I come from a small town in New Hampshire and moved to East LA for grad school. Honestly...I never really researched the area before moving there but after I got there, so many people that I met were astonished that I lived in that area!
I do not think it is as bad as most people think. Yes, there is a lot of gang activity but as long as you mind your own business, they will leave you alone for the most part.
I will admit...like I said...coming from a small town in NH, I DID stare from time to time because I was not used to some of the things I saw....and even then, no one bothered me.
I went to a job interview in Compton and I couldn't believe I was actually there! I was expecting wayyy worse than what I saw. Yes, I only saw one area of Compton, as I did not drive around and explore the area, but I was surprised at how NORMAL it looked.
I also visited Skid Row....not on purpose...I got a little lost and ended up there. I definitely knew right away where I had ended up because of all the homeless people and trash on the ground and the way it smelled, but no one bothered me. It was obvious that I was lost as I looked all around me trying to find something familiar in my pink dress and heels! I even asked a homeless person (gasp) for directions and he was very nice. So were all the people he was hanging out with near his tent! The media makes it out to be worse than it is (in my opinion)...Obviously I know that not ALL homeless people are mean and want to rob you, but I actually felt relatively safe.
Bottom line...just mind your own business and don't do anything stupid and most likely, you'll be fine.
I am born and raised in LA. I was born in Watts but grew up in Long Beach, Compton, Carson, Inglewood, and Los Angeles. This place is my home. I can honestly say that in general, compared to other places I have been (San Francisco, Atlanta, Washington D.C., Virginia), it is not nearly as bad as people think. I am not saying go to Compton, definitely do not. Even as an LA native, I avoid this city. Compton is adjacent to Watts, which is probably the WORST area you can be in, but as a tourist, I don't really see any reason you'd need to be over there unless you have family or some other sort of business over there. Bunch of public housing, poverty, and of course with poverty comes crime.
-Hawthorne. This area is closer to South Bay, and the further west you go, or the further south you go, the better it becomes. The area of Hawthorne near Torrance is definitely ok. Redondo Beach is also nice as well as Manhattan. El Segundo is definitely safe, I am always over here. It is very quiet and very close to a lot of nice restaurants, gyms, shopping, etc.
-Gardena is also ok. There is a casino over here as well as a giant swap meet known as the Rodium. I haven't gone to the Rodium in quite a while, but sometimes you can get good bargains on things.
-Downtown Los Angeles. This one is kind of hard to call. Let's see. I am almost always in Downtown LA for some reason or another. Whether it's simply passing through to get to somewhere else, or stopping to do something here. There are some parts of DTLA that should be avoided at night, mainly Skid Row. Skid row spans from about, Main St, to Alameda St going east and west, and between 3rd and 7th going north and south (3rd street in this area kind of blurs into Little Tokyo, which is where is starts to get better). If you stay north of 3rd, you are fine. Go south of it and now you're in skid row. A lot of the homeless population is concentrated to Skid Row because of all of the homeless services are there. Los Angeles is constantly building new affordable apartments for them each year, and they are slowly working to fix this problem and get the chronically homeless off the street and It's a wonderful thing. But, I digress. Anyway, You really have no need to be at Skid Row, unless you are homeless, or you work over here, or maybe are visiting a family member over here (I also have a relative who has an apartment on San Pedro st, so I visit sometimes). In my experience, the most a person will do here is ask you for spare change. Just say you don't have it, and move along. Though, a lot of the time, they mind their own business and won't even ask you for anything. Other than that, not much else to avoid. Obviously if you're alone, try not to walk on dark streets or alleyways, but that's pretty much anywhere. Downtown LA has a pretty good nightlife, so I wouldn't avoid it altogether at night. It's not all that bad. I have been there on late nights coming home from work, and have never encountered a problem. I used to visit a friend who had a nice apartment on Main st before she moved to Seattle a few yrs ago and it wasn't bad. Plus, the Staples Center, LA Live, Nokia Theater, LA Philharmonic, and Little Tokyo are all in Downtown LA. Little Tokyo is fine at night. It's a very small district, so it's not very easy to get lost. It's mainly concentrated to 1st St, bordered by Figueroa to the West, Center St to the East, between Center and Alameda it goes South to 3rd St, West to Los Angeles St, then back up to 1st street again. There is a LOT to do in Little Tokyo. there is a mall, there are many great restaurants, places to shop, and also amazing hotels and hostels a like to stay at during your trip. There are museums, an arcade, and other things. Another part of DTLA that should be avoided, anything South of Olympic st if you are not on Figueroa or Broadway, or Olive or Hill. Stay north of Olympic if you are not on one of these aforementioned streets, as there is nothing to see otherwise. On Broadway, after about 8pm, you shouldn't really be over there anyway, most stuff on that street is closed by that time. 7th Street isn't bad per say, but depends where on 7th. Generally, I stay away from anything east of Hill st on 7th after dark. Mainly because there is nothing of interest at that time of night, and if you wander far enough east on 7th, you will find yourself at Skid Row.
- Venice Beach. Another area where homelessness is a problem. But a lot of them are really nice friendly people who aren't going to bother you anyway. Most of them migrated here from as far down as San Diego. There are also a lot of legitimate street performers who earn their living doing so. They can dance, they can sing, and do many other things. A lot of tattoo/piercing shops can be found on the Venice Beach strip, as well as amazing restaurants. On Sundays, the crust punks can be seen by the beach, doing a drum circle. Go and have a dance. They won't bother you, they are just having a good time. I have danced in the drum circle many times. Fun experience. I'd recommend it, but it's not for kids. You'd understand why if you went.
-Santa Monica. Generally nothing bad to say about this place. It is mostly safe during the day as well as at night, but I have known of a crime or two to occur here. Things do get stolen if left unattended. A lot of rich tourists tend to come here, so there is also a lot of opportunity for bottom feeders to come up. You don't need to hide your belongings or worry about getting mugged or anything, just keep your things close to you and be aware. Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade is where you can see some of THE best street performers. These are truly talented individuals, and they are a delight. Some of my good friends have gotten big breaks being performers here. These people are not homeless, or poor, they have permits from the City of Santa Monica to perform here, and they make their living off the tips they receive for their performances. A lot of them really do earn their money and deserve it. Have a few loose bills on you if you decide to check them out. There are also a lot of great restaurants to visit, even a sushi spot that goes for as much as $500-$600 per dish. There are 3 or 4 movie theaters on the Promenade, all showing different movies at different rates. Down the street from the Promenade is the Santa Monica Pier. This is pretty much self-explanatory. More talent awaits you here, as well as amazing views of the ocean. Rent a bike and take a ride along the bike path, or bath in the sun. Take in the lovely almost year-around weather SoCal has to offer. So on and so forth.
-Hollywood. Pretty much a tourist trap, also where all the superficial typical night clubs can be found. I'm not much of a club person, so I can't give you a recommendation, but most of the ones I have gone to here (a very small handful) are crap. I did like King King. Great underground House music.
-The Jungles. Someone mentioned this place. I would first like to start by saying that honest and true, this area is not that bad. It was maybe 10yrs ago, but the police have seriously cleaned this area out. This neighborhood is adjacent to Baldwin Hills, which has also cleaned up rather nicely lately. I've even managed to see some white people in the area, so it can't be that bad. I also lived in the jungles recently and I actually feel it's a lot safer than where I currently live. I will go on to say, that there is nothing to see at the Jungles (named for all the palm trees over there) if you don't have friends or family living there. It's just a neighborhood with a bunch of apartments and houses. Working class.
-Koreatown. Awesome place to be. Generally safe at night as well. A lot of amazing Korean BBQ spots are here, a lot of great, affordable apartments can be found here ($1000/month or less). A lot of students live in this area. A lot of working class citizens as well. Constantly innovating, and building new places of business. Crimes do occur, but rarely. and it is mostly safe to be out at night. Usually when something does occur, it will be on the news and solved right away. Koreatown mainly ends at Olympic when going south, at Crenshaw when going west, as far North as Melrose if you're on Western, north up to Hollywood Blvd if on Magnolia, and as far east as Virgil Ave. A great night life here, many clubs as well as karaoke spots, plus bars, food, malls, spas, chiropractors, acupuncture, and other goodies.
-Public Transportation. I highly recommend it if you're going to be local. if you plan to go to Santa Monica a few times or even to the San Fernando or San Gabriel or Santa Clarita valleys, you might need to rent a car. Los Angeles is a big city where a lot more can get done if you have a car. Taking the bus to the valley is not recommended because the buses that go up there do not run as often as they do in the city..(some as little as every 10min in the city, compared to 1hr+ in the valleys).
Speaking of the Valleys, people try to say the valleys are much safer than LA. Please. A good amount of LA County's registered sex offenders are concentrated to the valleys, especially SF Valley. A lot of child kid-nappings happen here, and a lot of rapes happen here as a result. There are a lot of "fake homeless" people here as well. People who dress up bummy, stand on the corners and freeway exits asking for change, then, at the end of the day, go change their clothes and drive off in their Mercedes Benz. I am not joking. There was even a news segment about this. The sad part is, this isn't illegal. Plenty of crimes occur here, at all times of the day. A lot of gang activity as well. There are some great things about the Valley, but it's seriously not much better than any part of LA. It is very misleading of people to not disclose this information or to tell you otherwise. As with any other place be aware of your surroundings, and if it doesn't feel right, leave.
If you really have to walk through these danger areas just mentioned very accurately make sure your strapped, even if you just have to shoot up. It will give you a fighting chance for survival because thats whats it amounts to if anyone attempts to walk at night in any of those high risk neighborhoods and don't think the locals wont know your not from there...trust me they will know. Listen even the police are on edge patrolling those areas.
Also don't believe anyone who says South L.A. and particularly Compton is not dangerous and its all good at night. It dangerous in a car in Compton can you imagine on foot. Let me give you the common thought to all of the construction workers, delivery drivers and people working in Compton but do not live there. Their thinking on a schedule that tells them in the back of their mind, "I need to be out of this city before dark." So that tells you everything.
This place is not dangerous compared to St Louis. It has its rough areas like the valley or east la otherwise its perfectly safe. One more thing do not go out anywhere at night on foot. Unless the street is well lit and there are many people with you.
East la has its nice places and good Mexican food just stay away from areas with graffiti and lots of abandoned buildings those are truly dangerous.
Just use this rule and consider Central LA as your point,
The more you go towards the coast (More West) such as most of the beaches, Hollywood, West Hollywood, La Brea, that is the most safest neighborhoods and has a lot of attractions since it is expensive to live there. Definitely a place to tour around.
The more South you go (Dowtown, Skid Row, South Central) a little more dangerous and a little choppy. But you'll find that these are residential neighborhoods, not a place you'd go tour at. You'll find places like Watts and Compton in South Central and you'll know you went too far South.
The more north you go (Burbank, San Fernando Valley) well, I am not sure because I don't go there often, but I believe they are fairly safe and the crime is medium. I know there are little gems of tourist spots in Burbank.
The more East you go (Verdugos, San Gabriel Valley, and Beyond) They too are fairly safe, but note that it The Valley is not a walking place. You need to go use a car to go through the 10 E. Freeway to actually travel. In the Verdugos, places like Pasadena are such wonderful tourist attractions, and Glendale also has some little gems of tourist attraction.
You should use this website to explore LA's Neighborhood: http://projects.latimes.com/mapping-la/neighborhoods/
Look, I'm from the UK, been to L.A. 5 times in the last 10 years (last visit Sept 2011) so can speak of back then and now. For anyone who has not been before, you need the following - a car, sat nav, cash for the great shops and restaurants, sunglasses, quarters for the parking meters, single dollars for the valet parking, a good camera and sun tan lotion (even in January!). Look, would you would through some parts of London, Paris or NYC at 2am with your camera and i-phone? Exactly....day time in areas worth seeing like Malibu, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Weho etc, Venice all perfectly safe, if somebody asks you for a cigarette and you have one..then give them one..throw a homeless person some change...they usually won't ask you for any. Night time in Santa Monica, very safe and bussling. You will get used to homeless people, they don't even approach you. Common sense is the best tip..ok nobody really walks anywhere or uses the subway so a car is the Number One tip, the place is huge..the other tip is with sat nav of course, you cannot og wrong. At night, if e have been to Bev Hills we will drive home along a major boulevard all the way back.....Enjoy, it;s amazing!
I arrived in LA, like many of the people reading this board, with bug eyes and shaking hands thinking there were gang members around every corner and I was going to be shot.
Lived in East Hollywood (GASP!)
I worked at the Walmart on Crenshaw (OMG!)
I used the bus and Metro (I think they fainted)
Not once was I mugged, shot, stabbed or offered a demo cd and the closest I've came to dying in LA is from a nasty case of food poisoning after eating at a Taco Bell in Mid-City.
Keep your eyes open. If something doesn't seem right then it probably isn't. Can't stress that enough. Most visitors who became victims of crime here ended up that way because they paid zero attention to their surroundings.
Sounds racist but if you don't like the looks of the black or Latino guy in the gansta get up walking toward you, cross the street.
Pay attention to your surroundings and you the only time you'll be mugged is by one of the overpriced restaurants in town.
Enjoy your visit to LA.
You know, I've lived in LA for awhile now, and everything you need to know about its safety is on this website:
Just check the Safety link, and you'll see what places to go to and avoid. Also, a lot of people are trashing East LA. I WORK in East LA, and while I'm not sure of its safety at night, during the day, it's completely safe. It would be a shame for you to avoid it since it has the best and most authentic Mexican food in the entire city.
Areas you should avoid are: Compton, some parts of Gardena, some parts of Carson, Pico-Union, some parts of Culver City, Inglewood, South Gate, Lynwood, some parts of Pasadena, Willowbrook, some parts of Pomona, Van Nuys(at night), Oakwood(neighbourhood in Venice Beach), East Long Beach
South LA (Watts, Crenshaw, Manchester Square, Athens, Baldwin Village, Florence, Chesterfield Square, Gramercy Park, King Estates, Jefferson Park, Rosewood, Vermont Square, Green Meadows etc)
East LA (Cypress Park, Highland Park, Glassell Park, Boyle Heights, some parts of Eagle Rock)
Avoid Downtown LA at night! Also i've seen a lot of crackheads,prostitutes in North Hollywood so don't walk there at night!
Safe areas are:West Los Angeles (The Westside) , Beverly Hills, Wilshire, Los Feliz, Silver Lake, Sunset Hills, Mulholland Drive, Rodeo Drive, Westlake Village, Malibu, Agoura Hills, Echo Park,Harbor Area most of San Fernando Valley, Venice Beach,
I cannot imagine any reason for a tourist to be in any gang area. They are concentrated in neighborhoods far away from any tourist destinations or entertainment areas. If you have to go to USC or any of the theaters or museums near there, you will be safe if you get there following directions on major boulevards *in a car* and park in official lots adjacent to your destination. (do not take our busses to odd locations at night. You don't want to be sitting on a bus stop god knows where waiting for a bus at night--though they are totally safe and reliable to take you straight to the beach during the day.) Families who live in safe areas here take their kids to events, IMAX, the science museum, air and space museum, and cultural events on the USC campus all the time. There is nothing to fear. If you are odd enough to be taking "shortcuts" through unfamiliar neighborhoods or trying to save money on parking and parking and walking on unknown streets in any unfamiliar urban area, then you just lack common sense and I can't help you.
l have lived here for 24 years. The city is enormous. Most of it is perfectly safe, as it is well populated and any major venues, shopping areas, tourist destinations are safe well lit, contained, properly patrolled. I go out at night as a single woman. I'm not scared. I stay away from areas covered in graffiti with boarded up windows, just like I would in any major city. If I'm dressed up, in heels, meeting friends at a restaurant in an area I don't go to often, I pay to valet. that's it. Some hotels offer car service. Look into it. If you stay somewhere like Santa Monica, you can easily enjoy the beach, walk to great shopping, entertainment, restaurants and the ocean, and rent a car locally only on the days you want to explore other parts of the city. Another odd thing tourists do is they walk down to the ocean at night. Again, common sense. The beach is gorgeous and well populated during the day. But at night, it is PITCH BLACK, life guards and patrol are off duty. No one could possibly hear you yell over the din of the ocean, and no, you can't run very fast on sand. The beach is not famous for being dangerous at night. I'm just saying its empty because most people are aware enough to avoid pitch black unpopulated areas in a city. So, find an area, near a well lit pier or a restaurant on the water with a private lit beach, if you want to see the ocean at night. There's nothing to see--it's vast and black. But, maybe that's exciting to you. Lol. You don't have to be "street smart" at all to visit LA. just have basic common sense. that's all. I feel safer here than in condensed walking cities like SanFrancisco, New York, Chicago, etc. Here the "bad" areas are generally pretty well removed from "good" areas, or concentrated in little neighborhoods that you wouldn't be going to unless you lived there. There's not a lot of walking at night, sitting around using public transportation alone in strange neighborhoods, you're just not as vulnerable here. If in doubt, ask you concierge, your local friends, friendly looking people on the street or at the cafe table next to you. Have fun. There's a lot to enjoy here.
LA is is beautiful, there are many wonderful walking areas and lots of hiking areas and beaches to explore. Just don't be dumb. Stay in hotels near great places that can be explored by foot. Don't leave your laptop and camera sitting on your passenger seat (duh) and don't worry. In 24 years, I have known only one person who was a victim of a crime (and came out unscathed). the crime was just random and as unexpected as it would be anywhere and took place in safe area... So, come, enjoy, don't be afraid. Just be as smart as you would traveling anywhere in the world.
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