With major cities like Chicago and Springfield, Illinois can have a bit of a bad reputation when it comes to crime. Despite this, Illinois is a beautiful state to live in. With developed industrial cities, charming agricultural towns, and historical museums and sites all over, Illinois is bound to have something for everyone.
If you’re looking to relocate to the Land of Lincoln, knowing the safest cities in Illinois can help you make an informed choice. Read our 10 best places in Illinois, and 10 worst ranked by crime.
The state of Illinois is in the Midwestern region of the U.S. It borders Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Lake Michigan. Its capital is Springfield, which was the third capital of Illinois. Before Springfield, the state’s capitals were Kaskaskia and Vandalia.
This state lies on the famous industrial belt, and today its economy is diversified with agriculture and industrial towns in the central and northern parts of the state. Furthermore, southern Illinois cities are rich in natural resources.
Illinois is known as the Prairie State. Its current name was given to Illinois after the Native American tribe of a similar name, which carries a deep meaning of the “tribe of superior men.” In 1955, the General Assembly adopted the “Land of Lincoln,” as the official slogan of the state.
Illinois has 12,671,821 residents, which makes it the sixth-most populous state in the United States. Illinois crime rate 2,253 per 100,000 people, and the median household income in the state is $65,886, while per capita earnings sit at $36,038. Around 11% of Illinoisans live in poverty.
Illinois was the home of four United States presidents: Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Ronald Reagan, and Barack Obama. The significance of Abraham Lincoln in Illinois is big, so much that Illinois was the first state to ratify the 13th Constitution Amendmen to abolish slavery.
Safest Cities in Illinois in 2021
Chester is the county seat of Randolph County of Illinois. It lies on the Mississippi River, and currently has 8,213 residents.
Samuel Smith founded the city, naming the area after his wife’s birthplace in England. Smith built the first mill and established a ferry system in Chester, which attracted more residents to the city. Not long after, a general store and a castor oil press were opened.
This city in Illinois is also the home of Popeye the Sailor Man. In the center of the Segar Memorial Park of Chester, residents built a 6-foot bronze statue of Popeye to honor its creator, Elize Segar. Segar claimed the characters were inspired by people she met in this town, and every year, residents of Chester host a free Popeye Picnic and Parade to celebrate Elzie and her creations.
Chester has one of the lowest crime rates in the state, with 389 per 100,000 people. In 2019, the police reported 22 property and ten violent crimes, making it one of the safest cities in Illinois.
The median household income is $47,885, and per capita earnings are just $17,294. More than 16% of residents live in poverty. The median house price is $87,000, and the median gross rent amounts to $535.
Sandwich is part of two counties: Kendall County and DeKalb County. It’s an official city of Illinois with a population of 7,418.
The politician “Long John” Wentworth advocated for moving the Illinois border to its current location, and after his efforts were successful, the town became a part of the state of Illinois.
At that time, Sandwich was among the small towns in Illinois mostly cut off from popular transportation routes. Long John worked to create a stop on the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad, and to thank him for his efforts, residents allowed Long John to name the town after his hometown in New Hampshire.
Residents of Sandwich earn slightly below the state average, with a median household income of $65,984. The per capita earnings sit at $30,555, and around 8.5% of people live in poverty. Property prices and rents are close to the Illinois average, and a median gross rent of $1,051, while the median house cost is $192,000.
Sandwich is among the safest places to live in Illinois. Its crime rate is only 502 per 100,000 residents, and law enforcement reported 25 property offenses and 12 violent crimes in 2019.
Charleston is the county seat of Coles County, and it’s one of the two principal cities of the Charleston-Mattoon Micropolitan Area. Charleston is the home of Eastern Illinois University.
The first known settler of this city is Benjamin Parker, who came to the area in 1826. The city gained its name in honor of its first postmaster: Charles Morton. Even though the establishment of Charleston came in 1831, its official incorporation into the state was in 1865.
Charleston is one of the Illinois towns frequently visited by Abraham Lincoln, as his father resided there. A famous Lincoln-Douglas debate was actually held in this city in 1858, and on the site of the debate, residents built the Coles County fairgrounds and a museum.
Currently, this city has 20,117 residents. Their earnings are below the state average, with the median household income being $40,863. The per capita income in Charleston is $25,229, and a large number of residents live in poverty—nearly 30%.
That being said, rents in Charleston are low, and properties are not expensive. The median gross rent is $723, and the median house price is $95,300.
Charleston is high on our safest towns in Illinois for the 2021 list. The crime rate in this town is way below the state average, with 575 incidents per 100,000 residents, and in 2019, the police reported a total of 84 property and 31 violent crimes.
4. Prospect Heights
Prospect Heights is a city in Cook County and a suburb of Chicago. According to the latest estimates, 15,887 people reside in Prospect Heights.
This city was the idea of Carlton Smith and Allen Dawson, two developers who wanted to build a safe community perfect for Illinois families. In 1935, they built their first homes in the area, and a year after, the first family looking for good neighborhoods in Illinois moved to Prospect Heights.
In 1938, residents formed the Prospect Heights Improvement Association, which served as a government of the community for nearly four decades. In the sixties, so many families moved to the area that it had to be incorporated as a city of Illinois. The incorporation came in 1976, which was exactly four decades after the first family moved in.
The median household income in Prospect Heights is $73,054, which is above the state average. Per capita earnings are lower than state average, sitting at $36,825, and around 10% of residents live in poverty.
Prospect Heights is one of the safest suburbs near Chicago, if not the safest. Its crime rate is 601 per 100,000 residents, and in 2019, law enforcement reported 79 property crimes and 17 violent offenses.
The prices of properties in Prospect Heights are close to the state average, with a median gross rent of $1,099 and a median home price of $235,300.
Mascoutah is a city that’s part of St. Clair County of Illinois. At the moment, it has 7,994 residents, and almost 54% of them are women.
This town was originally called Mechanicsburg, but after the residents found another place with the same name among other towns in Illinois, they changed it to Mascoutah, named after the Mascouten Native American tribe.
During the 19th century, Mascoutah was a progressive town. A train depot, constructed in 1870, attracted a large number of residents, and it was the home of the biggest Turner Hall in the south of Illinois. Turner Hall was the central place where residents gathered to socialize, and in 1894, Mascoutah received its first power plant.
Per capita earnings of Mascoutah residents are $33,156m, and the median household income sits at $78,468. Less than 6% of residents live in poverty, which is way below the Illinois average.
Those that have been researching the safest places to live in Illinois for 2021 will undoubtedly come across this city in many lists. Its crime rate is 618 per 100,000 people, and residents reported 48 property offenses and only two violent crimes in 2019.
In case you choose Mascoutah as your next place of residence, you won’t have to spend too much money on obtaining a property. The median home price there is $161,400, and the median gross rent amounts to $993.
6. Lake Forest
Lake Forest is a city on the North Shore of Chicago. It’s part of Lake County and belongs to the Chicago Metro Area. It has 19,446 residents and is one of the answers to what are the safest suburbs in Chicago.
The Lake Forest crime rate is only 670 per 100,000 residents, and in 2019, the police reported 123 property crimes and eight violent offenses.
The residents of Lake Forest enjoy a high standard of living. Their per capita earnings are $99,907, which is way above the average for Illinois. In addition, the median household income in the city is $172,165, with less than 3% of people living in poverty.
Designed as a secluded community for wealthier families, the properties in this city are pricey. The median house price is around $930,000, and the median gross rent is $1,831.
This is one of the safest Chicago suburbs and was developed in 1857. The roads around Lake Forest limited the access to Chicago with the purpose of isolating the town from the outside traffic. Today, a large portion of the eastern part of the city is still almost inaccessible.
Pinckneyville is the county seat of Perry County and home of the Pinckneyville Power Plant run by Ameren. It has 5,372 residents, and the city was named after Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, who was an American diplomat and presidential candidate. In 2010, it received the Governor’s Hometown Award.
Pinckneyville is among the safest cities in Illinois. It has a crime rate of 685 per 100,000 residents, and the official police report from 2019 states there were 26 property and 11 violent crimes in the city.
Even though it’s safe, Pinckneyville may not be the best option to move to. The earnings of residents are pretty low, and almost 25% of people live in poverty. The median household income in the town is $33,485, and the per capita income is only $15,256. Luckily, the median house price is $80,000, and the median gross rent is $507.
Even though it’s among the smaller Illinois cities, Pinckneyville is a pretty interesting place to visit. It has a beautiful local library and the Illinois Rural Heritage Museum, where tourists can get to know the town and its history. The city has another museum you shouldn’t miss: the Perry County Jail Museum.
Monticello is the county seat of Piatt County. It has a population of 5,534, and over 52% of the residents are women.
Monticello is one of the safest places to live in Illinois. It has a crime rate of just 699 offenses per 100,000 people, and in 2019, law enforcement filed reports for a total of 27 property and 12 violent crimes.
Salaries of the residents of Monticello are similar to the earnings of most other Illinoisians. The per capita income in the city is $34,055, and the median household income amounts to $75,274, with less than 6% of people living in poverty.
Property prices in Monticello are below the state average, with a median gross rent of $972 and a median house price of $170,500.
Monticello is one of the best cities to live in Illinois for anybody looking for a safer, smaller place with plenty of things to do. The residents host frequent weekend events downtown, and Robert Allerton Park is just a few miles away. It includes forests, a meadow, a retreat center, gardens, as well as a big Georgian-style mansion. The park is full of hiking trails, lodging facilities and even has a summer camp.
Braidwood is a city that belongs to Will County, Illinois. It’s located about 50 miles southwest of Chicago and is one of the least populated cities in Illinois, with 6,191 residents.
The city is most famous for being the location of the Braidwood Nuclear Generating Station, a power plant by Exelon Corporation. The plant provides electricity to a large portion of the Chicago area.
A significant year in Braidwood’s history was 1864, when the residents found coal in the area while searching for water. Many companies and people moved there as the demand for coal in Chicago increased. The name Braidwood came a few years later to honor James Braidwood, who coordinated the sinking of the first mine shaft. In 1873, it made it to the list of cities in Illinois after the official incorporation.
Braidwood has a crime rate of 710 per 100,000 residents, and in 2019, residents reported 34 property and ten violent offenses.
The earnings in the city are slightly below the state average. The median household income is $63,074, while per capita earnings amount to $31,186. About 12% of residents live in poverty, which is above the Illinois average. The median house price in Braidwood is $171,700, and the median gross rent amounts to $979.
10. Du Quoin
If we were to rank Illinois cities by population, Du Quoin certainly wouldn’t be at the top of our list. Located in the southeastern part of Petty County, this small city currently has only 5,670 people living there.
Du Quoin was named after Jean Baptiste Ducoigne, who was the chief of the Tamaroa Indians in the 1700s. The area was almost empty until the mid-1800s, when the railroad reached Du Quoin, leading to population growth.
The crime rate of Du Quoin is 719 per 100,000 residents, which is way below the state average. The police reported 27 property crimes and a total of 14 violent offenses in 2019, and as such, this city is among the best cities in Illinois when it comes to safety.
Despite its low crime rate, Du Quoin might not be the ideal place if you’re looking to earn a lot of money. More than 20% of residents live in poverty, and the median household income is below the Illinois average, at $39,799, and the per capita income is only $22,709.
Properties are consequently on the cheaper side, with a median gross rent of $588 a month, and the median home price is $71,500.
What is the Safest Place to Live in Illinois – The Most Popular Cities Ranked by Crime Rate
Wheaton is the county seat of DuPage County and is also part of the townships of Milton and Winfield. It’s the proud home of Wheaton College.
Wheaton was founded by Jesse Wheaton, Warren Wheaton, and Erastus Gary. After building a railway, the founders decided to give the land away to anyone that wanted to build on it immediately. The railway carried the name “Wheaton Depot,” and residents never changed it. In 1890, Wheaton was incorporated as a city.
The latest available data on the Wheaton, IL population shows that the city has 52,745 residents. Residents enjoy high incomes and relatively safe living. The median household income is $103,376, and the per capita earnings sit at $50,208. Only 5.4% of people live in poverty, which is two times lower than the state average.
The safety and higher salaries come with more expensive property options. The median house cost in Wheaton is $339,900, and the median gross rent amounts to $1,419. The crime rate per 100,000 residents is 1,232, making it one of the best places to live in Illinois. In 2019, residents reported 611 property and 44 violent crimes.
Aurora belongs to four counties: Kane, Kendall, Will, and DuPage County. It’s part of the Chicago Metro Area. With an estimated population of 197,899, Aurora is the second-most populous city in the state.
In 1881, Aurora was among the first towns to implement the electric lighting system for lighting the whole city, granting the city the nickname “City of Lights.”
As one of the most interesting places in Illinois, Aurora consists of three regions: the West Side, the East Side, and the Fox Valley. It has an authentic downtown where you can see structures from famous architects like Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Bruce Goff, Frank Lloyd Wright, and George Grant Elmslie.
Per capita earnings of Aurora residents sit at $31,112, which is slightly below the state average. The median household income is $71,749, and about 11% of people live in poverty. If you want to relocate to this city, the median house price is $181,100, and the median gross rent sits at $1,228.
The Aurora, Illinois crime rate is below the state average with 1,266 per 100,000 residents, and in 2019, law enforcement reported 516 violent and 2,014 property crimes.
Elgin belongs to Kane County, with a smaller portion of the city being part of Cook County, and it’s located in the northern part of Illinois.
This city was founded in 1835 by the Gifford brothers, and they named it after “The Song of Elgin,” a Scottish hymn. Like many Illinois cities and towns, Elgin’s population started growing in the mid-1800s when the railroad reached the area. During the 19th century, the city was the “butter capital of the world,” and the town’s production switched to manufacturing watches after the establishment of the Elgin Watch Company.
The city has 110,849 residents, and while it doesn’t have the lowest crime rate in the state, the Elgin, IL, crime rate is below the state average with 1,474 per 100,000 people. Residents reported a total of 1,429 property and 223 violent offenses in 2019.
The per capita income of Elgin residents is below the average for Illinois at $29,437. The median household income is above the state average, at $69,041, and around 11% of people live in poverty.
Elgin is a suburban city, just 35 miles away from Chicago, which makes it perfect for city families looking for a more peaceful setting. The median home cost is $192,900, and the median gross rent is a few bucks above the average, at $1,069.
Joliet is one of Illinois biggest cities. It has 147,344 residents, which makes it the fourth-most populous city in the state. Joliet is the county seat of Will County, and a part of it belongs to Kendall County as well.
There are a few essential figures in Joliet’s history: Louis Jolliet, a French-Canadian explorer, discovered the area in the 1670s, and James B. Campbell, a treasurer who built the village of “Juliet,” named after his daughter.
The town quickly increased its population and became one of the big cities in Illinois. The last vital figure in the town’s history is Cornelius Covenhoven Van Horne, who was responsible for the city getting its first charter.
The median household income of Joliet residents is $70,509, and the per capita income is $27,990. Nearly 11% of residents live in poverty, and the median house price amounts to $143,000, and the median rent sits at 1,033.
The crime rate in Joliet is below the state average, with 1,965 per 100,000 people, and in 2019, residents reported 2,160 property and 751 violent crimes.
If you were typing “what are the best suburbs in Illinois,” Cicero is definitely a leading contender. Cicero is a suburb of Chicago, and it belongs to Cook County of Illinois. It gained its name in honor of a Roman orator and statesman, Marcus Tullius Cicero, and currently, the town has 80,796 residents.
The Cicero Township used to take up a large portion of the Illinois territory, and it was once six times the size of what it is today.
This city is famous for Al Capone’s notorious escape from the Chicago police. During the nineties, violence and gang fights were part of the everyday lives of residents. The Cicero, IL, crime rate is similar to the state average, with 2,260 per 100,000 people, and in 2019, the police reported 1,579 property and 258 violent crimes.
The salaries of Cicero residents are below the state average, with a median household income of $49,367 and per capita earnings of $18,472. The percentage of people living in poverty is 16.2%, and a median house price of $176,800, while the median gross rent is $940.
Champaign belongs to Champaign County. Its previous name was West Urbana, but it was changed after becoming a city and one of the best places to live in Illinois. Still, Champaign is deeply connected to its sister town, Urbana, and both belong to the Champaign-Urbana Metro Area. The city has 88,909 residents, which means it’s in the top ten most populated cities in the state.
Champaign is a straight-up college town, and besides the University of Illinois, Champaign is the home of the Parkland College, Champaign School District, and the Public Library. Many Fortune 500 companies have offices there, some of which are Abbott, Caterpillar, State Farm, Dow Chemical Company, and IBM.
When it comes to safety, Champaign is among the worst cities in Illinois. Its crime rate is 3,409 per 100,000 residents, and in 2019, law enforcement filled reports for 2,203 property and 827 violent crimes.
Even though it’s a city full of employment opportunities, per capita income in Champaign is only $30,385. The median household income is $48,415, and a quarter of Champaign’s residents live in poverty.
The advantage to choosing Champaign as your next place of residence is the cheaper properties, with a median gross rent of $952 and a median house cost of $139,800.
While many cities on our list are popular places people relocate to, “is Chicago a good place to live” still has the most searches compared to all other areas in Illinois. With 2,693,976 residents, Chicago is the most populous city in the state and the third-most populated city in the United States. It’s the county seat of Cook County, with part of the O’Hare Airport extending into DuPage County.
Chicago was incorporated in 1837 and experienced rapid growth during the 19th century. The Great Chicago Fire destroyed many buildings and residents’ homes in 1871, however, forcing the city to rebuild. The process of rebuilding attracted so many residents that Chicago became the fifth-largest city in the world in 1900.
But is it safe to live in Chicago? The city is the home of multiple Fortune 500 companies drawing many to it’s centre for better career options. Unfortunately, the crime rate in Chicago is 3,926 per 100,000 residents, way above the state average, and in 2019, residents reported 80,742 property and 25,532 violent crimes.
The median household income in Chicago is $58,247, and the per capita income is $37,103, which is below the state average. About 18% of residents live in poverty, and the properties are pricier than in most other cities. The median gross rent is $1,112, and the median home price is $229,100.
Major cities in Illinois are usually the most dangerous ones, and Rockford is no different. This city is located in the north of Illinois, has 145,609 residents, and it is the county seat of Winnebago County.
During the 1800s, when the first settlers came to the area, Rockford became known for industrial development, mainly due to its proximity to the Rock River. In the 19th century, the town produced heavy machinery, tools, and hardware and then became a leading furniture manufacturing center. Presently, healthcare, aerospace, and automotive industries are the heart of Rockford.
While the city sounds like a smart place to move to, Rockford, IL, crime rates might make you change your mind. The crime rate per 100,000 people is 4,501, and law enforcement reported 4,848 property and 1,711 violent crimes.
Residents of Rockford earn less than most other Illinoisans. The median household income is $44,252, while per capita earnings amount to $25,517. More than 22% of people live in poverty.
Rockford offers cheaper properties, with homes costing around $88,000, and the median gross rent is $772.
While it might not be among the best places to live in Illinois, Rockford has a lot to offer to tourists. It’s the home of several historically significant venues such as Anderson Japanese Gardens, Tinker Swiss Cottage, the Coronado Theatre, and the Burpee Museum of Natural History.
Peoria is the county seat of Peoria County in Illinois. It lies on the Illinois River and has 110,417 residents. Peoria is also the principal city of the Peoria Metro Area of Central Illinois.
The city was officially established in the late 1600s by Henri de Tonti, a French explorer. From the beginning, its connection with the Illinois River made it one of the best cities in Illinois for European settlers. As a matter of fact, the Peoria Historical Society labeled it the oldest European settlement in the state.
In 1825, the name Peoria was given in honor of the Peoria tribe. The city became an important port on the Illinois River throughout the years, making the city a major trading and shipping center.
Residents of Peoria earn below the state average, with a per capita income of $31,497, and the median household income is $51,771. Almost 20% of people live in poverty, and the city is quite dangerous. The Peoria, IL crime rate is 4,793 per 100,000 people, and in 2019, law enforcement reported 1,158 violent and 4,160 property offenses. Notably, Peoria has the highest incidence of crime in all of America compared to both small communities and huge cities.
A typical house in Peoria costs $97,500, and the median gross rent is $806.
Last but not least is the capital of Illinois, Springfield. This city is the seat of Sangamon County, and this Illinois city has a population of 114,230.
If you ever go there, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, the Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices State Historic Site, the Lincoln Tomb at Oak Ridge Cemetery, and the Lincoln Home National Historic Site are all sights to see.
Compared to other cities in the state, earnings in Springfield are low. The median household income is $54,648, while per capita income amounts to $34,607. More than 18% of residents live in poverty. The median gross rent is $805, and the median house price amounts to $105,400.
Springfield is among the most dangerous cities in Illinois, however. The crime rate is an alarming 5,218 per 100,000 residents, and in 2019, there were 5,080 property and 889 violent offenses in Springfield.
Illinois is filled with a diverse range of counties, towns, and cities, both big and small. Whether you’re looking for a quaint, historic place to settle down in your older years or chase after big dreams in the third-largest city in the States, you’re sure to find something.
The safest cities in Illinois aren’t always the biggest, though. Larger populations come with much larger incidences of crime and not always the incomes to show for it. If you want to settle in a place that’s full of American history, however, and want to move somewhere with all four seasons, consider the Land of Lincoln as your next home.