I live in the area bounded by victory vanowen louise and white oak. It's a nice affordable middle class area. The caveat is that if you are expecting Calabassas or Encino sized lots and sq footage of 2500+ or snooty-ness then this area isn't for you.
The history of our area is that half the homes were built 4-10 years after WWII ended, many of these homes were built and bought with the GI bill in mind for all the workers who moved into the SF Valley. Smaller homes with decent sized lots but not luxurious and definitely tract homes. The second group of homes were built in the 60's and 70's and they all have central air/heat and sometimes smaller lots.
There is more crime as you move north towards saticoy and more crime as you move east towards van nuys. The crime in my pocket of lake balboa is typically that of opportunity, theft and the like. you will get that anywhere in the valley, even ventura blvd in tarzana (trust me I know! lol).
Our section of Lake Balboa has a fire department in our block. we're like 15 seconds from the LAPD helo pad at Van Nuys airport so if there WAS a 911 violent crime, they can be there almost immediately. Schools are close, a massive park and recreation area is close, a dog park too. Transportation close too. What isn't close is shopping. It's a mile or two to Gelson's and whole foods, no major shopping malls nearby, no swish eateries where you can look for the latest reality TV faux star.
The neighborhood is made up of a mix of residents who have been here for years and newcomers who are attracted to the middle class affordable housing prices. Few renters, most everyone owns. Lots of construction and home improvement projects going on with younger couples putting in sweat equity and adding a room or two to their 50's style house!
As far as people in the area, it's a mix too. Shop owners, young professionals, people in the various entertainment industries, and actually some craftspeople and artists. I met 2 sep people at the dog park who moved from traditional artist areas (Venice and Downtown) to be in a more suburban safe area with more space and they said they know of a couple of others who are planning to make the move as well. (except the housing prices in our area keeps creeping up so there aren't as many steals like a few years ago).
Our neighborhood has a watch but it's not really well organized except we all know each other and keep an eye out for one another. The folks on Hamlin are a funny bunch, they have a block party every year and a couple times it turned into an impromptu happy march with families and dogs walking around with kazoos, streamers, drums.... I said, what's the occasion??? and one of the ladies answered, "We're just really happy!" lol
So anyways, that's the view from within. There is crime all around LA, you don't live in a large city with this economy and not have it. We don't have gang crime in our pocket. I see old ladies out for their daily walks all the time, I'd worry more about LA air quality than crime for their sake. Neighbors watching for bad elements or outsiders keep crimes of opportunity low as they can be for an urban area.