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10 Most Dangerous Cities in New Jersey (2024 Update)

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Note: This article’s statistics come from third-party sources and do not represent the opinions of this website.

Violent crime is a serious consideration when moving to or traveling through unfamiliar cities, and violence itself is a concern for all citizens. Fortunately, violent crime in the United States has decreased over the past several years and New Jersey is one of the safest states, coming in 46th in violent crime ranking. Following is a list of the most violent cities in New Jersey with reference to where in the city violence is most prevalent when that data is available. In this analysis we screened for cities with >5,000 people, ranking them by taking the highest number of violent crimes per population displayed as crimes per thousand people.

divider 5 The 10 Most Dangerous Cities in New Jersey: A Quick Look

1. Newark

Newark NJ Seal

Population: 281,422
Violent Crimes in 2019:  1,742
Violent crimes per 1000 people in 2019: 6

Newark is the most populous city in New Jersey and is considered part of the New York metropolitan area. It was founded in the mid 1600’s by Puritans immigrants, and today hosts the headquarters of companies like Panasonic, Audible, and Prudential. Crime in Newark is split across geography, with the southeastern part of the city (nearest New York) much more prone to crime than the more rural northern and northwestern regions. This split is extreme: The southern part of the city has approximately 70 times more violent crime than the northwestern portion.

2. Jersey City

Jersey City Seal

Population: 266,508
Violent Crimes in 2019: 1,393
Violent crimes per 1000 people in 2019: 5

Jersey City is an important port of entry to the United States, having just over 30 miles of waterfront extensively developed for the rapid onloading and offloading of cargo from ships. Violent crime is spread more evenly across the city than in Newark but is more concentrated near the eastern waterfront near the ports. The west side of the city has less cargo movement and significantly less violent crime.

3. Paterson

Paterson City Seal

Population: 144,866
Violent Crimes in 2019: 1,219
Violent crimes per 1000 people in 2019: 8

Paterson is the third most populous city in New Jersey, located just northwest of New York City. It was known historically for its silk production and is currently known for its very diverse population. Over 100 languages are spoken, and there are many distinct cultural groups. Crime is spread homogenously through the city, with the outlying areas safer than those closer to the center of the city.

4. Trenton

Trenton NJ Seal

Population: 83,457
Violent Crimes in 2019: 937
Violent crimes per 1000 people in 2019: 11

Trenton is located about an hour and fifteen minutes southwest of New York City. It is the capital of New Jersey and the site of George Washington’s first victory against the British in the American Revolutionary War. Crime heatmaps indicate that most criminal activity occurs in the center of the city, especially near the waterfront, and rapidly decreases toward the rural outlying areas, especially the northeast.

5. Elizabeth

Elizabeth NJ Seal

Population: 128,753
Violent Crimes in 2019: 926
Violent crimes per 1000 people in 2019: 7

Elizabeth is located 30 minutes by car west of New York. It is the county seat of Union County in New Jersey and was originally founded in the 1600’s by the English. The city has 46 parks and many government buildings responsible for the administration of Union County. Violent crime is starkly concentrated in the center of the city, and rapidly disappears as you move west into rural areas. East moves toward New York City with its much higher violent crime rate and there are not many low-crime spots between.

6. Passaic

Passaic NJ Seal

Population: 69,639
Violent Crimes in 2019: 369
Violent crimes per 1000 people in 2019: 5

Passaic is approximately 36 minutes northeast of New York City. It has very high population density (5th in the United States) at 22,000 people per square mile. It was home to the United States’ first commercial television network, DuMont Television Network, which started in 1946. Crime in Passaic is, as with most New Jersey cities, quite low. There are a couple bad higher-violence neighborhoods, but they span no more than a few blocks and the rest of the city and outlying areas see very little violent crime on an annual basis – somewhere around 1 violent crime a year.

7. Atlantic City

Atlantic City NJ Seal

Population: 37,593
Violent Crimes in 2019: 323
Violent crimes per 1000 people in 2019: 9

Atlantic City is a coastal resort city in New Jersey. It has a primarily tourist/entertainment economy with many casinos, resorts, and nightclubs. It inspired the American board game Monopoly, with many of the properties in the game bearing street names from the city. The crime rate is unsurprisingly higher on a per capita basis in this city as there are many people from out of town most of the year – the crimes they commit inflate any per-capita crime measurement. Violent crime is concentrated in the center of the city where the tourists and entertainment are, dissipating but remaining relatively high as you leave the city for the outskirts.

8. Irvington

Irvington NJ Seal

Population: 54,034
Violent Crimes in 2019: 280
Violent crimes per 1000 people in 2019: 5

Irvington was originally known as Camptown of the famous ditty Camptown Races. The city at that time was concerned about the image the song gave their city and changed the name to Irvington. The city is directly west of New York City, and while much safer than New York City starts to suffer from the higher crime rates found there. Violent crime is generally evenly spread across the city with a few “nicer” neighborhoods clearly outlined in crime heatmaps. Irvington has an unfortunate history with crime. It was a hotspot for the crack epidemic of the 1980’s and even up to 2007 reported the highest violent crime rate of all the major urban areas in the state. That has dropped significantly, but the violent crime rate is still high compared to the state average.

9. East Orange

East Orange NJ Seal

Population: 64,200
Violent Crimes in 2019: 275
Violent crimes per 1000 people in 2019: 4

Situated directly northwest of New York City, East Orange has a relatively low crime rate, especially when compared to New York City directly east. Crime is low in almost all areas in and around the city. The trend of decrease in crime as you move to the outskirts of the city is reversed as you move east toward New York – violent crime actually gets worse.

10. New Brunswick

New Brunswick NJ Seal

Population: 55,995
Violent Crimes in 2019: 323
Violent crimes per 1000 people in 2019: 9

New Brunswick is an hour’s drive southwest of New York City. It is a regional commercial home and commuter town for a population whose jobs are in New York City proper. Johnson and Johnson and Bristol-Myers Squibb, two large pharmaceutical companies, are headquartered there. The presence of this wealth has enriched the city over time, bringing the arts and sciences to the town. Violent crime is restricted almost entirely to the center of the town and downtown areas. The wealthier neighborhoods have much lower violent crime rates.

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Violent Crime Rates In New Jersey

New Jersey is one of the safest states in the United States. As mentioned in the introduction, it is 46th lowest for violent crimes. 2018 was a record low for crime in the state, and 2019 (the latest Federal data available) is even lower. This trend is right in line with the national American trend of gradually decreasing property and violent crime rates.

How to Stay Safe in New Jersey

While staying safe in any strange city or community can be difficult for outsiders, most of New Jersey is outsider friendly. Areas near New York City are likely to be more dangerous for people visiting. If you’re vacationing in Atlantic City, stick to well-lit areas specifically designed to be safe for tourists. Be responsible, know the area, know where you’re staying and how to get there, and make sure you have friends with you or at the very least that you have friends and family who know your plans for the day/evening and when to expect you to check in with them – and to alert law enforcement if you aren’t reachable.

Follow your instincts. If an area seems unsafe, avoid it. If an individual or group is behaving in a way that seems unsafe, leave the area. Know the locations of local police stations and keep your phone charged.

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New Jersey is one of the safest states as measured by violent crime rates. Most criminally violent areas are near New York City. Remember when traveling to these areas that just because an area is high-crime does not necessarily mean the entire area is less safe all the time — and that crimes can be committed in low-violence areas as well. It is best to be thoughtful, aware, and prepared at all times to avoid mishap and ensure a safe, enjoyable journey.

Featured Image Credit: kat wilcox, Pexels


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