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Los Angeles - Crime & Safety

Despite an overall decrease in crime in the past decade, Los Angeles is considered one of the most dangerous cities in the United States, along with Chicago and New York City. Extra precautions should be taken when traveling in the downtown area, and in lower income areas such as East Los Angeles.

There were 392 homicides in Los Angeles in 2007, the lowest number of homicides ever recorded for a single year in the city. Many of the homicides that occur in Los Angeles are attributable to illegal drug activity and gang violence. The city is referred to as the "Gang Capital of America", with over 150,000 gang members and more than 1,300 gangs.

For most expats living in Los Angeles, though, the most pressing crime concerns do not involve physical violence, but rather residential burglary, vehicle vandalism, and personal theft. Vehicle vandalisms and robberies have been rising steadily over the past decade – most often, the criminal will simply smash the window of a parked vehicle and take the contents from inside. If you park your car on the street or in an unsecured lot, be sure to tuck valuables out of sight to minimize the chance that your vehicle will be targeted.

Personal thefts and pickpocketing usually occur on the city’s buses and trains, and in the busy downtown and tourist areas. Because the city’s population is so diverse, criminals do not usually target foreigners; however, crowded areas leave a great deal of opportunity for criminals to take purses, wallets, and personal belongings.

Residential robberies usually occur in the more affluent areas of the city, although the number of residential burglaries has increased in middle and working class areas as well.

As with other large cities in the United States, the greatest safety concern for Los Angeles residents is road safety. This can be a particular concern for expats from European countries, because it can be difficult getting used to driving on the right side of the road instead of the left. Also, although freeway traffic typically moves at high speeds, traffic jams are common, particularly during the morning and evening rush hours. Thus, you should always be prepared to make a sudden stop when driving on a Los Angeles freeway.

If you are the victim of a crime, are involved in a traffic accident, or need medical assistance, dial 911 from any pay phone or cell phone. This single emergency number connects you with police, ambulance, fire, and other emergency services.

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