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Similar to many major cities in America, there are "two Chicagos in one city." You have the one Chicago that's beautiful, vibrant, and very safe, and then you have the other Chicago that's poor and crime-ridden. Although most of the city's tourist attractions are well-distanced from any areas with high crime rates, it is important to understand where in Chicago you will be visiting, and avoid the neighborhoods you hear have a bad reputation.
The North Side and the downtown area, for the most part, are very safe, but the South and West Sides have the worst reputation for violence. Some areas on the South and West Sides are relatively safe, so know what neighborhoods you are visiting if going to those areas. The South Side in particular is the largest of the three Sides, which covers half the city’s land size. That means some neighborhoods, like the Hyde Park/Kenwood and Beverly/Mount Greenwood areas are pretty safe. But, remember that a lot of the places on the South Side that are deemed 'safe' or 'relatively' safe are not too far from areas that are very unsafe to be walking
You can tell if you are in a rougher part of town just by seeing if the area looks blighted with abandoned stores, foreclosed homes, and lots of empty land. Generally, the neighborhoods on the South Side that have the most shootings and homicides are Englewood, Washington Park, Woodlawn, Grand Crossing, Auburn Gresham, Roseland, West Pullman, Chatham, South Shore, South Chicago, Back of the Yards, Marquette Park, and Bronzeville south of 35th Street. The West Side is also like the South Side where there are some areas that are nice and vibrant and others that are plagued by violence. The Near West Side areas of Greektown, Little Italy, UIC, Rush Medical District, and the United Center are vibrant, up-and-coming places, but go past Western Avenue and it quickly becomes run-down and crime-ridden until you reach the suburb of Oak Park, which also has occasional crime, closer to its boundary with the city. But, even in an area with a bad reputation, you might still have a perfectly good time, as long as you feel comfortable and don't do anything to attract unwanted attention.