California : Safety by City
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Let’s make sure you are in the right place first.
This is an article about Lancaster, California (CA), not Lancaster, Pennsylvania (PA).
If you’re looking to visit a desert on the northern outskirts of Los Angeles, this is the Lancaster for you.
Located in the Antelope Valley in the high desert of California, this barren landscape comes to life with wildflowers throughout the year.
It’s a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles.
Put on your aviator glasses and get ready for an experience in Aerospace history and the future.
Look up to the sky to see the place where famed pilot Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in 1947.
Some of the best pilots in the world have come to this area looking to find their place in the space program.
There’s a reason why this area is nicknamed Aerospace Valley with Edwards Air Force Base just 30 miles away.
Whether you’re looking for a getaway to Death Valley or an adrenaline rush of fighter planes testing the limits of the skies, you can find it all in Lancaster, California.
Warnings & Dangers in Lancaster
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk in Lancaster, California. It habitually ranks as one of the most dangerous cities in California, but we'll walk through those numbers to get a closer look. There are also natural dangers to be wary of when exploring the unique environment Lancaster has to offer.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
Locally, you have taxis and rideshares available, in addition to a Lancaster Bus System called Antelope Valley Transit Authority (AVTA). You can use Metrolink rail service to get to Palmdale, Santa Clarita, and the San Fernando Valley. All options are low-risk.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
The theft rate is rather low for a city that is known to have a lot of crime. The chance of being a theft victim is one in 129 and just a handful of those were pickpockets. There's a low risk.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
It's a medium risk here. As the city emergency management says, "Some of the disasters that Lancaster is prone to include earthquakes, fires, flash floods, snowstorms, droughts, electrical outages, high winds, and more. Because of the many threats that Lancaster faces, it is important that the City and residents are prepared for such disasters."
MUGGING RISK : MEDIUM
The robbery rate is double the national average, but only a small percentage were robberies in a public place. I thought maybe the 2020 numbers were skewed because of the pandemic, but looking back to 2019, the highway robberies were even lower. There's a medium risk just because the chances of a robbery are higher than in other cities in the area.
TERRORISM RISK : MEDIUM
With Edwards Air Force Base being so close, and Los Angeles just over the mountains, there's a medium risk of terrorism here.
SCAMS RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk of a scam here. One common scam in this region is someone saying they won the lottery, but since they aren't a U.S. citizen, they can't claim it. They ask you to give them the money and they give you a fake lottery card. There are also social media scams, so be careful who you meet online and don't ever give money to someone you befriend on social channels.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM
It's a medium risk only because of the high violent crime numbers. The rape average is twice the national average, with a total of 83 rapes reported in 2020.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
Lancaster has a history of some water quality issues, but as of the latest report, all tap water meets or exceeds requirements. There's a low risk, but be sure to check the quality before your arrival to make sure there aren't any contaminants at that time. Also, California is in a drought emergency, so be sure to use as little water as possible to help conserve.
Safest Places to Visit in Lancaster
Check out the Adventures Guide for 2022 to get the latest information on travel and sightseeing in Antelope Valley.
Downtown Lancaster is a quintessential main street along Lancaster Boulevard, known as The BLVD.
You’ll find shopping and dining options here.
Plan to spend some time at the Aerospace Walk of Honor where you can see more than 100 American heroes who helped advance the future of flight in the skies and eventually into space.
The Antelope Valley Winery in Lancaster is a perfect stopping point to stroll the vineyards and sample some wine from this bustling agricultural hub.
Other winery options include Coruce Vineyards and Winery and Stephen Hemmer Wines with wine specific to this region of Southern California.
This city is rich with art, so look for murals and art displays as you drive or walk around this unique city.
The Museum of Art and History (MOAH) is on The BLVD in downtown Lancaster.
You shouldn’t miss the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, where the hills are alive with poppies and scenic vistas for miles.
You’ll probably see some interesting wildlife while you’re here.
To get more of a desert tour, Prime Desert Woodland Reserve is a space where desert life lives in its natural element.
Saddleback Butte State Park is a great option too for those who want to do some mountain climbing.
Places to Avoid in Lancaster
Unless you’re visiting The BLVD, the wineries, or one of the parks, stay as far west as you can.
The crime is higher in the east part of Lancaster, and social forums back that up with people saying east Lancaster is the type of area you don’t even drive through.
Most hotel options in this area are along the Aerospace Highway, so you have limited options to stay east unless you find a rental.
South of K Street and west of the highway, you should be in a lower crime area.
Near 30th and W Streets is the local homeless shelter and rehabilitation facility.
The city is making a great effort to keep homeless people and residents safe, but this might be an intersection to avoid if you can, due to an overflow of homeless people who might ask for money.
This is a city with a lot of possibilities but it took a hit during economic recessions.
More than 20% of people here live in poverty, and there are gangs and drug problems here.
Visitors should be extra cautious with their cars and personal belongings, but should also not go into strange neighborhoods just to look around.
Stay on the beaten path.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Lancaster
- Crime trends and neighborhoods can change quickly, so before you arrive check out the crime mapping tool on the website of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD), Lancaster Division. There is no local police force, LASD oversees this city.
- The phone number of the LASD Lancaster office is (661)948-8466. Store this number in your phone so you can call and ask any questions before your visit regarding safety or crime sprees. They also have accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram you can follow in advance of your trip and during your stay.
- Sign up for Nixle.com alerts in the area when you arrive. This will alert you to a variety of crimes, road closures, weather events, and missing persons. It’s the best way to know exactly what’s going on in the Antelope Valley.
- Even if you aren’t a victim of a crime, you might suspect or see a crime happening. The city has a detailed document of when to call 911 versus when to call the non-emergency line. You can help cut back on crime during your stay by following this guidance.
- It can get very hot here in the summer, and people get tempted to leave their windows cracked to avoid the intense heat when returning. If you must do that, the city recommends not leaving a window down more than 1/2 an inch. Car thefts are on the rise and you don’t want to make an easy steal for a quick thief.
- If you happen to find yourself in a dangerous situation, go to a Safe House. This program, sponsored by the LA County Fire Department, offers this program, and many gas stations or local businesses are part of it. You’ll know by seeing a yellow triangle sign that reads “SAFE HOUSE.”
- You have several app options to get alerts about earthquakes in the area. If you aren’t from a place that has earthquakes, even a small quake can be very scary. As I write this, there was an earthquake last night in this region, and even comedian Dane Cook tweeted about how much the earthquake upset his dog. A little rumbling might be expected, and you can review safety precautions on the city’s website.
- If you visit the Poppy Reserve, don’t pick the wildflowers, as tempting as it might be. Don’t go off the designated trails. Doing either one of these can impact poppy pollution for years to come. Be respectful of the climate and take a lot of pictures but touch nothing.
- There are rattlesnakes in the outdoor areas. They are generally not aggressive unless provoked. Their rattle is the only warning sign you’re going to get that they are nearby. If one is blocking your path, yield to the snake’s right-of-way. Alert park staff to where you see a rattlesnake. You cannot kill a snake.
- Hold onto your hat, it can get really windy here. Especially in the spring, the winds can be quite intense and the poppies will curl up to protect themselves.
So... How Safe Is Lancaster Really?
Lancaster has some dangerous people and dangerous neighborhoods.
Gang activity and the ongoing drug problems are happening, but that’s with any city in Southern California.
Regarding what a tourist would be doing here, there isn’t an inherent risk to safety, but it is a place where you want to be extremely strict with personal safety practices.
Don’t carry around large amounts of cash, don’t take $1000 out of the ATM in broad daylight, don’t get into a verbal fight with someone on the roads (California drivers are notoriously bad at driving).
Here’s how the crime risks break down based on 2021 data:
- Violent Crime: 1 in 129 risk
- Property Crime: 1 in 52 risk
- Rape: 1 in 2090 risk
- Theft: 1 in 129 risk
- Robbery: 1 in 624 risk
The area had 30 homicides in 2021, up 36% from 2020, but theft was down 9%.
Auto thefts are high here and went up 41% in 2021.
The best safety practices here are to lock up your car, carry only what you need with you, leave valuables in your hotel or rental, and if you find yourself in an area with a lot of graffiti, move on.
That’s a good sign of gang activity nearby.
How Does Lancaster Compare?
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- Visas - The Visas are dealt with at the airport and nothing else is needed to be in Lancaster or Antelope Valley. You'll need proof of being 21 to go to a winery or brewery.
- Currency - You'll use the U.S. Dollar here. One credit card for all purchases is best, and always take the receipt if one is offered. Don't throw it in the trash can until you can shred it to protect your financial information.
- Weather - You get a good dose of all seasons here. Winters are in the 50s for highs and get below freezing at night. In spring and fall, you'll find the 60s and 70s for highs with lows in the 50s. Summers heat up quickly to highs near 100°(F). It's a dry heat, meaning you won't sweat a lot because it evaporates quickly, so you'll need a lot of water and electrolytes to replenish it.
- Airports - It's a bit of a drive to the closest airport. Los Angeles International Airport is about an hour and a half drive away, and the Hollywood Burbank airport is about an hour away.
- Travel Insurance - You'll want travel insurance for a trip to this region as too many weather elements can cause delays across Southern California.
Lancaster Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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