Los Angeles Warnings and Dangers
Los Angeles is a vibrant, diverse, creative city with many complex layers—in short, it’s an extremely worthwhile place to explore. But is Los Angeles safe for travelers? Well, that depends. Like any big city, Los Angeles has safe areas as well as dangerous parts. And anywhere you go, you’d be well-advised to know where to stay, as well as areas to avoid.
There are plenty of safe places to stay in Los Angeles, as detailed below. Still, travelers should know how to be vigilant when visiting L.A. Incidents of violent crime and property crime in Los Angeles are significantly higher than those in many other U.S. cities, partly because of L.A. County’s huge population (more than 10 million people).
Keep in mind, though, that per-capita crime rates are actually lower in Los Angeles than they are in other popular U.S. tourist destinations such as Las Vegas, New Orleans, and San Francisco. In one ranking, Los Angeles clocked in as the world’s 123rd most crime-ridden city, with a score of 48.61 (for comparison, San Pedro Sula, Honduras, ranked first, with a score of 85.18).
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Tips for Staying Safe in Los Angeles
- Choose your hotel and neighborhood wisely: Consider avoiding staying overnight in neighborhoods with higher crime rates, like Hollywood, Chinatown, Fairfax, Crenshaw, or other areas near USC. Instead, book your hotel or vacation rental in a low-crime area like La Cañada Flintridge, Palos Verdes, Century City, Pacific Palisades, or Brentwood.
- Blend in: When you’re out and about, don’t draw attention by wearing expensive items or leaving them within view in a car. Know where you’re going, travel in groups, and drive conservatively.
- Prep for natural disaster: Make sure that you’ve read up on what to do during a natural disaster. Consider adding a small flashlight and crushproof whistle to your travel keychain.
- Be wary of potential scams: Don’t fall prey to scammers pretending to be entertainment industry professionals. Be very skeptical if someone tells you that they’re a talent agent who wants to work with you.
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Safe Neighborhoods—and Areas to Avoid—in Los Angeles
If you’re looking for safe areas to stay in Los Angeles, some of the neighborhoods with the lowest crime rates, according to statistics from the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, include La Cañada Flintridge (home of the beautiful Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens), beachy Rancho Palos Verdes, posh Century City and Bel-Air, lovely Agoura Hills, and celebrity-favorite Calabasas; plus Westlake Village, Playa del Rey, tony Pacific Palisades, and hip Brentwood (near UCLA).
In terms of bad neighborhoods in Los Angeles, that same research shows the highest rates of crime occurring in Chesterfield Square, Watts, Exposition Park, Chinatown, Crenshaw, Fairfax, and Hollywood. Though you shouldn’t skip major tourist sites like Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, you may want to consider not staying overnight in these areas.
Note that while South-Central Los Angeles—now generally referred to as South L.A.—was widely associated with crime in the 1990s, today it ranks safer than both Hollywood and Chinatown based on violent crime statistics. And while East L.A. is not the tourist haven of Beverly Hills or Malibu, it offers visitors willing to embrace the neighborhood’s grittier charm the opportunity to immerse themselves in rich ethnic diversity, a lively arts scene, and Los Angeles’ most authentic and delicious Mexican food.
Visitors to Downtown Los Angeles should know that though DTLA is quickly gentrifying, the district’s blocks-long Skid Row is still known for its density of transients, drug use, and people in dire need of mental health services. So while most parts of Downtown Los Angeles are safe for tourists, visitors should take care in choosing their routes, especially at night.
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How to Get Around Safely in Los Angeles
The Los Angeles Police Department’s official advice for steering clear of Los Angeles crime includes doing “all you can to blend in with the crowd,” refraining from wearing or carrying anything that looks expensive (jewelry, cameras, handbags), preparing before you go out by studying local maps, sticking to well-lit main streets, always locking your car, and not leaving anything pricey or touristy within view—that’s what the glove compartment and trunk are for. The police department also advises sticking together in pairs or groups (especially if you’re a woman), keeping a close eye on children, and making sure that kids know their hotel’s name and address, and what to do if they get lost.
According to recent statistics, L.A.’s Metro system is relatively safe. If you’re driving in Los Angeles, don’t tailgate, since stop-and-go traffic is the norm on L.A.’s freeways and you want to do all you can to avoid a fender bender—or being the target of road rage. It’s not difficult to drive in L.A. as long as you have a good map app and the patience to endure Los Angeles’ notorious traffic.
Finally, keep in mind that Los Angeles is prone to 13 of 16 federally identified threats—especially wildfires, flooding, mudslides, and earthquakes. It’s worth reading up on these risks before you head to L.A.
Common Scams in Los Angeles
There are a few common scams that con people use to target travelers to Los Angeles. Prime among them is falsely posing as a Hollywood talent agent who “discovers” you or your child. If someone claiming to be an agent or casting professional approaches you and appears serious about wanting to work with you, ask for the person’s business card and look them up on IMDB.com. If you agree to any meetings at the person’s office, make sure not to go alone, and never pay anything upfront, since bona fide agents only make money when their clients do.
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- What to Pack for Los Angeles
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—original reporting by Avital Andrews