Arizona : Safety by City
- Casa Grande
- Lake Havasu City
- Oro Valley
- Sierra Vista
Mesa, Arizona, is no sleepy suburb in Phoenix.
This city is the third-largest in the state and sits on the northeastern side of the Phoneix valley.
It’s as close to the big city as it is to the open desert, and there are plenty of hotels and attractions here.
Spring brings baseball fans from all over the world as Spring Training kicks off.
The Chicago Cubs and Oakland A’s hold Spring Training here.
With big fan bases for both teams, the games are packed, and Mesa is one busy place.
Surrounded by the Sonoran Desert, Mesa and the Phoneix Valley have a year-round summer.
The air is dry, the food is spicy, and the community is culturally diverse.
The city is less than three hours from the Mexican border and less than four from the Grand Canyon.
Mesa is so large (nearly 20 miles across) that it’s referred to in terms of West Mesa and East Mesa, but those are nicknames, not separate cities.
The city of Mesa is home to half a million people.
There are plenty of hotels right along major interstates and in communities, making it easy to get around or escape the highway noise.
Knowing Spanish will be helpful here, with 21% of the population speaking a language other than English in their homes, but it’s a bi-lingual area, so conversational English will be known everywhere.
Mesa is also the first Autism Certified City in the country, meaning it caters to those with unique needs who are on the autism spectrum.
Warnings & Dangers in Mesa
OVERALL RISK : LOW
Mesa is ranked as one of the Top 5 Safest Large Cities in America. While it still has some above-average crime rates, it's not as exponentially higher as other cities. This is one of the safer parts of the Phoneix valley. There's a low risk here, but you still should be aware of some crime trends we'll talk about.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
Valley Metro is the public transportation provider in Mesa. It provides local bus service and a light rail system that takes you through Mesa and into Phoenix. You can get taxis or rideshares easily, and rental cars are abundant. While any option is low-risk, if you want to explore the desert, it's going to help to have your own car.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
21 pickpockets were reported in 2021, which is a low number for a city of 504,000 people. Use extra caution when you're at big events or crowded places, but you won't need a death grip on your wallet or purse.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
The medium risk is out of an abundance of caution for those who aren't used to desert weather. Extreme heat is one of the top health problems people experience here, with a dry climate that evaporates sweat and fluids from your body without realizing it. Summer brings monsoons, which are rapidly developing and fast-moving storms. Monsoons can drop heavy rain and cause flash flooding on streets and in washes. Haboobs are giant dust storms that can roll across the valley, causing visibility and air quality issues.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
The robbery rate is significantly lower than the national average, which is good news for people enjoying all the attractions in the city.
TERRORISM RISK : MEDIUM
The entire Pheonix area is one of the largest metro regions in the country, so it will come with medium risk. There are also military installations across the region, but with that risk comes to a lot more security from Border Patrol. Homeland Security and local law enforcement. If you see anything suspicious, it's important to know you aren't supposed to reach out to Homeland Security. You report it to the local law enforcement, and they'll raise the concern if necessary.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
There are no specific scams against tourists, but regular scams happen here against residents. The Arizona Attorney General's office has a list of the most common scams in the region and state.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Women should feel safe here with low risk while still using all standard safety precautions. Just because a large city is deemed safer than others, it doesn't give a hall pass to let down your guard.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2021 Water Quality Report shows full compliance and no violations. The water is safe to drink and use for bathing, but conserve water as much as you can. There's a Western Water Crisis, and the desert communities have strict regulations of water use and ask everyone to practice good conservation measures. Check the Water Shortage section of the Mesa government website to see what the drought conditions are like before your visit.
Safest Places to Visit in Mesa
Visitmesa.com is the official tourism website for the city.
Look at the Deals and Discounts section to find cost-saving opportunities, and you can also sign up for emails to get newsletters or download the visitor’s guide.
Mesa and the surrounding desert have plenty of outdoor tour options, from kayaking along a river to horseback riding to hot air balloon rides.
Use the VisitMesa.com website to get links to the best options out there.
Using third-party websites could put you at risk for fraud or outrageous prices.
The Arizona Museum of Natural History is in Mesa.
This is a museum dedicated to natural history, anthropology, geology, paleontology, and art.
You’ll see photos from decades ago and view images – some even carved in stone – from ancestors of this land.
There’s a dinosaur gallery with life-sized skeletons of these magnificent creatures.
You can also see some of the rare gems you’ll only find in this section of the desert and maybe get some tips on where you can go gem hunting.
The Arizona Commemorative Air Force Museum is a must-see for aviation lovers, veterans, and families.
You can see some fighting plans of the past, get cockpit tours, and take part in one of the many events that happen throughout the year.
Want to fly in one of these beauties?
Check the schedule to see what seats are available on designated flights.
Be prepared to spend about $500 per seat.
If that isn’t in your budget, head over to the i.d.e.a Museum for a flight of your own.
A new interactive experience called “Wing It!” allows families to test out wind tunnels and experience different gravity settings.
You’ll also find artistic interactions, science lessons with magnets, and a specialized section for “Genetic Poetry.”
Be sure to check that out.
30 miles northeast of Mesa is Saguaro Lake, where people escape the brutal heat to cool off.
You can sign up for a Desert Belle Boat Tour with different tiers of tour options.
The Dolly Steamboat is another narrated tour option with a closer look at nature or its unique Twilight Dinner Cruise.
Rent a boat of your own to explore the water, or choose to adventure in a kayak or SUP.
Just to the north of Mesa is the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.
While tourists can visit this area, it’s good to know this is tribal land and is self-governing with its own law enforcement.
The We-Ko-Pa Casino is one of the big tourists draws here.
A little farther up the road is the McDowell Mountain Regional Park, where you can hike among cacti and tumbleweeds.
Mesa is also an agricultural community with farm tours and events happening throughout the year, but not all farms are open each season.
Check the list of events, but be prepared for a lot of options around fall and the holidays.
Places to Avoid in Mesa
The crime rates are higher in West Mesa, and the closer you get to Tempe, the higher the crime rates go.
East of Mesa Road has the lowest crime rates.
While there isn’t a neighborhood so dangerous you MUST avoid it, you should stay on the main roads.
Downtown Mesa is west of Mesa Road, but it’s not too dangerous to visit or a place you need to avoid.
Like any downtown area, this is just a place where you should use strong situational awareness.
It’s not a major downtown like you’ll find in Phoenix, either.
There are shops and restaurants here to explore.
Just be sure to keep your car locked, and windows rolled up when you park.
Don’t avoid outdoor shopping areas like Mesa Riverview if you’re worried about the heat, but avoid overdoing it or not being prepared.
While you should stay hydrated and wear sunscreen, most shopping areas – especially the more upscale ones – offer misters throughout the complex.
These misters are about a foot or two over your head, spraying a mist.
Since it’s so dry here, you don’t get wet from the mist, but it provides a nice cool sensation needed in the blistering heat.
Make sure you replenish with electrolytes and if you ever get dizzy or nauseous, find a cool place inside to rest.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Mesa
- Maricopa Region 911 is where you sign up for emergency alerts. It’s important to get weather information here because even Excessive Heat Warnings come with specific guidance. You also need to keep an eye out for those summer thunderstorms. While storms usually won’t ruin a day, you do need to be inside when they happen.
- If you are hiking outdoors and you see smoking rising in the distance, turn around. Wildfires here can spread quickly and be very dangerous. Track wildfire concerns through Arizona Wildfire Watch.
- Check the air quality each day to see if there are wildfire smoke concerns or other air pollutants that could irritate your respiratory system.
- I know I keep harping on the water, but it’s a serious concern here if you aren’t drinking enough water. It’s even more dangerous if you are drinking alcohol but not supplementing it with water. By the time you feel thirsty in the desert, dehydration is already setting in. Never push yourself to “keep going” if you feel heat stroke setting in. Monitor children and elderly adults for the signs of heat stroke, which can be found on the Maricopa County Emergency Management website.
- You call 911 here for emergencies, but if you are in a situation where you can’t call, you can text. You will send your message to 9-1-1 (WITH the hyphen) and then type as much detail as you can about your situation, including location. You can’t send videos or photos, and you shouldn’t assume your message went through until you get a response from an operator.
- Shake your shoes each day before putting them on to make sure scorpions and spiders aren’t nestled in there. I lived in the desert for many years, and I still can’t put a shoe or boot on without shaking them out. Scorpions hide in cool, dark places, so check under your pillows or around the baseboards under furniture. While most scorpion stings aren’t medical emergencies, children and elderly people are especially vulnerable.
- Review the Mesa Police Department’s Crime Safety section to get a list of every thinkable crime and how to prevent it from happening to you. There’s a section dedicated to the safety of children, too.
- About three vehicles per day are stolen in Mesa, and 41% of thefts are due to car break-ins. Don’t ever leave a car unlocked or unattended with the windows rolled down. Take all personal property inside. It’s important not to lure thieves, but also, the extreme heat here can quickly damage, warp, or melt electronic devices or personal items like makeup.
- You might see Coyotes in Mesa, and I don’t mean the hockey team. Coyotes will generally avoid people and only stalk smaller prey, like cats or small dogs. If you see a coyote, don’t chase after it or try to feed it. I lived in Arizona, and my workplace had coyotes that walked the perimeter of the fence each night. We could hear them howling at each other from inside. If someone is bitten by a coyote or it is displaying threatening behavior, call Arizona Game and Fish at (623)236-7201.
- Since the weather is so nice here throughout the year, you might want to ride a bike to get around. The police department offers a guide about “How Not To Get Hit By Cars.” The title is a bit silly, but the information is very helpful in avoiding the most common types of accidents involving bicycles. Also, 44% of traffic accidents involve a pedestrian death, so when you’re walking around, use crosswalks and pay attention to cars. Never assume one is going to stop.
So... How Safe Is Mesa Really?
Mesa Police started a Violent Crimes Program that used data and targeted campaigns to focus on crime hot spots.
They weren’t just looking for speeders or petty criminals.
They were targeting high-violent crime areas and making arrests.
The initial phase of the program showed a decrease in crime across the board.
While violent crime rates in 2021 were 3% higher than national averages, and thefts were 8% higher than national averages, there was a lower-than-average robbery rate.
Richard Encinas, a detective and spokesperson for the Mesa Police Department, said this about violent crimes, “They’re actually at the lowest that the city has ever seen.”
Here’s some more information from the 2021 Crime Statistics:
- 31% of violent crimes happened against strangers.
- 46% of violent crimes happened in homes.
- 24% of robberies were in public places (highway robbery).
- 41% of thefts were car break-ins.
- 1087 cars were stolen, the highest number since at least 2011.
The great thing about Mesa is that personal safety steps and common sense are going a long way.
While you aren’t exempt from seeing crime here, you’re in a lot safer place than nearby Tempe.
How Does Mesa Compare?
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- Visas - Whether you cross the border or arrive at the airport, you must have a passport and a U.S. Visa (or a Visa Waiver for those who are eligible). The U.S. State Department oversees the Visa process. You can find all the details, plus a list of embassies, on its website.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here, and currency exchange is available at many banks in the valley. All attractions take credit cards, so there's little reason to carry cash.
- Weather - It will be warm to hot throughout most of the year, aside from a few cooler days in the winter. I remember when my mom came to visit me in Arizona and showed up in December wearing a t-shirt and shorts. I said, "MOM! Why are you dressed like that? You'll stand out as a tourist!" She was just happy to be in short sleeves since she lived in a cold winter place. Wear what you are comfortable in, but bring a jacket in case it gets cold in the winter, and don't pack all winter clothing because you'll likely get hot. In the spring, summer, and fall, you'll need sunscreen with a high SPF and comfortable walking shoes. If you have clothing with SPF fabric, that would be ideal for bringing.
- Airports - Mesa Gateway Airport is on the city's southeast side, but it's not the major airport in the Phoenix area. It does have commercial flights to limited destinations. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is just 20 minutes west, and it's a very large airport with many more direct flights.
- Travel Insurance - Even something as preventable as heat stroke can send you to urgent care here, so don't go without knowing if you have health insurance. You should also insure your flight investment in case of cancellation or delays.
Mesa Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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