7 Safest Neighborhoods in Albuquerque
Albuquerque is largely not considered safe, but certain pockets are
The Duke City consistently ranks among some of the highest for violent crime, car theft, and unemployment in the country. However, there are many great reasons why it’s host to nearly half of New Mexico’s population of two million people. For starters, it is home to some of the most beautiful sunsets in the world, gorgeous mountains, hiking, skiing, 4-wheeling, cross-cultural enrichment, high paying jobs, and a very unique ‘box wind’ that attracts millions of visitors each year to the world-famous International Balloon Fiesta.
In this article we’ll walk you through the safest neighborhoods in Albuquerque that are largely isolated from the unfortunate crime that permeates some parts of the city, and why even those who can afford to move away always choose to stay.
It's better than its reputation; you just might end up staying
You may be considering becoming a ‘burqueño’ because you got a job at Sandia National Laboratories, Los Alamos National Laboratories, or you are going to be stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base for a time. These employers, among a robust set of healthcare employers, bring in huge job opportunities to the city and are the primary reasons why people initially come to Albuquerque. But be warned, even though it is called the “land of enchantment”, locals here know it as the “land of entrapment.” No one comes here to stay, and that makes sense given Albuquerque’s bad rap. And yet, while you’ll set out for a temporary stay, you’ll try the green chile and suddenly wake up to realize five years have gone by and you can’t find a better place to be.
Once you’re here, you might never leave. That’s why it’s important to find a neighborhood you’ll love in the long run, even if you are planning a temporary stay.
Finding the right neighborhood for you
The Neighborhood Score found the seven safest neighborhoods according to recent reported crime statistics. They are scattered around the city so that no matter where you’ll be working or what your hobbies are, you can always find a great location. These are not the only safe neighborhoods in Albuquerque, but they also offer unique characteristics every incomer ought to know about.
In no particular order, here are the safest areas in Albuquerque:
- Arenal (South)
- Atrisco (Central/Old Town)
- Embudo Canyon (East)
- Four Hills (East/South)
- Isleta (South)
- Los Duranes (Central/Old Town)
- Northeast Heights
First, do you know what an arroyo is? What about the Big-I?
Here are some helpful hints for out-of-towners:
- Hear someone mention a neighborhood next to an arroyo? An arroyo is a dry riverbed (only wet during rare downpours). There are large, official arroyos, but any long drainage depression can also be referred to as an arroyo by locals. Children are told to beware of the ditch witch; she’s real, we promise. Desert flooding can be very dangerous for kids as well as adults because sudden flooding can occur even if the storm is miles away.
- Want a ‘hood with big trees, running, and biking trails close to a farmer’s market? The Bosque means ‘forest by the river,’ and might be the place for you. The Rio Grande River runs from north to south through Albuquerque and is lined with giant cottonwood trees. This floodplain strip is about one mile wide, contains great biking trails, and is filled with runners and cyclists on the weekends. Most of the city farms and farmers markets sit within this narrow strip. Outside of the river floodplain the landscape returns to flat, hilly, or mountainous desert.
- What are people talking about when they reference proximity to the ‘Big Eye’? The Big-I is the interchange between I-25 that runs north to south, and I-40 that runs east to west. Whenever you hear traffic reports on the radio, you will hear about traffic leading into the Big I. This cross section is the largest interchange in all of New Mexico, so it’s a big deal. Around 80% of roads in the state are unpaved.
- The phrase ‘I crew for Wells Fargo’ has nothing to do with hard paddling or working for a bank. It means working to get the largest hot air balloon on and off the green fields of Balloon Fiesta.
- Red or green? This is the first and most important question you will be asked when you arrive. Green chile is for those who seek that classic fire-roasted, robust flavor of the southwest, and red chile is for those with strong GI tracts. The ‘Christmas” order of both red and green is probably the safest to avoid judgement from the waitstaff, but be sure to get it on the side if you’ve never experienced real heat. There was a real, actual legal motion (not kidding) to make ‘Red or Green” the official state question of New Mexico in 1996, the only state crazy enough about chile to do so.
Here is what we know about the safest neighborhoods
The Arenal neighborhood has small farms, indoor soccer, and ball fields. It is connected to the city and Kirtland Airforce Base by Coors and Bridge Boulevards as main arteries. You will have to deal with bridge traffic and I-40 commuter traffic, but once home the area is quiet.
Atrisco (Central/Old Town)
The Atrisco neighborhood sits along the Rio Grande River adjacent to the popular Tingley Beach recreation site. There are so many attractions in the area, from the Albuquerque Bio Park (which includes the zoo, aquarium, and botanic gardens) to the Albuquerque Country Club and the unique children's STEAM museum: Explora. This is a great area for kids with the added bonus of being a quick drive to Rio Rancho’s parks and attractions as well.
Embudo Canyon (East/North)
The Embudo Canyon neighborhood sits at the foothills of the Sandia mountains where residents can walk out of their front doors and be at an intermediate to difficult trailhead in under five minutes. Most residents pay the high ‘east-of-Tramway tax’ because property values jump as you cross that major thoroughfare. The commute to Kirtland Air Force Base and Sandia National Labs, where many residents work, is about 15 minutes. The closest high-elevation point is South Peak, but adventurists can make it from their house to the Tram at the top of the Sandia mountains in about 8-10 hours following the Sandia Crest Trail.
Perhaps because of its California-style look with terracotta roofs, palm trees, and a mountainous backdrop, several Hollywood and Netflix films have been filmed here. If you choose to live here don't be surprised to get a notice that your street will be closed for filming.
Four Hills (East/South)
Four Hills is ideal for people who want to live next to open space without the crowding of the Sandia foothills. It’s great for beginner to intermediate trail hiking, mountain biking, and four-wheeling. It has quick access to I-40 which crosses the city east to west, so getting around the city is fast even though the neighborhood is on the edge of town. There are only two roads that cross the Tijeras Arroyo and connect the Four Hills neighborhood to the rest of the city. (As mentioned, an arroyo is a dry drainage.)
Isleta is a Native American tribe (one of 23 in New Mexico) with reservation land that lies south of Albuquerque. The South Valley area has grown since Netflix recently built a studio just across the highway. It is next to Isleta Casino and Amphitheater for those seeking the high life. And for those seeking the quiet life, bird migrations are unparalleled at the famous Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge. Birders come from all over the world in the fall to see heron, sandhill cranes, and other large fowl.
For science geeks, this area offers quick access to the famous Very Large Array just the south.
Los Duranes (Central/Old Town)
Los Duranes sits in the confluence of the Rio Grande River, I-40, downtown, and rich cultural outlets such as the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Lavender Farm. This area doesn't require residents to cross the river to get to work, which is a big woe for commuters, and weekend trips to Petroglyph National Monument is a close recreation spot. Petroglyphs National Monument offers flat hiking with little to no shade, so beware of the hot New Mexico sun that boasts the strongest UV rays in the country. Residents in Los Duranes can bike north along the paths to Balloon Fiesta, which draws millions of visitors each October.
Northeast Heights (North/East)
The Northeast Heights is a community that appears seamlessly attached to the rest of Albuquerque. However, some parts of this area are on their own water system and even experience different weather from the rest of the city due to the westerly hook at the north end of the Sandia Mountain range. If it’s raining in the city, it’s 20 degrees colder and probably snowing in the Northeast Heights. If snow has melted off on surface streets, snow will stick around for an extra day in the Heights.
Many communities here employ their own security patrol system, but most calls are for bobcats on roofs and mountain lion sightings.
The Northeast Heights is growing rapidly with new housing and their own breweries, so residents soon won’t have to commute to downtown to get a semblance of nightlife. Though, it’s not clear this matters much since most residents are retirees and those who prefer mountains over people.
Show me the numbers
Want to see the data? Head to www.nhscore.com to search neighborhoods that match your personalized search criteria to see how they rank in safety, politics, and much more.