Like every large city, some parts of LA are safer than others. For the most part, tourist areas are reasonably safe, which is to say, if you use common sense, you can avoid being the victim of a crime.
In Your Hotel
- Don't travel with more valuables than will fit in a small hotel safe.
- If you are carrying expensive camera or video equipment that won't fit in the safe, consider carrying it in something other than a standard camera case, or putting your camera case into an ordinary backpack or soft-sided cooler.
- If you're running out for a while and leaving valuables in your room, leave the TV on and leave the "Do Not Disturb" notice on the door. Leave a light on too if you go out in the evening.
- Don't leave extra copies of the room key in the room when you go out.
- Use the extra latches provided to secure the door when you're inside the room.
- If anyone comes to the door claiming to be hotel staff and you haven't specifically requested them, ask for ID and call and confirm with the front desk before letting them in.
- Don't let strangers in your room, no matter how friendly.
- Check that the door is locked when you close it, and don't forget your key in the lock.
In Your Car
- Keep it locked, whether you are in it or leaving it parked.
- Don't leave luggage, purses, shopping bags, GPS or other electronics or anything else in view.
- If you are driving an SUV or hatchback without a luggage cover, bring a blanket or invest a couple dollars in a sun shade for the windshield that you can throw over anything you need to leave in the car. Since cardboard or collapsible fabric sun shades are standard equipment for most LA drivers, they look inconspicuous, and can cover a lot of stuff. If you have two, you can use one as a sun shade and one as a luggage cover.
Out and About
Although not as bad as some other countries, you should still beware of pickpockets in crowded tourist areas.
- Only carry as much cash as you'll need for a couple days. In LA you can pay for most things with credit or debit cards and ATMs (cash machines) are everywhere.
- Don't carry all your money in one place.
- Don't carry wallets or cash in an outer pocket of clothes, purses or backpacks.
- Make sure purses and backpacks are securely closed. Carry purses under the arm, close to the body.
- Keep some form of identification with you at all times.
- Make copies of your ID and credit cards and email them to yourself at an email address you can access from any computer. That way if they are lost or stolen, you can still provide a copy for the authorities and call to cancel your credit cards. Carry photocopies of your passport in different locations.
- Be aware of your surroundings and the people around you. If someone is making you uncomfortable for any reason at all, move away from them.
- Pickpockets usually work in groups of two or three. If you are jostled or bumped, consider that a pickpocket may be in action and check your valuables. If your pocket is picked, call out immediately for assistance.
- Don't hang your purse on the back of a chair in a restaurant or other public place.
- Don't leave valuables in the pockets of a coat you check.
- Most museums require you to check backpacks, so don't carry any valuables in a backpack if you're going to a museum.
- There are a lot of homeless people in LA. Whether you feel inclined to give them money is up to you, but a polite "I'm sorry, I can't help you" is generally enough to get someone to leave you alone. Since some of the homeless are mentally ill or addicts, being rude or mean to them is not helpful, and could put you at unnecessary risk.
In Nightclubs and Bars
- Always carry ID.
- Carry enough cash to get a cab home, and carry the number for the local cab company.
- Women should carry a purse small enough to wear and not leave it unattended.
- Don't accept a drink from a stranger unless you watch the bartender pour it or open it.
- Don't leave your drink unattended.
- Don't drink beyond your awareness of what's going on around you.
- There is usually a dollar amount minimum to use a credit card. Try to avoid running a tab, since they hold your credit card until you close out for the night and a lot of people have access to the cards.
- Don't get into arguments with strangers or be confrontational. People get crazy when they drink and you don't want to spend a night in jail for being in a bar fight.
Beware Hollywood Scams
If someone tells you that they are a Hollywood producer/director/casting agent, talent scout, and they think you would be a great actor/model, they could be for real, or they could be scamming you. How can you tell the difference?
- Never go with anyone who approaches you like this unless you really want to be a porno star, or they happen to be taping right there on the sidewalk.
- If you recognize the person as Steven Spielberg, or some other famous director, it's probably for real.
- If you have no idea who it is, ask for a business card.
- Tell them you want to make an appointment to meet at their office so you can bring your parent/spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend//lawyer with you to the meeting. If they're serious, they should be ok with you bringing a chaperone of your choice.
- Do an internet search for their name. If they are really in the industry, they should show up on www.IMDB.com or be listed with an agency. If they don't show up, you can probably toss the card.
- Beware pseudo talent agencies that want to charge you or your child an up-front fee to be represented by them, or require you to pay for modeling classes.
- Be wary of going alone to any random audition or photo shoot that isn't set up through a legitimate agency. Never go anywhere that you don't feel comfortable. There are legitimate people out there scouting talent, but make sure that you tell someone (even if it's the hotel desk clerk) exactly where you are going, and let the person you are meeting know that people know where you are.