MOVING TO NEW JERSEY: If you’re deciding on a move to America’s garden state, one of the most critical steps for an expat is to clarify if New Jersey is safe to live in. It’s a question almost anyone moving to a new location should get answered before they relocate, to ensure their future security and that of their family and belongings.
Looking from afar, the US seems to be a country often beset by significant crime associated with violence, gangs or drugs. How realistic is this impression though? Are all states equally safe or unsafe?
New Jersey is just one of fifty American states that make up the nation. These states vary a lot, from their political views, economic status, educational spends to crime statistics. In reality, the level of danger expats face in the US depends a lot on where your location is in this massive country.
As an American state, New Jersey is not all that well understood or known. Other states like New York, California, Texas and Florida have much higher profiles. Even most Americans (outside of New Jersey) seem to have an inaccurate take on this north-eastern neighbour to New York state. TV and online media images from New Jersey showing Atlantic City’s casinos, and programs like the Sopranos, Jersey Shore and others, help paint an uncomplimentary picture for those unfamiliar. They depict New Jersey as an endlessly bleak urban landscape lacking in culture or prosperity, with a vibe dominated by a larger-than-life, Italian American heritage. From these portrayals, it is not too hard to even imagine it being the perfect centre for organized crime and this can automatically undermine perceptions that New Jersey is safe to live in.
Sadly, these images are stereotypical and quite misrepresentative. Certainly, there is crime in New Jersey but as you will see, it is currently rated one of the safest states in the US, and quite different from these overdone clichés.
Safest States in the USA
According to analysis conducted by US News and the Home Snacks website, the safest states in the US include New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. However, New Jersey is rated amongst the top ten safest states in America at No.7.
In a different survey, NJ rated third in the country for safety according to the National Council for Home Safety and Security. Another positive about New Jersey is that rates of both the FBI’s major crime categories – property and violent crimes – seem to be in a steady rate of general decline for the last 10-15 years.
The least safe states tend to be in southern USA. These include New Mexico, Alaska, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, South Carolina, Alabama, Arizona, Oklahoma and Missouri. Some factors impacting this might be less stringent gun laws, higher gun ownership and more overall poverty present in these states versus New Jersey.
Crime Rates in New Jersey compared to Australia
Crime rates are notoriously difficult to compare between countries due to the multiplicity of methods used to classify, group and record data. Comparisons between most countries are not done due to this but here we are making an exception. While there is no way to validate the data shown below is an apples-to-apples comparison, the broad categories used in Australia and the US look very similar. They at least provide an idea of differences in magnitude for expats desperately researching the potential safety of their new home.
In New Jersey crime data provided by the FBI shows:
· The property crime rate (2016) is 1556 per 100,000 which is the 6th lowest in USA. The violent crime rate is 229 per 100,000, making it the 8th lowest in the US. The intentional homicide rate in New Jersey is 3.5 per 100,000, also well below the national average.
In comparison, for Australia the crime data provided by the Australian Institute of Criminology shows:
· The property crime rate (2016) is 3233 per 100,000, significantly higher than NJ. The violent crime rate is 137 per 100,000, while the intentional homicide rate is 1 per 100,000. Both these latter rates are much lower than NJ, possibly due to gun-related violence.
When assessing safety of a new location, it needs to be remembered that crime is not equally experienced across a state or country. The prevalence varies a lot by city or area measured in the US, just as it does in other countries. So, one city such as Detroit, can have a high rate while other parts of Michigan do not, but the city’s high contribution of crime and population, influences the state’s overall rate. New Jersey’s overall rates are influenced significantly by several hotspots that are either concentrated low-socioeconomic urban areas (Newark, Trenton, Paterson) or coastal entertainment venues that can attract a troublesome element.
Does That Mean New Jersey is Safe?
Unfortunately, unless you live in Utopia, it is almost impossible to guarantee any destination around the world is 100% safe. Given that gun ownership is still higher in New Jersey versus Australia and some other international places, the risk of gun violence is going to be realistically higher. Personally, the risk of gun violence rather than ‘crime’ was what worried me most as an expat. As a parent, this is at least one thing about living in New Jersey versus Australia that was a negative, although the risks here were lower than most of the US. Gun ownership is only 11% in New Jersey, making it the 4th lowest in the country and well below the national average of 29%. Some of the southern states have gun ownership in over 50% of the population.
While you can’t do anything about gun violence in American life, one way to increase the odds of remaining safe is to choose a relatively low crime area to live in. Also be aware of the main problem areas in your state and if visiting, be careful and avoid spending too much time there.
What are the Least Safe Towns in New Jersey?
Some of the least safe towns in this state include Trenton, Paterson, Millville, Plainfield, Irvington, East Orange, Newark, Orange, Lindenwold, Camden, Bridgeton, Elizabeth, Woodbury and Vineland.
While places like Wildwoods, Atlantic City and Asbury Park along the Jersey Shore are popular as entertainment and holiday locations, they also have some of the highest crime levels. These seaside towns often take the top spots for ‘most dangerous New Jersey towns’ in annual surveys. Others not listed but are still known for higher crime include the south-western borders of Jersey City (e.g. Greenville), Passaic City and Neptune City.
What About the rest of New Jersey – Is it Safe to Live here?
Considering there are over 500 towns in this state, you can assume there will be many places you can find that are safe to live in New Jersey. There are a small number of towns with no violent crime recorded at all (Crime Rate: 0). However, these are not common and a zero-crime rate is usually infrequent. Even so, many towns do have a consistently low rate of crime, as well as many other advantages.
The lowest crime rates occur in towns that are often either rural or semi-rural, with low rates of poverty. There are several towns that fit these criteria in northern and central NJ, away from the crowded urban spill of NYC. Many of them are a long commute ride to the city but ideal locations if you work in a regional area. The more urban the area is, the greater chance of crime. This is important to keep in mind when planning on where to live as well as areas where you will visit for entertainment or socializing.
Before moving you can easily check the crime data of any place where you are planning to live by some online research. Start by looking at one of the many web sites that provide free local residential statistics and data such as Zillow, City Data, or Sperling’s Best Places. Of all the places around the world that expats can be sent, this part of the US is one of the best locations. From my own perspective and others, it is easy to see that New Jersey is safe to live in. It doesn’t however mean that there are no dangers, no crime or that you shouldn’t try to avoid problem spots, just like many other places around the world.
Please email me if you have any further questions on how to work out the safety of areas within New Jersey.