018. The city on the Detroit River is also enjoying a lively food-scene resurgence and a number of other factors that are improving its attractiveness as a travel destination.
Still, the question lingers: Is Detroit safe? The honest truth about the Detroit crime rate is that the chances of becoming a crime victim are higher in Detroit than in almost any other American city. Which—let’s be clear—does not mean that most travelers to Detroit will be victimized.
It’s still quite possible to have a safe and enjoyable trip here, especially if you know which areas to avoid in Detroit, as well as some basic information about Detroit safety.
Tips for Staying Safe in Detroit
- To keep from becoming a statistic in the Detroit crime rate, know the safe neighborhoods to stick to, as well as which areas to avoid in Detroit. Detroit’s inner city is riskier than the suburbs, which offer a surprising number of interesting attractions for travelers.
- Downtown Detroit is mostly free of the types of crime that plague some other parts of the city—gangs, drugs, and the like—but is Downtown Detroit safe? Mostly yes, though beware pickpockets and other types of small-time criminals who make their living by preying on travelers.
- How safe is Detroit’s public transportation system? Not very, so stay vigilant whenever you’re on city buses. And keep taxis and hired cars in mind as strong alternatives when making your way around the city, as they tend to be safer options than taking public transit.
Top Travel Safety Products for Detroit
Safe Places—and Places to Avoid—in Detroit
When people ask, “Is Detroit dangerous?” the correct answer is: “It depends.” Mostly, that is, on where you go—and where you make sure to stay away from. Most of Detroit’s high-crime areas are a good distance away from most tourist attractions, and the largest chunk of Detroit crime is inflicted by locals on other locals, not on tourists, reports SafeAround.
That said, it’s important to keep in mind which areas to avoid in Detroit. Of most relevance to travelers, there are a few worthwhile attractions that are in potentially dangerous neighborhoods; these include the artsy Heidelberg Project, the Harpos concert hall on the East Side, and historic Fort Wayne, so exercise caution if heading to any of these places.
If you’ve been following the Detroit news, you know that there’s no real reason to go into the city’s “Red Zone,” which is gang turf for the Seven Mile Bloods, who significantly elevate the Detroit crime rate with their drug deals and shootings. The specific area to avoid is east of Gratiot Avenue and west of Kelly Road, in the 48205 ZIP code.
Other crime-ridden neighborhoods to avoid in Detroit include Forest Park, Chaldean Town, Poletown East, Milwaukee Junction, and Petosky-Otsego, reports RoadSnacks. Housely pinpoints the neighborhood surrounding the intersection of W. Chicago and Livernois Avenue, just south of the 96 freeway in the 48204 ZIP code, as another area to avoid.
Where are the safe, interesting places to visit in Detroit, then? The area between the Majestic Theater and the Magic Stick concert hall is filled with art and music—and is relatively safe. Hamtramck is a pleasant and safe place to visit as well, as is the Royal Oak suburb, home of the Royal Oak Music Theater. In fact, many of Detroit’s suburbs are safer than its inner city and have travel-worthy attractions such as the Henry Ford Museum, the Detroit Zoo, and Greenfield Village.
Other safe, worthwhile Detroit areas include Midtown, Corktown, West Village, Belle Isle, Eastern Market, and Greektown—each of which has exciting restaurants and places to explore.
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Is Downtown Detroit Safe?
The question of whether Downtown Detroit is safe merits its own separate discussion. Downtown Detroit, located just across the river from Windsor, Canada, is in fact an area of great beauty and grand architectural interest (thanks in large part to the City Beautiful movement of the late 1800s) that is indeed mostly safe to visit. To make it more so, the City of Detroit, in conjunction with the state of Michigan, recently undertook a major study to improve safety in the Downtown area for the benefit of both residents and tourists.
However, as with downtowns the world over, there are pickpockets and related property crimes in Detroit’s Downtown (as well as in Midtown, it should be added), so limit the number of valuables that you need to carry, keep them under wraps, and stay alert to anyone trying to distract you. It’s also wise, anywhere in Detroit, to travel with at least one companion as opposed to alone.
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How to Get Around Safely in Detroit
In terms of public transportation, Detroit news reports reveal that violence does happen on the city’s buses, as well as at its bus stops. Elevating Detroit’s crime rate further, bus riders sometimes witness—or fall victim to—onboard rowdiness, fights, stabbings, and shootings, including assaults on drivers. Part of the problem is that Detroit suffers from too few transit police officers who can adequately patrol the system.
Another issue is that Detroit’s public transit system isn’t particularly cohesive, though many locals do use the DDOT and SMART city buses, as well the Detroit People Mover (an elevated rail system) and the QLine streetcar without any problems.
Taxis and all forms of ride-sharing in Detroit are fairly safe, although do make sure that your taxi is officially licensed, and that your ridesharing driver and license plate match what comes up on your app.
If you’re trying to get around Detroit late at night, or during the day in areas where there aren’t many people, it’s often safer to take a taxi or rideshare than it is to walk. Would-be pedestrians should also keep in mind that Detroit has the nation’s highest per-capita pedestrian fatality rate, with foot commuters being hit and killed by moving cars more often than anywhere else in the U.S.
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Other Detroit Warnings and Dangers
Other Detroit dangers to be aware of while making your way through the city include pickpockets, an elevated risk of homegrown terrorism, occasional tornadoes and earthquakes, and (in warmer months) mosquitoes; check Detroit’s mosquito activity forecast and wearing light-colored clothing that covers as much of your skin as possible.
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—original reporting by Avital Andrews