Google maps and google search will show you for a certain address the surrounding areas and you can click on searches for restaurants schools etc., information about a certain town, go to the town's website....
And yes the police department, drive the neighborhood at different times of the day and days of the week, to get a feeling for whether that particular area meets your needs.... and remember everybody's needs are different.
As Realtors we have to be very careful not to make any remarks and recommendations of areas or neighborhoods, in order not to be found guilty of "steering", what we can do is guide you to websites that would answer your questions, and with the availability of the internet, you will be able to get all your questions answered....
Good luck to you in your home search!
Edith YourRealtor4Life and Chicago Connection
Working always in the very BEST interest of her clients