Detroit, Michigan, offers much for tourists and residents alike. It is an exciting and innovative city known for its automotive history and incredible arts and music scene. But… Detroit doesn’t enjoy the best reputation when it comes to crime.
Detroit is on the Detroit River, one of the straits that connect the Great Lakes with the St. Lawrence Seaway. With a city population of about 631,000 and a metro area population of 4.3 million people, Detroit is the most populous U.S. city on the Canada-U.S. border.
Nicknamed the “Motor City,” Detroit is the birthplace of the U.S. automotive industry. It’s a unique cultural and artistic hub, and Time magazine has named the city to its list of the “World’s Greatest Places.”
On the other hand, Detroit has a reputation as a dangerous city, and, unfortunately, its violent crime statistics tend to support this history. The good news is that the community and law enforcement are working hard to reduce the instances of violent crime and are making some progress.
If you’re considering a move to the city, you likely are considering safe neighborhoods. Likewise, if you’re considering traveling to Detroit, you might want to watch these efforts carefully to determine if the city is safe for visitors.
Safety depends on multiple factors in addition to the crime rate. Some behaviors can help keep you safe, while others put you at risk.
If you become a crime victim, some actions can lessen the effects. For instance, if you’re considering travel to the Motor City, travel insurance may reimburse you for stolen money or property and help you receive medical care, if necessary.
Here’s what to know if you plan to move to or visit Detroit.
Is Detroit Safe? Motor City Crime Statistics
Detroit’s got a lot to be proud of. It’s a hub of creativity, home of Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors. Indeed the Detroit Institute of the Arts is one of the country’s most significant art museums. Also, Detroit is the birthplace of Motown and techno music. But ask almost anyone in the U.S. what Detroit is famous for, and the answer is invariably how rough Detroit is.
Is there any truth to this reputation? Let’s do some digging.
In 2020, Detroit had a crime rate of 566.2, meaning that on average, 566.2 people out of every 100,000 became victims of crimes. The national average in 2020 was 398.5. Depending on the survey, Detroit is the most dangerous or second most dangerous city in the United States.
FBI statistics show that Detroit citizens reported 13,040 instances of violent crime in 2019, which was the most of any Michigan city. Four types of offenses comprise violent crime: rape and sexual assault, murder, robbery, and assault.
Out of the violent crimes reported in the Motor City, 275 were murders, 952 were rapes, 2,346 were robberies, and 9,467 were aggravated assaults. Detroit citizens also experienced less serious offenses, such as more than 28,000 instances of property crime, including more than 14,800 burglaries and 6,886 larcenies.
That being said, Wayne County, which surrounds Detroit, is not the most dangerous in Michigan, according to the FBI. The FBI says that Wayne County had 120 instances of violent crime in 2019. Saginaw, on the other hand, had 707 instances, Warren had more than 700, and Taylor County had 378.
To help put all these numbers in a better perspective, let’s compare Detroit with the overall crime rates of other major U.S. cities:
|City||Crime Rate (per 1,000 residents)||Violent||Property|
|Los Angeles, CA||7.40||24.60||32.00|
|New York City, NY||5.21||19.62||24.83|
|U.S. National Median||4.00||19.00||23.00|
A cautionary note: statistics represent an average and can be somewhat deceiving.
For example, with figures suggesting the city is wracked with violent crime, some neighborhoods of Detroit have fewer instances of violent and property crime than the national average. Other areas, such as Belmont, have more. Also, crime rates are decreasing in Detroit while they are increasing in other cities, which means Detroit may be moving farther down the list of unsafe cities. So, while statistics are important, they fail to tell the whole story.
Efforts to Reduce Violent Crime Rates
Detroit is eager to get rid of its reputation as a city with a high crime rate and has undertaken a few steps to reduce crime, especially in its most dangerous neighborhoods. The city also works hard to keep its tourist areas safe. Downtown is friendly to tourists because you won’t have to walk through blighted areas to get from one attraction to another.
Here are some of the efforts underway to improve safety in Detroit neighborhoods.
One Detroit is a collaborative multifacet effort to reduce crime through prevention, the provision of services for the re-entry of returning citizens, and focused law enforcement. The City is leading the effort and partnering with church and community organizations such as the Black Family Development.
As part of One Detroit’s comprehensive program, the Michigan Department of Corrections will try to ensure those returning to society after serving prison sentences can receive job training, find jobs, and become contributing members of the community. Black Family Development, Inc. will provide basic needs, mental health, and substance abuse services to young men of color and those re-entering society. It also will provide support for those impacted by gun violence.
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Project Safe Neighborhoods focuses on neighborhoods in the 8th and 9th Precincts that lead the city in fatal and non-fatal shootings, robberies, and aggravated assaults with a gun. Detroit PSN uses the resources of many collaborators in a strategy that includes Project Ceasefire (a deterrence approach to gang and group violence), street outreach and services, and long-term gang investigation prevention.
Under the strategy, felons arrested for possession of a firearm in one of the designated areas will be prosecuted immediately by the federal government. Any individual who uses a firearm to commit a violent or drug trafficking crime will also be considered for federal prosecution.
Project Green Light
Project Green Light is another public-private-community partnership that uses crime-fighting and community policing to improve the safety of neighborhoods. The project began on Jan. 1, 2016, when the Detroit Police Department partnered with eight gas stations that had installed real-time camera connections with police headquarters. The Police Department chose gas stations for the initial partnership because nearly half of all violent crimes occurred after 10 p.m. within 500 feet of a gas station.
Project Green Light has expanded from its origins to include a variety of businesses, including fast-food restaurants, convenience stores, and liquor stores. Along with cameras, the project also involves installing additional exterior lighting. Businesses that participate mark their participation with a green light on their premises.
The program’s initial results are encouraging. Violent crime had fallen 50 percent within one year of the beginning of the project.
Overall Detroit’s crime rate has fallen about 25 percent over the last few years.
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Dangerous Neighborhoods in Detroit
Detroit, however, does have dangerous neighborhoods, and tourists should be careful to avoid them.
Belmont is the city’s most dangerous neighborhood. The neighborhood’s crime rate is 14,048 per 100,000 people, which is 664 percent higher than the national average. Gang violence and associated crimes, such as robbery and assault, are particularly high.
Petosky-Otsego has a crime rate that is 626 percent higher than the Michigan average. Gang activity is prevalent here. Petosky-Otsego is in Precinct 10, which is a relatively high crime precinct.
Van Steuben, in north Detroit, has a crime rate of 12,742 per 100,000. The neighborhood also has a high poverty rate which contributes to its high crime.
Fishkorn has a crime rate of 12,451 per 100,000 people and is 577 percent more dangerous than the average Michigan neighborhood. The neighborhood has particularly high rates of pedestrians being hit by automobiles.
Warrendale has few job opportunities and suffers from urban decay, which contributes to its crime rate. Its crime rate is one of the city’s highest, at 12,432 per 100,000 people. It is in Precinct 6 on the city’s west side.
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Tourist Areas and Safe Neighborhoods in Detroit
Detroit has many safe neighborhoods, and the city is working with private organizations and local businesses to increase the amount of affordable housing in these neighborhoods. These safe neighborhoods also rank high on other aspects of quality of life, such as culture and walkability.
All the main tourist attractions are in safe neighborhoods, and you’ll find the safest neighborhoods in Detroit listed below.
Palmer Park is a leafy neighborhood with many high-end homes and apartments. The Palmer Park Apartment Buildings Historic District contains designs from noted architects. The neighborhood gets its name from the 296-acre public park of the same name.
The park was named after U.S. Senator Thomas Witherell Palmer, who first gave land for the park. The park features woodlands, tennis courts, a splash park, the Lake Frances lighthouse, a historic log cabin, the Detroit Mounted Police, and hiking and biking trails. Various festivals also occur in Palmer Park, including an Art Fair.
Palmer Park also is a great neighborhood for tourists to explore. Besides the park, other attractions in the neighborhood include the Detroit Zoo and the Dorothy Turkel House, designed in 1955 by Frank Lloyd Wright, is an interesting feature.
Neighboring the Palmer Park neighborhood is the historic district of Sherwood Forest. Sherwood Forest is home to the Sherwood Forest Art Gallery, which provides an opportunity to meet local and nationally famous artists and to shop for art and special products.
A good place to stay within easy walking distance of Palmer Park is this luxurious single-family home.
Boston Edison is another one of Detroit’s historic neighborhoods and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It contains more than 900 homes, most of them built between 1905 and 1925, and is one of the largest historic residential districts in the United States.
Boston Edison homes are on four east-west streets: West Boston Boulevard, Chicago Boulevard, Longfellow Avenue, and Edison Avenue. The district stretches from Woodward Avenue to Linwood Avenue. Major Detroit personalities, such as Henry Ford, Ty Cobb, Joe Louis, and Berry Gordy, Jr, have lived in the neighborhood, which is very close to downtown.
Some of the most historic homes include the Walter O. Briggs house, built for the founder of Briggs Manufacturing and Detroit Tigers owner, and the James Couzens house, built for a former mayor and U.S. Senator.
The Motown Museum is located just a short distance from Boston Edison on West Grand Boulevard. It features immersive, interactive tours to help visitors understand the Motown legacy.
The museum has just undergone a $55 million renovation. The Fisher Building, a landmark skyscraper, also is nearby. The renovated Fisher Theater, originally an old vaudeville spot, offers plays and concerts.
Corktown, named by Irish immigrants who originally settled there, is one of Detroit’s oldest neighborhoods and its safest. It also is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated as a Detroit City Historic Place.
The Irish first began settling here during the middle of the 19th century when the Great Famine of Ireland forced them out of their country. Most of them were from County Cork, so the neighborhood became known as Corktown.
By the Civil War, immigrants from Germany, Mexico, and other countries began to settle there. Most of the homes are in the classic Federal architectural style.
The area has undergone revitalization, much of it led by Ford Motor Co. The neighborhood is adjacent to Ford Motor Co.’s tech campus, Michigan Central Station, and Roosevelt Park.
The neighborhood also features some good eats, such as Bronx, a burger haven; Grandma Bob’s Pizza; and brunch spots, such as Bobcat Bonnie’s. Bagel lovers will enjoy the Detroit Institute of Bagels. The Corner Ballpark, an old Detroit Tigers stadium, also is in Corktown.
Corktown also has a plethora of live music venues, including Corktown Studios and The Fillmore Detroit. Aveline’s Abode is a good vacation home to rent in North Corktown.
Milwaukee Junction/North End
Both Milwaukee Junction and the North End are distinctive and safe. The North End is a densely populated cultural enclave. It is considered the birthplace of techno music and houses the Techno Music Museum.
Milwaukee Junction derives its name from its location near the railroad junction of what used to be the Detroit, Grand Haven, and Milwaukee Railway and The Chicago, Detroit, and Canada Grand Trunk Junction. It became a hub of early automobile production and is the home of the Model T plant, and the Piquette Avenue Plant, now a museum, is located in the neighborhood.
Art galleries and restaurants also abound, including bars and restaurants here, as well, including Kiesling Detroit and Bucharest Grill. Shopping is great at By Popular Demand The Collective, a collection of small business owners who sell their wares in one place.
Tangent Gallery also attracts diverse artists and musicians. Catch a glimpse at the North End’s famous murals along Oakland Avenue, Dolores Bennet Park, East Milwaukee Avenue, and Grand Boulevard.
Lafayette Park is a stable and safe neighborhood east of downtown Detroit. On the National Register of Historic Places, it is known for its houses designed by German architect Mies Van der Rohe Residential District.
It has lovely shaded streets, including the Dequindre Cut Greenway. The Greenway offers paved cycling paths and delightful murals. The neighborhood is an example of successful urban renewal.
1300 Lafayette East, which is within Lafayette Park, has a place in popular culture. In the 1960s and 1970s, it became synonymous with living the good life.
Judges, criminals, and local celebrities all lived at the address simultaneously. The building was also the setting of a scene in Elmore Leonard’s City Primeval.
A major attraction for tourists is Eastern Market, which is adjacent to Lafayette Park. Eastern Market, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, first sold hay and wood. After World War II, more food processors and wholesalers moved to the area, making the market a wholesale food hub.
Now, the market has a six-block public farmers market in its center every Saturday. Eastern Market also is the country’s largest open-air flowerbed market.
More than 150 businesses are in the Market, and they sell various goods, including meat, spices, jams, and poultry, in addition to flowers and produce. An excellent collection of pubs and restaurants also lines the Eastern Market area.
Tourists visiting Lafayette Park have plenty of accommodation options. The Hollywood Casino at Greektown offers nice accommodations and great food. Another option is a modern apartment on Lafayette Street.
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Is Detroit Safe For LGBTQIA+ Travelers?
Detroit is generally a friendly city for LGBTQIA residents and travelers. The Ferndale neighborhood is the most LGBTQIA-friendly, offering many LGBT-owned shops and bars. The charming, walkable neighborhood also features the Ringwald Theatre, which has Detroit’s only LGBTQ theater troupe.
Soho Bar also is a good meeting place. Royal Oak is also a gay-friendly neighborhood. Pronto is a local gathering place for the LGBTQIA community.
Other gay-friendly neighborhoods are Palmer Park, Midtown, Indian Village, West Village, Corktown, and Woodbridge. Of course, LGBTQIA+ travelers should follow the same precautions as others when visiting Detroit.
Is Detroit Safe For Solo And Solo Female Travelers?
The safe neighborhoods and main tourist attractions in Detroit are generally safe for solo travelers of both genders in the daytime. However, walking alone at night in any city is risky, especially for solo female travelers.
The sexual assault rate in Detroit is three times the national average. If you go out at night, take an Uber or a cab to your destination and back. Don’t hesitate to ask security guards and police officers to escort you.
How Tourists Can Visit Detroit and Stay Safe
Detroit has so much going for it that tourists want to see, despite the crime rate. The good news is that tourists can visit downtown Detroit and enjoy its many exciting attractions if they use common sense.
Here are a few pointers for tourists who want to see all the city has to offer and still stay safe.
- Stay near the river. Most of Detroit’s safest neighborhoods line the Detroit River, so tourists are safer as long as they stay near the river.
- Take a Walking Tour. A guided walking tour of Detroit is a great way to get to know the city without having to navigate on your own.
- Discern between perceived danger and real danger. Most of the neighborhoods that tourists are likely to visit are safe or at least moderately safe. Be cautious, but don’t let your fears run wild.
- Be cautious when using public transportation. Public transportation is moderately safe or moderately dangerous, depending on your outlook. Take Uber at night and consider taking it in the daytime, especially if you’ll be traveling through unsafe neighborhoods or are traveling alone.
- Avoid taking valuables with you. Also, don’t flash your cash.
- Avoid dangerous neighborhoods. You won’t need to walk through dangerous neighborhoods to get from one museum to another. Also, don’t go looking for the “real” Detroit or for Eight Mile Road that was in the Eminem movie. Stay in the areas that have tourism offices and tourist attractions.
- Practice kindness. If you practice kindness and avoid confrontation, you are much more likely to stay safe.
- Avoid walking alone at night. If you go out after dark, do so in large groups and stick to streets that are dense with other pedestrians. Consider taking Uber or a taxi.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Stay in the moment and limit distractions. Identify exits in case you need them. Pay attention to nonverbal cues. Trust your gut; a bad feeling often indicates that you may be in danger. Limit distractions.
- Be wary of pickpockets. The most common crime in Detroit is petty theft. Use pockets with zippers, or keep your cash in a pack under your shirt. Avoid putting anything in your back pocket or hanging your purse over the back of your shoulder. Avoid carrying backpacks that are easy to open. When you are stationary, carry your bag in your lap; avoid laying it down on the floor.
- Buy travel insurance. Travel insurance is a good investment for any trip because it reimburses you for cancellations or lost luggage. It can also help pay for medical care and reimburse you if any of your property is stolen. A few companies excel at providing travel insurance. TravelInsurance.com is a great place to shop for a policy, and Visitors Coverage offers different types of travel insurance and lets you compare fees and coverage online. Foreign visitors to Detroit should consider Safety Wing, which provides medical insurance abroad. Finally, if you book your trip through Booking.com, you’ll have the option to add travel insurance.
Important Numbers for Detroit Visitors
If you experience an emergency in Detroit, the fastest way to summon help is to dial 911. Emergencies are crimes or fires in progress or the need for immediate medical assistance.
To report a crime that is not an emergency situation, you can phone the Detroit Police Department at (313) 267-4600. Examples of nonemergencies are crimes that have already occurred, noise complaints, or abandoned vehicles.
To report an issue with an abandoned building, call (313) 224-3215. An after-hours environmental emergency can be reported at (313) 350-1384.
Also, carry with you the number for your hotel and your travel insurance carrier.
The Verdict: Is Detroit Safe?
Detroit is a major U.S. city that experiences the same problems as many other urban areas: gang violence, drug-related crimes, poverty, and blight. Tourists should use caution when traveling to Detroit, just as they would with any large city. Tourists who use common sense and stay in tourism-related areas will find Detroit is generally safe.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What parts of Detroit are safe?
Generally speaking, the areas around the Detroit River are the safest. Most tourist attractions are in these safe neighborhoods, and if you see a tourism office, you’re in a safe neighborhood. Most experts say the safest neighborhoods are Indian Village, Palmer Park, Sherwood Forest, Midtown, Belle Isle, Boston Edison, Corktown, University District, North End/Milwaukee Junction, and Lafayette Park.
Has safety improved in Detroit in recent years?
Yes. Detroit has implemented strategies to reduce violent crime and revitalize its neighborhoods. Community policing and cooperative efforts between the community and federal and local law enforcement have addressed factors that lead to increased crime.
Community organizations collaborate to support offenders when they are released from prison to reduce the possibility that they will re-offend. Also, law enforcement is targeting high-crime areas and getting tough on gun-related crimes. These efforts have reduced violent crimes by about 25 percent.
Is Downtown Detroit safe?
Generally, yes. Downtown Detroit experiences fewer violent crimes than many other neighborhoods in the city.
If you use good common sense, you can safely walk around downtown Detroit in the daytime. As with any large city, you should avoid walking alone at night. If you are unfamiliar with public transportation, a safer option is Uber or a taxi.