I’m about to take you on a journey through Los Angeles, a city famous for its celebrities, stunning beaches, and beautiful mountains. It’s a place where the sun seems to never stop shining, and stars are as common on the streets as they are in the night sky.
But there’s another side to LA that’s often hidden from the glossy magazine covers. This city, my city, has its share of problems. Some neighborhoods are known for high crime rates, including violent crimes and thefts, and we can’t ignore the homelessness issue.
I’m going to show you ten of LA’s most dangerous areas. We’re going beyond the bright lights of movie premieres and the iconic palm trees. We’ll explore parts of LA that are rarely seen but are just as important to understand the true nature of this city.
These stories are about survival, about the people and places that don’t make it to the tourist brochures. It’s a different side of LA, often overlooked, but so important to understand the full picture of my city.
Let’s dive into the reality of LA’s toughest neighborhoods, each with its own set of challenges and untold stories.
Oh, and by the way, marijuana is legal here in Los Angeles, adding another layer to this complex city’s narrative.
10 Baddest Places
10. Hollywood: the Reality of Glitz and Crime
A friend who works in the film industry mentioned how Hollywood’s glitz often overshadows its crime issues. She’s always careful when walking back to her car after late-night shoots.
- Population Insight: Hollywood’s bustling streets are home to around 146,514 people. It’s more than just a tourist hotspot; it’s a thriving community.
- Elevated Crime Rates: The crime scenario here is more intense than you might expect. Total crime rates soar 147% above the national average, with violent crimes being 282% higher. Walking these streets, you can feel the need for heightened caution according to the AreaVibes.
- Personal Safety: Being in Hollywood, there’s a stark 1 in 18 chance of becoming a crime victim. This statistic always reminds me to be extra vigilant, especially at night or in crowded areas.
9. Compton: Resilience Amidst the Echoes of Crime
In 2005, Compton had the dubious distinction of having the highest murder rate in the country. While this has decreased over the past two decades, violent and property crimes have seen a resurgence since 2020. Despite a significant police presence, residents feel that law enforcement is stretched thin.
An old college buddy who grew up in Compton often talks about the community’s resilience amidst the high crime rates. He’s seen improvements over the years but admits there’s still a long way to go.
- Population: Compton has a population of about 93,597 residents.
- Crime Rate: The crime rate in Compton is alarmingly high. With a rate of 38 crimes per one thousand residents, it’s one of the highest in the nation. According to the Neighborhood Scout Your chances of becoming a victim of violent or property crime here are 1 in 26, which is starkly higher than many other communities in California and across the USA .
- Violent Crimes: The violent crime rate in Compton is notably high. Crimes like rape, murder, armed robbery, and aggravated assault are prevalent, giving you a 1 in 85 chance of becoming a victim.
- Property Crimes: Property crime is also a significant concern in Compton. With crimes such as burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, and arson being common, there’s a 1 in 38 chance of falling victim to property crime.
8. Fashion District: Style Meets Security Challenges
Despite its small population of 2,466, the Fashion District’s crime rate is 168% higher than the national average. My cousin, a fashion designer, loves the vibrant energy of the District but is always vigilant about her surroundings, especially when leaving her studio late at night.
- Population: The Fashion District has a small population of about 2,466 people.
- Crime Rates: The crime rates in the Fashion District are significantly higher than the national average.AreaVibes states that Total crime rates are 105% higher, and violent crimes are 204% higher than the national average. In the Fashion District, there’s a 1 in 21 chance of becoming a victim of crime.
7. Watts: The Unspoken Story of Strength and Struggle
In 2021, there were 1,571 incidents of violent crime and 1,943 incidents of property crime in Watts. It’s not advised to walk alone at night, use public transit, or carry large amounts of cash or valuables.A colleague who volunteers in Watts shared how the community is close-knit and supportive, despite the challenging crime situation. She feels a strong sense of camaraderie when working on local projects.
- Population: Watts has a population of approximately 39,593 people.
- Crime Rates: The crime rates in Watts are significantly higher than the national average. Total crime rates are 75% higher, and violent crimes are 367% higher than the national average. In Watts, you have a 1 in 25 chance of becoming a victim of crime, which reflects the ongoing safety concerns in the area.
- Chance of Being a Victim: Specifically, the chance of being a victim of violent crime in Watts is 1 in 58, and the chance of being a victim of property crime is 1 in 43.
Watts has a notorious history for its crime rates, and despite some improvements, it remains a challenging area. The high rates of violent and property crimes highlight the need for vigilance and caution, especially during night time or when using public transit.
6. Koreatown: Cultural Riches in the Shadow of Crime
Koreatown, with a population of 72,523, has a crime rate of 2,873 per 100,000 people, making it 22% more dangerous than the national average.
Gang and drug activity are common in this neighborhood, with associated crimes like prostitution also being prevalent. The Southern and Eastern parts of Koreatown are considered the most dangerous. A friend who lives in Koreatown often talks about the cultural richness of the area but also expresses safety concerns, especially near the eastern parts.
Other crimes, such as robberies, assaults, and pickpocketing, are also common. Many of these crimes occur on public transit, and it’s advised to keep all belongings secure at all times. Walking during the night is discouraged, and areas like Hancock Park and Wilshire Center should be avoided.
- Crime Rates: Total crime is 50% higher than the national average. Violent crime is 118% higher than the national average. Property crime is 38% higher than the national average. The chance of being a victim of crime in Koreatown is 115.9 per 1,000 residents according to the crimegrade.com.
5. South Los Angeles: Navigating Through the Tides of Transformation
South Los Angeles, formerly known as South Central, is a neighborhood with a population of 249,670 and a crime rate of 4,268 per 100,000 people as per AreaVibes. It’s a hotbed for drug trafficking and gun violence, often linked to gang activity.
Despite the heavy police presence, which has led to a gradual decrease in crime since the 1990s, South LA remains one of the city’s most dangerous areas. My grandma, who’s lived in South LA for decades, reminisces about the neighborhood’s past and is hopeful about ongoing efforts to reduce crime and improve community life. The level of gang activity varies by neighborhood, and residents are advised to be cautious when walking at night. During the day, walking is somewhat safer, and public transit is generally considered safe.
- Crime Rates: Total crime is 115% higher than the national average. Violent crime is 397% higher than the national average. Property crime is 61% higher than the national average. The chance of being a victim of crime in South Los Angeles is 1 in 24.
4. North Hollywood: Artistic Spirit in the Face of Adversity
North Hollywood, or NoHo, is home to 64,587 residents and shares a boundary with Universal Studio. The crime rate here is 2,592 per 100,000 people, making it 10% more dangerous than the national average. Gang and drug activities are prevalent. A former neighbor moved to NoHo and often mentions the area’s creative vibe. He does, however, advise against walking alone at night, especially near some of the less busy streets.
- Violent Crime Rate: In 2020, North Hollywood’s violent crime rate was estimated at 924.2 per 100,000 people. This rate is substantially higher than the national average of 366.7 per 100,000 residents, making it 2.5 times greater.
- Property Crime Rate: The estimated property crime rate for 2020 in North Hollywood was 4,823, resulting in a rate of 4493.32 per 100,000 people as per vanlifewanderer. This is more than double the national average of 2,109.9 per 100,000 residents.
3. Wholesale District/Skid Row: Hope and Hardship in LA’s Heart
Known as Skid Row, the Wholesale District houses one of the largest homeless populations in America, with estimates ranging from 9,000 to 15,000 people. The overwhelming scale of homelessness often leaves commuters and residents feeling helpless.
Since 2010, crime in the Wholesale District has surged by 59%. In 2013 alone, there were 13,122 reported crimes, including 2,698 assaults, 1,350 vehicle break-ins, and 2,453 theft incidents as noted by the ABC11.
Drug trade among the homeless population fuels much of the crime, with pickpocketing and theft being rampant. Areas like San Pedro street are particularly notorious. After 6 PM, Skid Row transforms into a hub of gang and drug activity.A social worker I know works in Skid Row and speaks about the profound challenges faced by its residents, including rampant crime and homelessness. She’s dedicated to making a difference, despite the hardships.
- Population & Crisis Center: Skid Row has an estimated population of 10,850 and is central to LA’s addiction crisis and a large homeless encampment.
- Crime and Control:
- Crime rates are 33% higher than the Los Angeles average.
- Mid-2022 data shows 3,828 reported crimes, including 963 violent and 2,865 property crimes.
- Street gangs from South Los Angeles control drug, prostitution, and stolen goods markets.
2. West Adams: Historic Elegance Meets Modern Challenges
With its population of 11,961, is another neighborhood in LA that’s notorious for crime. The crime rate here stands at 6,811 per 100,000 people, implying that residents have a 1 in 15 chance of falling victim to a crime. As noted by the LATIMES, gang and drug activities are the primary sources of violent crime in West Adams. My uncle, who’s a history buff, often talks about the rich history of West Adams. He laments the current crime situation but is hopeful about community initiatives for improvement.
Despite a robust police presence, the sheer volume of criminal incidents overwhelms law enforcement. Robberies, assaults, and thefts are commonplace, and nighttime walks are discouraged. Residents often voice concerns about safety, even when using public transit.
- Population & Crime Rate:
- Current population is approximately 22,000.
- Crime rate of 6,168 per 100,000 population.
- West Adams’ crime rate is 163% above the national average.
- Specific Crime Data:
- Recorded 4,025 property crimes and 2,143 violent crimes.
- Violent crimes are 453% higher than the national average.
1. Downtown LA: A Tale of Two Cities within One
The heart of Los Angeles, Downtown LA, often shortened to DTLA, is a paradox of sorts. It’s the city’s financial powerhouse, yet it’s also a hotbed for crime and illegal activities.
The FBI’s 2021 crime statistics paint a grim picture, with the violent crime rate in DTLA being twelvefold the national average. When you factor in property crimes, the overall crime rate soars to a staggering 530% above the national average.
LAPD’s 2022 data reveals 1,702 violent offenses, and the murder rate peaked at an alarming 490 in 2018.
Nighttime strolls, whether solo or in groups, are strongly discouraged. The area grapples with homelessness, and incidents of pickpocketing and robberies are frequent. Before, I frequently visited Downtown LA for business meetings, you can feel the need to be extra cautious, especially after dark, due to the high crime rates and the prevalence of homelessness in the area.
While daylight hours see a dip in crime, caution is still paramount. The most perilous zones are south of 3rd street, north of 7th street, west of Alameda Street, and east of Main street. Carrying large sums of cash is ill-advised.
- Population & Crime Rate: Downtown LA has over 27,000 residents, with a daytime population swelling to 207,440. The crime rate is very high, with one in every four residents experiencing crime according to the LATIMES.
- Violent Incidents & Trends:
- Dramatic increase in smash-and-grab heists and gang violence.
- Gun shop sales have skyrocketed.
- Violent crime increased by 25% from 2019 to 2022, with a rate of 45 violent crimes per 1,000 residents according to Simmrin Law Group.
- Property Crime:
- Grand theft person incidents rose nearly 57% between 2019 and 2022 according to the USA today.
- Approximately 167 property crimes per 1,000 residents.
- Notable increase in shoplifting, particularly along Fifth and Seventh streets.
Some of the Notorious Crimes in LA
One of the most notorious crimes in Los Angeles history is the North Hollywood shootout that occurred in 1997. This was an armed confrontation between two heavily armed and armored bank robbers, Larry Eugene Phillips, Jr. and Emil Mătăsăreanu, and patrol and SWAT officers of the Los Angeles Police Department.
The event took place when responding patrol officers engaged Phillips and Mătăsăreanu as they were leaving the robbed bank. Seventeen officers and civilians were wounded before both robbers were killed.
Phillips and Mătăsăreanu had previously robbed several banks prior to their attempt in North Hollywood and were notorious for their heavy armament, which included automatic rifles.
Another significant crime event was the Rampart Scandal in the late 1990s. This involved widespread police corruption in the Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums (C.R.A.S.H.) unit of the Los Angeles Police Department.
More than 70 police officers either assigned to or associated with the unit were implicated in various forms of misconduct, including unprovoked shootings, unprovoked beatings, planting of false evidence, stealing and dealing narcotics, bank robbery, perjury, and the covering up of evidence of these activities.
The scandal constituted one of the most widespread cases of documented police corruption in U.S. history.
These events have left a significant mark on the history of crime in Los Angeles, reflecting the city’s struggle with both criminal activity and issues within its law enforcement agencies.
5 Safety Tips
- Staying Alert: Whenever I’m out, especially in crowded spots, I make it a point to be extra vigilant. I’ve learned to minimize distractions, like not getting too absorbed in my phone. It helps me stay aware of any suspicious activities around me.
- Nighttime Safety: I avoid walking alone at night in these areas. If I have to go out after dark, I always go with friends, stick to well-lit streets, and use reliable transportation services.
- Protecting My Belongings: I’ve made it a habit to keep my valuables secure and out of sight. I don’t flaunt expensive items and always use the hotel safe for important documents like my passport.
- Choosing Safe Transport: I prefer reputable taxi services or ride-sharing apps, particularly at night. While I find public transport okay during the day, I tend to avoid it in the evenings in certain districts.
- Planning My Visits: Before heading to any new district, I do thorough research. Knowing which areas are safe, which to avoid, and the best times to explore, really boosts my sense of security.
What is the safest neighborhood in Los Angeles?
While crime rates can vary, some neighborhoods in Los Angeles are generally considered safer than others. These include Brentwood, Westwood, Pacific Palisades, and Beverlywood.
However, it’s always important to stay vigilant and aware of your surroundings, no matter where you are.
How has the crime rate changed over the years?
Crime rates in Los Angeles have fluctuated over the years. While there was a significant decrease in crime from the 1990s through the early 2000s, recent years have seen a slight uptick in certain types of crime, such as property crime and violent offenses.
However, the overall trend shows a decrease in crime rates over the past few decades.
What measures are being taken to reduce crime?
The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and other law enforcement agencies are continually working to reduce crime. This includes increasing police presence in high-crime areas, implementing community policing strategies, and using data-driven approaches to predict and prevent crime.
Additionally, various community organizations and nonprofits work to address the root causes of crime, such as poverty and lack of education.
Is it safe to use public transportation?
Generally, public transportation in Los Angeles is safe to use, especially during daylight hours. However, certain areas and times may be riskier than others.
It’s always important to stay alert, keep your belongings secure, and avoid traveling alone at night if possible.
What should I do if I become a victim of crime in Los Angeles?
If you become a victim of a crime in Los Angeles, it’s important to report the incident to the police as soon as possible. If you’re in immediate danger, call 911.
For non-emergencies, you can contact the LAPD’s non-emergency line. It’s also recommended to contact your local embassy or consulate if you’re a foreign national.
How can tourists stay safe while visiting Los Angeles?
Tourists can enhance their safety by researching the areas they plan to visit, staying vigilant, securing their valuables, and using trusted transportation services.
It’s also advisable to avoid walking alone at night, especially in neighborhoods known for higher crime rates.
In conclusion, Los Angeles, like any other major city, has its share of challenges. While it’s known for its glamour and allure, it’s also home to neighborhoods that struggle with crime and social issues.
However, it’s important to remember that these issues do not define the city as a whole. Los Angeles is a vibrant, diverse metropolis with much to offer, and understanding its complexities is part of appreciating its unique character.
Please note that the content provided here is based on personal opinions, expertise, and experiences, as well as information gathered from various online sources. It reflects an individual perspective and should be considered as a subjective interpretation of life. This narrative aims to share personal insights and experiences to offer a unique view of the city, rather than an exhaustive or universally applicable guide.