Cleveland is one of the most important cities in the Midwest. The former industrial powerhouse is now attracting visitors thanks to its hipster culture, including cool underground music and a growing culture of craft breweries.
Cleveland also has several interesting sights, such as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the vast waters of Lake Erie, and even the house from the iconic holiday movie A Christmas Story.
It’s the perfect stopping-off point on a cross-country road trip or as a weekend getaway. However, before visiting a new city, you probably want to know more practical things about the experience you can expect when you go there.
Will you have a relaxing getaway, or will you be on your guard all the time? Don’t worry — our travel experts have done the hard work for you. Let us be your guide!
Is Cleveland Safe to Visit in 2023?
If you visit Cleveland, you will have to be on your guard about where you go. Unfortunately, Cleveland has one of the highest crime rates in the United States, including property and violent crime.
The only “good” news, at least for visitors, is that crime is drastically segregated by neighborhood, so it primarily affects locals, not tourists. According to most metrics, Cleveland is the most dangerous city in Ohio because it has the highest crime rate.
Common crimes include:
- Armed robbery
- Petty theft
The crime rate in Cleveland is very high. In 2020, the overall crime rate was 421 incidents per 100,000 people. It is one of the highest crime rates in the nation.
Although crime is usually segregated by neighborhood, even the safest neighborhoods have some violent incidents. There are a few reasons why Cleveland has such a high crime rate. The main one is the high poverty rate in the city.
In 2020, Cleveland earned the dubious title of being the poorest city in the United States, with a poverty rate of 30.6%. Nearly half of all children in Cleveland live in poverty.
Ohio, overall, struggles with poverty due to deindustrialization, which left a lot of people out of work. A large unemployed and impoverished population leads to a number of societal problems, including homelessness and crime.
Cleveland also has high rates of drug abuse and trafficking, which contributes to the high crime rate. Besides the crime, you should also be aware of the weather when traveling to the city.
Cleveland gets extreme weather, with very hot, humid summers and cold winters with lots of snow.
Make sure that you dress appropriately. Although Cleveland doesn’t get many tornadoes, Ohio is in Tornado Alley, so it helps to read up on safety procedures in case of a tornado.
Crime in Cleveland
The primary reason most visitors worry about visiting Cleveland is crime — and with good reason. Cleveland has one of the highest crime rates in the United States.
According to the FBI, Cleveland had 5,791 violent crime incidents and 17,057 incidents of property crime in 2019. The most common violent crime is assault, which, according to FBI data, makes up 57% of the total violent crimes committed in Cleveland.
Robbery makes up 32.7% of total violent crimes, with the rest being rape and murder. Community advocates have long been upset about the high homicide rate in Cleveland.
In 2022, there were at least 168 murders in the city, and many of them, unfortunately, resulted in the deaths of very young people. The city has a very high rate of gun violence, including mass shootings, which contributes to the high violent crime rate.
Some advocates blame Ohio’s lax gun laws, which make sense in rural areas of the state but not so much in heavily populated, often desperate cities such as Cleveland.
The violent crime rate is certainly concerning, but most crimes committed in the city are actually property crimes. According to FBI data collected by Neighborhood Scout, theft makes up 58% of property crimes.
Burglaries comprise 21% of total property crimes, and incidents of motor vehicle theft also make up 21% of the total. Anecdotal evidence from the city indicates that motor vehicle thefts and break-ins are increasing, with criminals getting bold enough to rob people while they are driving on major roads.
There is some good news for the crime rate in Cleveland. According to local law enforcement, incidents of violent crime are slowly declining every year, with homicides and assaults declining in 2022.
Hopefully, that means that better days are ahead for Cleveland. Others are not so sure. Although some forms of violent crime went down, others, such as armed robbery, went up.
It’s clear that Cleveland still has a long way to go before you can honestly say that it is a safe city. While many people still visit Cleveland and have a great time, if you decide to join them, it’s important to have your guard up.
Cleveland has a very high robbery rate. The rate per 100,000 people is 349.3 incidents. That is about 2.5 times the national average robbery rate, which is 135.5 incidents per 100,000 people.
Petty forms of robbery, such as pickpocketing and bag snatching, are less common in Cleveland, although you should still take basic precautions. Don’t flash expensive technology, jewelry, or lots of cash, especially if you are walking through a sketchier neighborhood.
Don’t leave your bag unattended or put your phone on the table in a café while you get distracted by talking to your travel companions. A far bigger problem than the petty theft you are likely to encounter in most other tourist destinations is mugging.
Weapons, including firearms, are widespread in Cleveland. It’s not uncommon for muggers to use a knife or gun to threaten a victim and demand money.
If you are the victim of a mugging, give up your valuables and focus on getting away safely. It’s not worth fighting back as chances are your opponent is more experienced in robbing people than you are in disarming them.
Burglaries are also very common in Cleveland. This is more of a concern for local homeowners and businesses than for visitors, but you should still be on the alert.
Make sure you choose a hotel or vacation rental in a safe neighborhood with good security. Try to stay in a hotel instead of a place like an Airbnb because the security is likely better.
Hotels also tend to have their own parking garages or secure lots, which is important because motor vehicle theft rates are also very high in Cleveland.
The rate is 775.7 incidents per 100,000 people, which is nearly three times the national average — and rates are increasing. If you are renting a car while in Cleveland or driving your own, always make sure that it is parked in a secure spot.
Never leave valuables visible in the car, especially when you are not in it. Be alert when you’re driving, especially at night on deserted roads. Thieves sometimes stop people at red lights to steal their cars.
Another common violent crime in Cleveland is assault. While this crime primarily affects locals who are unfortunate enough to be targeted by criminals or get caught in between gang wars, the rate is so high that it pays to be aware of this crime as a tourist.
Many Cleveland assaults turn extra-violent and even deadly due to the high rate of gun crimes. According to local news, illegal gun sales are on the rise in Cleveland, fueling the rise in gun violence.
Sadly, many victims of gun homicides are young people in Cleveland’s inner-city neighborhoods. Many former residents of Cleveland cite the high rate of violence as a major reason why they left the city and aren’t planning on moving back.
Again, most assault and gun violence cases affect primarily locals, not tourists. This is in part because of the highly stratified nature of gun violence in Cleveland.
Certain neighborhoods have very high rates of gun violence, while others, usually wealthier neighborhoods, are insulated from the damage. The best thing you can do to protect yourself while in Cleveland is to be diligent about where you walk.
Avoiding Bad Areas
Certain neighborhoods in Cleveland bear the most responsibility for the city’s high crime rate. That is why learning which areas to avoid is one of the most important things you can do to prepare for your Cleveland trip.
Almost everyone will tell you to avoid East Cleveland. The boundary for this neighborhood is east of Scoval and 55th. East Cleveland is one of the poorest neighborhoods in the region, let alone the city, and has a very high crime rate.
There are also no tourist attractions, so there shouldn’t really be a reason why you need to be there. Downtown Cleveland is mostly safe, but many of the businesses close early, so the area empties out at night.
Then, the district becomes home to many homeless people who seek shelter in the quieter streets. Homeless people are just down on their luck, and are not necessarily always criminals.
but it still pays to be careful. Plus, Downtown Cleveland borders many dangerous neighborhoods, so you can easily wander into an unsavory area.
Keep your wits about you as you walk around this area. Trenton in Cleveland is also an area that you should be careful in. The area has one of the highest vehicular theft rates in the city.
As a result, be sure to avoid parking there overnight if you can. Other Cleveland neighborhoods with high crime rates are Southeast Cleveland, West Cleveland, Lakeshore, Wade Park, and Down the Way.
Things to Consider
Here are some other safety tips for getting through your trip to Cleveland:
- Ask a local, such as your hotel receptionist, about good and bad neighborhoods. The boundaries are often very thin between the two, so it helps to get some expert local guidance.
- Locals are die-hard sports fans, and Cleveland can get very rowdy on game days. Be prepared to see more inebriated people in the streets, some street harassment and banter, and a lot more traffic (and reckless driving) on the roads.
- Cleveland gets a lot of snow in the winter due to the lake effect. If you’re not used to driving in the snow, avoid driving here in the winter.
- A lot of older houses in Cleveland have lead pipes, so be sure to check if you are renting a vacation home.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most common questions people have to ask about Cleveland:
Is it safe to walk in downtown Cleveland?
During the day, Downtown Cleveland is one of the safest and most walkable areas of Cleveland. However, at night it feels deserted, which can make you uncomfortable.
Is Cleveland worth visiting?
Cleveland has many museums and is especially worth visiting for people passionate about rock and roll history. However, if you are concerned about safety, it might not be worth visiting.
What part of Cleveland is safe?
Cleveland has plenty of safe neighborhoods, including Shaker Heights, Ohio City, and Kamm’s Corner. The University District is also safe.
This is especially true since there are a lot of campus security officers present, but don’t wander too far from the university as the district borders several less safe neighborhoods.
Where is it safe to stay in Cleveland?
Downtown is one of the best places to stay in Cleveland, even though it feels deserted at night. Shaker Heights is also good, although it doesn’t have as many hotels.
Can you get around Cleveland without a car?
If you are just staying in Cleveland for a few days, you don’t need a car. The public transportation in the city is fairly good, with a well-connected trolley and bus network. If you want to explore the surrounding areas, that might get harder without a car.
So Is It Safe to Visit Cleveland?
While most tourists who visit Cleveland have a great time, the high crime rate certainly deters many people from visiting. If you decide to go, read up on unsafe areas, as avoiding them is the best way to avoid being the victim of a crime. Happy travels!