Safe and Dangerous Places in Phoenix

by Melanie Kiser, an AOL Travel ContributorPosted Aug 16th 2010 02:10 PM


Areas to Avoid Phoenix


Just like any other big American city, Phoenix, Ariz.., offers delights and dangers to tourists and residents. You just have to know where to go -- and where not to. Here are the safest areas and areas to avoid in Phoenix.

(Note that Phoenix operates on a grid system, so there's one important rule of thumb: Central Avenue cuts the city in half from north to south. East of it are ascending numbered streets, and west of it are "the Avenues.")

Safest areas

Separated from the rest of Phoenix by South Mountain Park, Ahwatukee Foothills is a triangle-shaped suburb boasting of low crime rates and high quality life. Pecos Road forms its southern boundary and Interstate 10 separates its eastern edges from the cities of Chandler, Tempe and Guadalupe.

Biltmore, though not an official neighborhood, is a prestigious area radiating from 24th Street and Camelback Road, well-known for its upscale shopping, golfing and resorts. Anchored by Biltmore Fashion Park and the Arizona Biltmore Resort, it's also home to a bevy of office buildings and businesses.

A residential neighborhood wedged between rundown east Phoenix and shiny Scottsdale, Arcadia is a safe place that most people -- tourists and Phoenicians alike -- see only from a passing car.

With virtually no crime and some of the city's prettiest scenery, Paradise Valley is a safe bet for vacationers. This urban village of Phoenix, though distinct from the nearby municipality of the same name, is bordered by the Phoenix Mountains and Central Arizona Project to the north and south and Scottsdale and 16th Street to the east and west.

During the day, the Central Avenue Corridor of downtown Phoenix swarms with businesspeople, students and government employees. As long as you don't wander more than a few blocks from Central Avenue, you're safe here.

Areas to avoid

The West Side of town -- anywhere west of Central Avenue, but particularly west of 7th Avenue -- sees most of the crime that occurs in Phoenix, according to the police department. East Valley and downtown residents generally avoid it unless they're going to an Arizona Cardinals game in Glendale or perhaps to see grandparents in the retirement communities northwest of Phoenix such as Sun City and Sun City West. A lot of the crime goes on in convenience stores and strip mall parking lots, so try to avoid stopping at any of those if you find yourself in the area.

Once known as the place in Phoenix to pick up prostitutes, Van Buren Street is safer than it used to be but still a seedy street where assault, theft and burglary are commonplace, according to Phoenix police data on crime stats. There's not much to see here besides no-tell motels and shady corner stores, anyway.

Tower Plaza Shopping Center and surrounding area (24th to 40th streets, Thomas to McDowell roads): Much of this area comprises dirty strip malls packed with businesses catering to a low-income clientele -- payday loans, laundromats and cheap, grease-laden food. Tower Plaza Shopping Center, an enormous lot spanning a half-mile, hosts a rundown Walmart Supercenter, Harkins Movie Theater, Home Depot and Walgreen's. Of all the areas to avoid in Phoenix, this is the least dangerous. The primary crimes are robbery, burglary and theft, so as long as you don't get caught in the middle of a property crime gone wrong, you should be fine. But again, there's no reason to be here unless you're just passing through in a car, which is quite safe.

During my last year in college, I lived a little near Southeast Encanto (12th Street to I-10, Van Buren to Thomas roads). Though I ended up living in a house (and having my car broken into once), I checked out some apartments at 9th Street and Van Buren. The lady that gave me a tour of the complex warned me to never go past the Circle K convenience store on 11th Street and Van Buren, and it's no wonder why -- in 2009, this area had by far the highest rape rate in all of Phoenix.

South Phoenix seems like ground zero for street gangs and drug violence, an anecdotal observation backed up by the moderate to high rates of robbery, assault and drug arrests reported by the Phoenix police department. My next-door neighbor from the Garfield neighborhood downtown died here, murdered in a driveway during what our street suspected was a drug deal gone bad or turf dispute by two teenage boys. There's really no reason to venture down here. The closest I've gotten is 12th Street and Mohave, where Carolina's Mexican Food -- a hole in the wall with the best tortillas and burritos in town -- is located.

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LoL please keep telling people South Phoenix is unsafe. It will keep the traffic down and the parks cleaner. Funny though, the one shooting I've witnessed in Arizona was in Gilbert...

May 21 2014 at 11:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wow. I can't believe you said "anywhere west of Central Avenue." I grew up here in Northwest Phoenix and Glendale. As an adult, I now live in Avondale/Goodyear/Litchfield Park area. Litchfield has more wealthy people per capita than Scottsdale. Maryvale is considered "Phoenix" and is dangerous up to 107th Avenue. You are mistaken if you think the East side is safe. Your categories are too broad; You are inexperienced to be writing this article. You missed quite a bit and should have researched in detail, not just by asking the police for crime stats. You are generalizing large areas and should have defined your article as "within limited Phoenix City Limits", which is still too broad. Misleading and offensive.

November 21 2013 at 3:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
LiL Jones

Horrible article! I take offense to the section "Areas to Avoid - West Side of Town". I live in Avondale and have lived in Goodyear and Buckeye. Avondale, being closer to Phoenix is such a beautiful community. To generalize the West Side and say to completely avoid it is quite the stretch and bad for our economy over here. Please, please do your research before posting an article. One thing about the Phoenix Metropolitan area is that you can drive past a really nice place/area and the literally, the next home or apartment is a dump and looks like it could be a drug house. Phoenix just grew too big, too fast and doesn't have that type of zoning that most big cities have. I come from Portland, OR and Chicago, IL where there are clearly defined areas to avoid, but that's not how Phoenix is.

July 09 2013 at 8:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lisa Lisa

wow, I have lived in South Phoenix for over 20 years now. Not once have I been involved in an assault or other violent situations. So to be labeled as a dangerous area is an insult ! What a terrible and Judgmental article.

June 10 2013 at 2:31 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Catherine Napoli-Coh

I live in South Phoenix and have lived here since 1997. If I tried to move into my neighborhood today, with all the million dollar homes going in across the street from me, I could not afford to. Where is the bad area again?

June 10 2013 at 1:38 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Gregory Harshfield

This is a very unfair construct of any city, not only Phoenix, by dissecting a city within "safe" areas and "dangerous" areas. However, if you are looking for dangerous areas since the housing crisis started--most crime has shifted out to the suburbs. You can check police records for Goodyear, Buckeye, and Anthem where most of the crime has shifted. This is consistent with census records for most cities throughout the United States-the suburbs have become the new ghetto because of foreclosures and the purchases by investors that have offered low rent housing. The central area of Phoenix including South Phoenix is becoming far more gentrified because of educated workers moving into smaller households that offer shorter commutes to their workplaces. It has become easier for criminal behavior to thrive in suburban area where police are lacking resources and budgets to be able to focus on the growing scale of the problem. It's easier to slip through the radar for smuggling drugs or guns. "Gangs" in urban areas are no longer thrive as an effective business model for the cartels any longer as they did in the eighties and nineties-they are unreliable and bring to much attention to themselves.

I highly advise a revision based on the data.

June 10 2013 at 1:20 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Patrick Brennan

Wow, what a horribly inaccurate and offensive post. I live in south Phoenix, in an area that boasts some of the lowest crime in the entire Phoenix area. The village of Laveen is also here, and it's one of the fastest growing "new" areas of Phoenix. Garfield is very much an up and coming historic neighborhood, nestled right next to the Roosevelt Row area of downtown Phoenix. And the Rancho Ventura neighborhood (also known as "Lower Arcadia") is another hot spot recently -- not to mention, Arcadia as a whole is a great place to get out of the car and check out one of many independent restaurants. Same goes for the Calle 16 neighborhood, which is bordered by the Coronado Historic District and others, which I'm surprised was missing from this post (same goes for Roosevelt Row).

While I can't complain about most of the recommended places to visit, I'd add that the area west of Central Avenue is no place to avoid either. There are many wonderful midcentury neighborhoods on the rise again in this area, of which Modern Phoenix regularly offers tours (most notably in the Encanto area). But you might also want to consider the Audobon Center and adjoining riparian habitat trails off of south Central, and then keep going toward South Mountain for a hike -- one of the most touted urban parks in the country for good reason. If you'd prefer to spend more time in the area, there are several beautiful restaurants, notable golf courses (like Aguila, the Raven, and the Legacy), and resorts in south Phoenix, such as Arizona Grand or the Legacy Resort, as well as many restaurants and easy access to Tempe and downtown Phoenix.

Many of these omissions are included elsewhere, like in other travel articles, so you don't have to take my word for it. For anyone looking to visit or move to Phoenix, I highly recommend that you do a little more research about the areas discussed in this article. It seems that this writer did not get out enough to form a valid opinion of our city.

June 08 2013 at 7:46 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply