Safe and Dangerous Places 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.")
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.
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.
Can't Get Enough? Discover More of Phoenix
- Overview: Phoenix Travel Guide