Looking only at the statistics, Detroit is not a safe place to visit. It is consistently tops the lists of most dangerous cities in the United States. The murder rate is high. The violent crime rate is high. The property crime rate is high.
There are countless articles, photos and videos showing the city in various degrees of ruin and decay.
But is Detroit really that bad? Or is the media making it sound worse than it really is?
Let take a deep dive in the safety of Detroit and check out the stats, the maps, and hear from the actual residents of the city as to whether or not Detroit is safe to visit.
What happened to Detroit?
Detroit was built around only one industry, which was ultimately its downfall.
It grew exponentially when the Big Three automakers (General Motors, Ford, Chrysler) was thriving, but when the Asian imports began outpacing its American counterparts, they had to lower its manufacturing costs in order to compete.
They did that by outsourcing jobs to Asia, Mexico etc and as car manufacturing went overseas, nothing replaced it.
Many people in Detroit began losing their jobs and left the city in what appeared to be a mass exodus.
People with money began to leave the area as the city became poorer.
There was no demand to buy properties or start businesses because no one wanted to live there.
Another thing that needs to be understood is the size of Detroit… it’s huge, 138sq miles huge. You can fit San Francisco, Manhattan and Boston inside Detroit!
After a huge swath of residents left the city as the jobs disappeared, it left pockets of people spread out all over the city.
The local government was stuck with the arduous task of trying to maintain the city’s infrastructure to serve the entire city while only receiving taxes from the left over population, which was not sustainable.
The police became severely underfunded and the city went to hell with crime.
To sum it up, Detroit has no core industry anymore, the wealthy people are long gone, vacant properties don’t generate taxes and all the things that makes a city nice cost money, which Detroit has none.
How much crime is there in Detroit?
Detroit has a lot of crime and it consistently tops the list of most dangerous cities in the United States. In 2020 it was listed #1 of most dangerous cities in America, topping cities like St. Louis, Memphis, Nashville, Albuquerque, Stockton and San Bernardino.
It’s murder rate consistently tops the nation. In 2020 it ranked 4th, only coming behind Birmingham, Baltimore, and St. Louis. To put that into perspective, Detroit’s murder rate was ranked 34th among cities around the world.
In 2020, 14,370 violent crimes were reported by Detroit police. That’s a 10.25% increase from 2019 when 13,034 violent crimes were reported. Violent crimes include robbery, assault, rape and criminal homicide.
According to statistics recently released by the FBI, Detroit had the second highest violent crime rate in the nation in 2020, 2,248.4 violent crimes per 100,000 residents.
A crime rate is calculated by dividing the number of reported crimes by the total population; the result is multiplied by 100,000. For example, in 2020 there were 14,370 violent crimes in Detroit and the population was 639,111. This equals a violent crime rate of 2,248.44 per 100,000 general population.
|City||Population||Number of violent crimes in 2020||Rate per 100,000 people|
In 2020, Detroit reported 328 murders (19.3% increase) and 11,518 aggravated assaults (21.7% increase). There were also 676 rapes (29% decrease) and 1,848 robberies (21.2% decrease) reported.
Detroit Police Chief James White mentioned that homicides nationally jumped by 30%, Detroit’s 19% increase is “on the low end of the uptick compared to other major cities, which saw higher increases.”
Obviously the police chief is trying to downplay a beleaguering statistic, but at the end of the day, there is a ton of violent crime in the city and it seems to be a problem that police have a hard time corralling.
Neighborhood Scout gives Detroit a crime index rating of 2, meaning Detroit is only safer than 2% of all U.S. cities. They also state that you have a 1 in 51 chance of becoming a victim of violent crime and 1 in 23 chance of becoming a victim of property crime.
Here’s a breakdown of all the crimes in the city for 2020:
**All data is from the 2020 Detroit Police Crime Stats Report**
Detroit’s Worst Neighborhoods
As you can see from this map of Detroit, it is not until you reach the outskirts of the city will you find a neighborhood that is not plagued by crime.
|Rank||Name||Violent Crime (Per 100,000)||
The difference from Nat. Avg.
The Fiskorn neighborhood is listed as the most dangerous neighborhood in Detroit. It is located about 20 minutes west of Downtown.
Crime and low-income neighborhoods go hand in hand. The average income in Fiskorn is $14,640. The rest of Michigan averages $27,549 annually.
The violent crime rate in Fiskorn is 5,726 per 100,000. To put that in perspective, Detroit’s violent crime rate is 1,965 per 100,000 and Michigan’ violent crime rate is 437 per 100,000
The property crime rate in Fiskorn is 8,279 per 100,000. To put that in perspective, Detroit’s property crime rate is 4,303 per 100,000 and Michigan’s property crime rate is 1,585 per 100,000
Needless to say, avoid this area like the plague.
2. Carbon Works
The Carbon Works neighborhood is located 12 minutes south west of Downtown Detroit. It is a fairly sparse urban area with little to no value for tourist. Unless your idea of fun is visiting is visiting a water and sewage facility, avoid this area.
The violent crime rate in Fiskorn is 5,461 per 100,000. The property crime rate in Carbon Works is 6,646 per 100,000.
3. Von Steuban
Von Steuban is situated 20 minutes north east of Downtown Detroit and it lies just below 8 mile.
Von Steuban crime rates are 490% higher than the national average and you have a 1 in 7 chance of becoming a victim of crime.
The violent crime rate in Von Steuban is 5,105 per 100,000. The property crime rate in Von Steuban is 9,594 per 100,000.
Warrendale is located 20 minutes west of Downtown Detroit and and 5 minutes away from Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village.
The crime rate is high, there are few schools for children and there are not many places to for fun and leisure.
The violent crime rate in Warrendale is 5,081 per 100,000. The property crime rate in Warrendale is 9,212 per 100,000.
5. Franklin Park
Franklin Park is located 17 minutes north-west of Downtown Detroit.
Franklin Park crime rates are 116% higher than the Detroit average
The violent crime rate in Franklin Park is 5,726 per 100,000. The property crime rate in Franklin Park is 5,726 per 100,000.
The Barton-McFarland neighborhood is located 10 minutes north west of Downtown Detroit. It is an urban area, which one resident described as having more liquor stores than churches. The same resident also complained about the crime getting worse and worse every year.
Another resident complained that they can hear gunshot every night before they go to sleep.
Barton-McFarland crime rates are 125% higher than the Detroit average.
The violent crime rate in Barton-McFarland is 4,940 per 100,000. The property crime rate in Barton-McFarland is 9,160 per 100,000.
Fitzgerald is a neighborhood located 12 minutes north-west of Downtown Detroit.
A long time resident of the city says they have witness the decline of the neighborhood over the years. Many businesses closed and many houses have been abandoned. School closed, library closed and no parks or recreation for the kids.
Another resident of Fitzgerald mentioned always having to look over their shoulders.
It is definitely not an ideal place to live, visit or pass through.
The violent crime rate in Fitzgerald is 4,713 per 100,000. The property crime rate in Fitzgerald is 8,280 per 100,000.
Riverdale is a neighborhood that is located 22 minutes north-west of Downtown Detroit and located a few blocks south of 8 mile road.
There is not much to do or see around Riverdale, save for a few abandoned houses. Because of the high crime rate in the area, it is best to be avoided.
Riverdale crime rates are 434% higher than the national average and in Riverdale you have a 1 in 8 chance of becoming a victim of crime.
The violent crime rate in Riverdale is 4,567 per 100,000. The property crime rate in Riverdale is 8,719 per 100,000.
Is Downtown Detroit safe to visit?
You should have no qualms about visiting downtown. It is a relatively safe area with a strong police presence. There have been a lot of investment into the renovation of Downtown and it has been completely transformed over the last decade. It used to be a ghost town and now it’s a thriving center with restaurants, breweries, bars, museums, music venues, etc.
On the weekends there’s lots of night clubs, bars, concerts and art shows going on. It’s totally safe to just barhop and walk around town.
Although Downtown is relatively safe compared to other parts of the city, that doesn’t mean you should throw caution to the wind. Always keep your wits about you, trust your intuition and practice common street smarts.
What do residents of Detroit say about it’s safety?
- The very center of the city, where the theater and stadium and Eastern Market and the General Motors buildings are, is beautiful. Across the highway, it’s as if you are entering an ancient ruin of a city in decay. The further you go west, the more affluent it becomes. The outer rim of the city has very nice communities with wealthy people.
- Detroit is far from the worst city in the United States, but it can go from normal to dangerous pretty quickly
- Detroit is big and and spread out and the police department often find themselves overwhelmed, which makes crime worse, which in turn requires more police attention that it can’t give, which resets the cycle. There is no way they can put a cop on every corner like they did in New York, because Detroit simply doesn’t have the tax base to pay for it.
- I’ve lived my entire life in Detroit but I feel no obligation to defend it. It is a dump. It doesn’t take too many times getting your car broken into, your window smashed, your belongings stolen, or prostitutes working out of a burnt out building to make you question just how great this area really is.
- I live very close to city limits and I have lived in a several other major metropolitan areas. Never have I seen such widespread destruction like I do in Detroit. The level of poverty is astounding. The complete and utter lack of commerce. An extremely over-spread police and fire department. Public works completely overwhelmed and under-performing. A laughing stock of a public school system. Seriously, the school system is so bad that they only graduate 64% of kids from high school; a statistic that I assert is likely fabricated. A government so corrupted and under qualified that it’s glaring to everyone who glances at it. Lack of infrastructure. No real public transportation. No grocery stores. Illiteracy rates near the top of the developed world. There’s good things happening in Detroit. But, the overwhelming percentage of the city is in a very, very concerning condition.
- It really depends on which part of the city you are in. Some areas are decent, some are practically post-apocalyptic. Because of the vastly diminished population and corresponding tax revenue, they’ve had to practically withdraw things like police and fire services from the most abandoned areas to focus on the more populated areas.
- Detroit has a bad reputation but parts of it is actually thriving and you can all sorts of hidden gems. Like any city, there are area you don’t want to go to; the further north you get towards 8-Mile along Woodward gets sketchy.
- If you’re just sticking to the downtown area and the main sights of the city there’s nothing to worry about.
- Much like any other big city, Detroit has crime, and it’s mostly in communities outside the downtown area. The “east side” is notorious for blocks and blocks of abandoned houses. Murders are still prevalent, but it’s much less common than it used to be. The chances of something bad happening to you in a “safe” area are pretty low.
- Downtown is beautiful, and perfectly safe. The rest of the city is pretty fucked up, but if you’re aware of your surroundings, you’re fine.
- A lot of the crime and violence in Detroit is happening in areas you aren’t going to visit anyways. It is best just to be aware of their location, so you don’t accidentally stumble into them.
- Detroit is a place that has good areas and rough area right next to each other, and it’s a big city. It’s hard to gauge unless you know the area.
- Stay in the 7.2 and you’re fine. Quick map
- From east to west, 7 mile is “hood”. The most dangerous stretch is from the I-75 area to Woodward and 7 mile and Gratiot is a notorious hot spots for gang violence and the like.
Tips to stay safe while visiting Detroit
- Create a detailed itinerary of places you want to visit, scout out the locations ahead of time using Google Street View and see if it’s an area that you are comfortable with visiting.
- Don’t leave valuables in your car. Or if you cant avoid it, don’t leave it in plain sight.
- Avoid stopping for gas late at night in run down areas.
- A lot of the crime and violence in Detroit is happening in areas you aren’t going to visit anyways. It is best to be knowledgeable of those locations, so you don’t accidentally stumble into them.
- Use your eyes. Does the area look sketchy? Are there people roaming the streets as if they’re patrolling? Are there gang taggings sprayed all over walls and on signs? Are the houses dilapidated? Detroit is literally block by block and you need to be mindful enough to stay out of these areas.
- Don’t escalate confrontations.
- Trust your gut. If something doesn’t seem right, get out of there
- Stay away from drugs, drug dealers and areas consumed by drugs. Areas with high drug use are usually places with high crime rates. Getting high is not worth it compared to your safety.
- Avoid using public transportation late at night. Hail a taxi or call an Uber instead.
- Avoid alleys. It might seem like common sense, but you’d be amazed how many people still do it.
- Don’t make yourself look like an easy target and nobody is going to mess with you.
- It’s almost never a good idea to wonder around at night alone, outside of the downtown and midtown areas.
- Make sure you gas tank is full. The last thing you want is to have pull over into a sketchy neighborhood and look for a gas station.
- Walk with a purpose. Know where you are going ahead of time.
Is it safe to drive/walk around at night?
Downtown and midtown are pretty safe to drive around at night.
When you step out of Downtown and into the inner city, that can be a entirely different story.
It is best for your own safety to not drive or walk around the neighborhoods outside of Downtown Detroit, especially at night.
If you stay within this 7.2 square miles of downtown, you should be fine.
We also recommend that you avoid walking alone at night. If you don’t have a companion, please be super cautious of your surroundings, don’t wear headphones, stay off your phone and stay in well-lit areas.
Driving Around Detroit’s Worst Neighborhood At Night:
What is the significance of Detroit’s 8 mile road?
Detroit’s 8 Mile Road runs east to west. To the north of it are suburban Macomb and Oakland counties. To the south of it is Wayne County and the city of Detroit.
It is the de-facto dividing line of the rich from the poor, the black from the white, the haves from the have-nots.
It is both a physical barrier and a psychological one.
Final thoughts on the safety of Detroit
The biggest takeaway is that the downtown area of Detroit is generally safe. Residents of the city resoundingly agree that you should not encounters problems if you stay within the boundaries of downtown and midtown.
When you stray out of downtown and into the neighborhoods below 8 mile road, you start to encounter sketchy, gang infested neighborhoods.
Hopefully the revitalization of the downtown area can spread its luster amongst the surrounding communities and hopefully one day we can see Detroit unhinged from the shackles of crime and see it in its former glory.