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Tips on How to Drive Through a Dangerous Neighborhood

David has had a variety of life experiences, which he loves to share with his readers.

An abandoned building, a telltale sign of a dangerous neighborhood.

An abandoned building, a telltale sign of a dangerous neighborhood.

Bad Neighborhoods

There are dangerous neighborhoods throughout the world. Each city has them. Each country has them. Government intervention can only go so far, so it is up to you to figure out how to handle them if you find yourself driving through one.

You usually know where they are at in your own city, but that might not be the case if you live in a city that is very large, or if you are in a new city for the first time and you don't know where everything is at.

This article will cover what to look for when you are determining if a neighborhood is dangerous, what you should do when you end up driving through one, and what you should do if something were to happen while driving through a bad neighborhood.

A lot of graffiti tagged on a wall, a possible indication of an unsafe area.

A lot of graffiti tagged on a wall, a possible indication of an unsafe area.

What is a Dangerous Neighborhood?

When on the look out for what could be potentially a dangerous neighborhood, look out for these warning signs:

  • Graffiti. This is one of the most common ways to spot a bad neighborhood, probably one that has some gang activity. You will find tagging mostly done on walls of buildings, alleyways, even street signs. If it seems multi-layered, it means no one has taken the effort to clean it up, so it's been that way for a longer period of time.
  • Condition of the neighborhood. If the neighborhood looks run down, the buildings look unkempt, weeds growing everywhere, etc. then that could be an indication of the type of neighborhood you are in. Some examples could be broken windows or abandoned buildings. Another indication is that there are bars on all of the windows, lots of gates and fencing, etc.
  • Types of businesses. Sometimes, but not always, the types of businesses could be an indication of what type of neighborhood you are in. If there are adult shops, lots of bars, , pawn shops, etc. you could find yourself in a rough neighborhood. This isn't always the case, but it can be an indication.
  • The people. We have all been exposed to how gang members and others who may be dangerous can dress, look, and act like. So look at the people around you to see if you could be in a dangerous neighborhood. Don't assume one race is more dangerous than any other. All races have both good or bad people - so don't make assumptions based on the color of a person's skin.
  • Government owned property. Look at the street signs, lamp posts, and fire hydrants. If they seem to be damaged or missing, you can assume it's a dangerous neighborhood because the government has potentially given up on the area.
Multiple broken windows, which could indicate a dangerous neighborhood.

Multiple broken windows, which could indicate a dangerous neighborhood.

An abandoned store, with obvious signs of decay.  A bad neighborhood is one where businesses move out of.

An abandoned store, with obvious signs of decay. A bad neighborhood is one where businesses move out of.

How to Safely Drive Through a Bad Neighborhood

When traveling through a dangerous neighborhood, keep the following tips in mind:

  1. First, try to plan your route to avoid possible bad neighborhoods. Your GPS won't distinguish bad neighborhoods from the safe ones. So figure out where the bad areas of the city are, and avoid them, even if it adds time to your trip. If you plan to go to a new city, learn about where the heavy crime areas are beforehand.
  2. Secure your car. If you find yourself in a bad neighborhood, secure your car. That means locking all of your doors and rolling up the windows. This will prevent anyone from carjacking you. It's best to do this beforehand so you don't call attention to yourself. Also, hide away any valuables. If you leave them out, someone could break into your car.
  3. Don't stop. Travel through the neighborhood. Don't stop to ask for directions, to get a drink, etc. Just keep going. Your best bet is to try to find yourself onto a freeway, which can lead you back to your original destination, or to find someone from law enforcement and ask for directions. I once was lost in a city in a foreign country and I was in a bad neighborhood. I saw two law enforcement officers and they helped me get back on the road to my destination.
  4. Don't stick out. Shut the DVD player inside of the car off, tuck your phone away, and don't look around. Just focus on your driving. If you don't make yourself stand out, then you have less of a chance of being a victim of a crime. Now if you drive a fancy car, then there could be no avoiding that.
  5. Bring protection. If permitted under the law, bring a firearm or other type of weapon with you. But only use it if it is safe to do so. Don't try to be a hero, just use it if you need to protect yourself. Don't flash your weapon and don't say you have it. Only reveal it when necessary.
  6. Don't drive at night. Obviously night is a bad time to drive through a dangerous neighborhood. It can be hard to read signs at night, especially if they have been vandalized. If you do end up driving though one at night, try to keep in the well lit areas, and turn your headlights on, even if it is just dusk.
A building with graffiti on it - another sign of a dangerous neighborhood.

A building with graffiti on it - another sign of a dangerous neighborhood.

What to do if Stopped in a Dangerous Neighborhood

Here are some tips you should follow if you happened to get stopped or attacked while in a dangerous neighborhood:

  • Do what the person says. If you want to keep you and your family safe, comply with whatever the person says. Most times they just want your possessions, which can be replaced.
  • Get their physical description. Race, height, weight, hair, and eye color are all helpful information for law enforcement. Clothing and facial hair are good too, but those can be changed.
  • Seek help. You are more likely to find help inside of a business than someone out on the street. Go inside of a business and ask to call the local authorities.
  • Protect yourself, if necessary. There may be times you could be pinned in a corner or have no choice but to fight. In that case, do all you can to protect yourself. A bit of pepper spray can go a long way to fending off your attacker.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 David Livermore


Max B. on January 19, 2018:

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The graffiti thing may not be valid when it comes to Europe, especially southern Europe where graffitis are all over the place and are just a sign of general uncleanliness rather than gang activity.

Joshua Zihan on August 31, 2017:

I don't think my city even has a dangerous neighborhood...barely 800,000

buddhaanalysis on October 19, 2014:

What about neighbor of your house who has no self motivating life but rant of self esteem for no reason who shouts on you and may be found 20hrs outside home to make your day bad.

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on February 03, 2013:

Wow she was lucky then. Not all people are bad, even in a bad neighborhood. Thanks for the comment!

moonlake from America on February 03, 2013:

Great advice. While traveling it's not hard to end up in a bad neighborhood. This happen to my granddaughter one time and a man said to her " Girl you need to get out of here," when she ask for directions. He explained the fastest way to get out. Thank goodness she ran into a kind man.

Voted up and more.

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on January 31, 2013:

I know it's geared mostly towards Americans. Now a days we need it considering how bad shootings have been as of late.

Catherine Taylor from Canada on January 31, 2013:

Interesting advice, I've been fortunate enough not to find myself driving through bad neighborhoods very often, but I feel better equipped now that I have read this hub. Not sure about the firearm advice, although I am Canadian and using a firearm for personal safety isn't part of our culture. Interesting read.

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on January 22, 2013:

Well rolling up the windows can be seen as normal, people do that all the time. Checking the locks can seem obvious. Though it's why I keep my doors locked at all times anyway. Good point though. Thanks for your comment!

Kawika Chann from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place on January 22, 2013:

Every time we roll into a kinda rough neighborhood, if there are people that makes my wife feel uncomfortable, she does one of two things, or both. She rolls up her window, or double checks her doors that they are locked... lol... yeah, don't do this, it might cause a response from the ruffians that has seen this. If one of them has seen this, I just smile at them and nod. Eyes straight, and drive on. Peace. Kawi.

David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on January 21, 2013:

It would attract far too much attention. And may give would be criminals a chance do rob or assault you. Sudden movements may spook them and cause them to harm you too.

Thank you for the glowing comment, much appreciated!

Ardot from Canada on January 21, 2013:

Wow! This has to be the best advice I've seen on Hubpages EVER!

Great article, very well presented, and good original content!

Question: If "stopped" in a bad part of town by someone who wants more than just directions... would it help to act like all crazy, start freaking out, slapping your head while making weird whimpering/moaning noises and stuff? It might attract more attention than is desired by the potential criminal... or would that just get you shot?

Voted up! Nice work!

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