This guide to the most dangerous places in Los Angeles is essential reading for travelers looking to explore the City of Angels this year. It will outline five of the areas that you might want to think twice about when it comes to wandering around on your own; the parts of the city with soaring crime rates and less-than-savory reputations.
Recent stats show that a big proportion of Angelenos consider street crime and safety to be one of the most worrying aspects of their city – a whopping 41% of people said it was a major issue! That’s likely due to some worrying spikes in the crime rates, which have seen everything from trespassing to homicides to petty theft hike skywards by up to 12% in each category in the year following 2020. Not good, eh?
And it’s not the same across the board. While the stylish villas of the Hollywood Hills and millionaire mansions of Bel Air enjoy peace and quiet, other parts of the great West Coast metropolis are suffering. Those are what we’ll focus in on here, from the homeless hub of Skid Row to the gang hotspots of Compton. Let’s begin…
Just a mention of Skid Row is likely to conjure images of some of the most down-and-out streets in America. The very name has become synonymous with poverty-stricken folks and homelessness, and there’s absolutely no doubt that this corner of the metropolis is up there with the most dangerous places in Los Angeles.
The curious thing is that it’s wedged right there into the beating heart of the LA Downtown. You’ve got the chic bubble-tea joints and the sushi restaurants of Little Tokyo to the north. There are the shimmering skyscrapers of the Financial District to the west. Leave those behind and step into the row and you’ll instantly see a change, as sidewalk cafés are replaced by makeshift tent homes and people begging in dirty corners.
The truth is that Skid Row’s rep started long, long ago. When the railroads found their way across the continent, one of the western terminuses was right here. The area quickly developed into something of a gathering point for people looking for work and a place to live. Sadly, the dreams of gold and riches on the Pacific weren’t all that easy to obtain and the district fast became a stomping ground for those struggling to get a foothold in the new LA of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Fast forward to the 2020s and it’s just about what you’d expect. Skid Row has a crime right that’s a mega 63% higher than the national average. Violent crime rates are a startling 148% higher than the national average. Meanwhile, homelessness and drug use continue to be major issues. Skid Row has even inspired Netflix tales of haunted hotels and legends of American serial killers. Yikes.
The hard streets of Compton have been the muse to many of the West Coast’s most famous rap musicians. Most of all, they provided the grit to the tunes of N.W.A, a group that included Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, credited with all but inventing the gangster hip hop subgenre. Today, the area is up there with the most dangerous in the whole of the USA and North America, let alone the most dangerous places in Los Angeles on its own.
Yep, a crime rate of a whopping 1,200 incidents per 100,000 head of population means it’s officially the 13th most crime-ridden spot in the great State of California. A part of that is a murder rate that sits at a worrying 22.5 in 100,000 people, which is only a quarter of what it is in the fear-inducing border city of Tijuana over in Mexico!
A lot of the issue in this corner of the big city is the history of conflict between two of LA’s most notorious gangs: The Bloods and the Crips. The blocks of Compton have long been one of the places where members of both come into contact, and it’s thought that the rivalry was a leading cause in the skyrocketing murder rates of the early noughties here.
That said, things are slowly but surely changing. Although the city – which was actually one of the oldest in Cali to be incorporated way back in 1888 – still isn’t anywhere near the tourist radar, it’s seen dropping levels of violent crime thanks to faster police response times and nuanced anti-crime measures like the Gifts for Guns program.
The City of Industry
It’s very unlikely that you’ll find yourself drifting into the City of Industry during your time in LA. Just as the name implies, this corner of the town is mainly given over to economic enterprises and business. In fact, it’s home to over 3,000 individual businesses but only 220 or so people, which makes it one of the smallest incorporated towns in the whole of California.
One of the downsides to that is that it can skew the crime stats. And not in a good way, either! Nope, with so much important economic activity, warehouses, and property in the area but so few people, it doesn’t take much in the way of theft and trespassing to give the City of Industry some of the highest crime stats per capita of anywhere in the state and even in the USA as a whole. We’re talking an overall rate of 42,000 per 100,000 of population, and the second-highest violent crime rate in the state!
Of course, that sounds much worse than it really is. In fact, Industry isn’t considered crazy dangerous in the same way as Compton or Skid Row are. There are even a couple of intriguing sights, like the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum, an old, preserved dwelling that belonged to some of the first pioneers to cross over the USA, now a site on the National Register of Historic Places. Oh yep, and there’s a scattering of famous filming locations, like the mall used in the hit Back to the Future trilogy.
Anyone who’s followed the history of Los Angeles in the last 50 years might just get a tingle in the spine when they hear the name Chesterfield Square. This was the site of one of the bloodiest incidents of gang violence ever to occur in the city. It’s known as the 54th Street Massacre and it happened way back in 1984, when a birthday party turned into hell after two rival gang factions open-fired, killing five teenagers aged 14 and up and injuring five more.
That really set the tone for the area and Chesterfield Square has remained among the worst-rated parts of the city for violent crime ever since. There’s always some talk that it’s changing, but we prefer to let the stats do the talking – think a burglary rate of 664 per 100,000 people (that’s more than 150 over the national average), an auto theft rate that’s nearly triple the national average, and a murder rate of 11.3 per 100k, which is just about double the national average. No wonder that property prices in Chesterfield are lagging behind the rest of LA!
The thing is the area hardly looks the part. It’s made up of wide boulevards that sprout those trademark Pacific palm trees and has leafy parks like Chesterfield Square Park and the Van Ness recreation area. There’s also a huge shopping complex south of Slauson Avenue that hosts Home Depot and more big brand names. Our advice? Don’t be tempted. There are better parts of town to shop through and relax in. Plenty of them.
Butting up to Interstate 105 as it carves its way through the concrete jungle to the sands of Manhattan Beach in south Los Angeles, Vermont Knolls hardly has the most enviable crime statistics in this city on the shore. If you do the math, you’ll see that there’s over 10 serious violent crimes reported here almost every single week these days. That’s over 500 per year, and it doesn’t even include more minor incidents like property crime. Not good.
To be honest, we’re not really sure why you’d ever stray this far south in the city. There’s not really that much to see and the presence of the flyover means you basically never have to leave the 105 to get to where you’re going. For the most part, the neighborhood is pretty unremarkable too, consisting of a series of bungalow houses and tree-lined streets.
On top of that, things hardly improve when you move over to neighboring West Athens. That district also has soaring crime stats that are something like 20% higher than the national average, not to mention particularly concerning violent crime and property crime rates. This is all worth knowing, especially since big Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is just down the road and travelers are often tempted by bargain hotels in the vicinity of these two dubious districts.
The most dangerous places in Los Angeles – our verdict
Los Angeles might be the stomping ground of A-listers and movie stars, but it’s also one of the grittiest metropolises in America. It has crime levels that are worse than New York City, and levels of violent crime that are a notch above the national average for the whole of the USA. A large part of that is down to a few proverbial bad apples on the neighborhood front. These are the areas you’ll probably want to dodge. Most of them sit in unsavory south LA, but there’s also the likes of Skid Row smack dab in the Downtown core.