I was originally from Cleveland and moved to the Belleville, IL area. (I have since moved back to Cleveland.)Belleville itself is a little like Lakewood - the houses tend to be a little more run down, but are cheaper than some of the other areas. As with Lakewood, the closer to St. Louis you go, the less safe it gets. Personally, I lived in Shiloh and Lebanon, both of which were a little more rural (cornfields and such). Shiloh is the up and coming developing town in the Metro East (about 15 mins from downtown) but property values are higher than in most areas. Lebanon (about 20 minutes from downtown) is a smaller semi-rural college town and is much more affordable. O'Fallon (about 15 minutes from downtown), which is a fairly large suburb is a good mix of everything - the property values are affordable, plus the school system and public services are excellent. I would stay away from Fairview Heights or anything more east than Shiloh, as the closer towards St. Louis you go, the less safe it becomes.
I actually still own a very nice, affordable 3 year old loft condo with hardwood floors (2 bedroom, 2 bathroom with all appliances) in Lebanon that I'm planning on listing for sale in the very near future. If it interests you, and you want more information, please let me know!