When you’re in the market for a home in New Jersey, selecting the ideal neighborhood to settle in is critical to your long-term happiness. That’s because you’re not only purchasing a house, you’re investing in a community as well. The community you choose should complement your lifestyle, match your budget, and above all, be safe.
SafeWise is here to help. We’ve paired data from the FBI’s 2011 Crime in the U.S. Report with our own comprehensive investigation and created an all-inclusive list of the top 50 safest communities in New Jersey, with 15,000 residents or more as of 2011.
If a move to the Garden State is in your future, use the helpful information revealed in this guide to select a community that not only enjoys a low crime rate, but one that harmonizes with your family values as well.
We also put together a New Jersey resource page for you to use to learn about the best ways to be safe in your state. This includes resources for everything from crime and disaster to general safety tips and tools.
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1. Mahwah Township
Rest assured, if your family is fortunate enough to make the move to New Jersey’s safest community, they won’t be disappointed. Mahwah is a 26 square mile suburban community that not only boasts amazing natural beauty, but also a well earned reputation as welcoming and safe. In fact, no murders, rapes, robberies or arsons were reported to law enforcement in 2011.
Nearly 5,000 acres of parkland give your toddlers and tweens access to a wide array of outdoor activities, including snowboarding, baseball and lacrosse. When your well-earned weekend rolls in, enjoy a family nature walk or bike ride on one the community’s well-maintained bike paths. A first-rate educational system, housing choices that range from charming cape cods to modern planned developments, and employment opportunities with corporations such as UPS, Seiko and Jaguar, only add to Mahwah’s appeal.
Particularly impressive is the forward-thinking Mahwah Police Department, which offers the Mahwah Stay Connected app. Using the app, citizens can conveniently report zoning violations, service requests and other concerning conditions. Just 30 miles from New York City and bordered by the stunning Ramapo Mountains and Ramapo River, a Mahwah address is one your friends will envy.
2. Sparta Township
The dynamic community of Sparta is located in Sussex County, a mere 45 miles northwest of New York City. Lush, rolling hills, a number of pristine lakes, and diverse housing make the community of Sparta one its residents are proud to call home.
Move to Sparta and you’ll have 11 private lake communities to choose from, including the highly desirable Lake Mohawk which boasts locations that are listed on the State and National Historic Registers. An impressively low poverty rate of just 1.5 percent, a median household income that’s nearly twice the state average, and safe streets round out the reasons why people who move to Sparta rarely leave.
According to the FBI Report, less than 20 burglaries were reported to law enforcement in 2011. If you have an active family that enjoys learning, you’ll want to take advantage of the numerous opportunities Sparta’s parks and recreation department offers, including its state certified pre-school, fitness classes for all ages, and rich cultural programming.
3. Warren Township
The quaint community of Warren enjoys a rich history, a bright future, and safe neighborhoods. With just two violent crimes reported to authorities in 2011, it’s no wonder Warren earned a respectable third place ranking on our safe communities list.
Successfully blending rural ambiance with smart growth, Warren’s residents enjoy favorable property taxes, less than 35 mile commute to Manhattan, and progressive green initiatives. Warren’s Green Team is fueled by the desire to enhance quality of life through environmental management and focuses on residents helping residents. In fact, in 2010, the Green Team’s community gardens donated almost 20,000 pounds of produce to local food banks.
In another tribute to Mother Earth, Warren worked diligently to achieve Sustainable Jersey certification, and is only one of a few dozen New Jersey communities have done so. A strong community bond and dynamic local schools also helped this tight-knit community of just over 15,000 achieve recognition as the 6th best small town in America, according to “Money” magazine.
Courtesy: Warren Township
4. Washington Township, Morris County
The amiable community of Washington Township was incorporated in 1798, but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s stuck in the past. Quite the contrary, Washington is forward thinking and decidedly progressive. When you relocate to Washington, you’ll be greeted by friendly neighbors, a proactive police force and quiet streets. And you’ll feel good knowing that in 2011, no murders or rapes were reported to law enforcement, and less than 30 burglaries were reported. Those are impressive statistics for a community of nearly 20,000 residents.
There’s little doubt that one reason why Washington enjoys a low crime rate is due to the care its citizen take in maintaining the community and helping one another. A very active Historic Preservation Commission keeps an eye on changes in three historic districts, and the popular Long Valley Junior Women’s Club has been enriching the lives of Washington residents through volunteer service for over half a century. Toss in a vibrant community garden program that thrives on helping citizens of all ages produce healthy food and stunning flowers, and you’ve created a hometown that anyone would be proud of.
5. Bernards Township
Enclosed by lush forest, the 24 square mile community of Bernards offers the very best of small town living. Once famous for its splendid summer resorts, Bernards now has a reputation for a flourishing parks and recreation program that unites this Somerset County community.
If you have an active family, you’ll have no trouble meeting new friends in the community of Bernards. Sign up for cultural arts programs, youth trips, an array of adult programs or classes designed for children with special needs. In addition to being an impressively active place to call home, Bernards is also environmentally conscious. Its Green Team Advisory Committee paired with its Green Buildings and Environmental Sustainability Plan ensures Bernards will be a lovely place to call home for generations to come. All this, plus it’s a safe community. According to the FBI Report, authorities were alerted to just four violent crimes in 2011.
Courtesy: NJ Real Estate Finder
The petite community of Dumont is less than two square miles, but it’s packed with recreation, friendly folks and a focus on safety. The northern New Jersey, Bergen County community offers two major parks that include facilities you’d expect to find in a much larger community, including five ball parks, fields for soccer and football, playgrounds and girls’ softball fields. The Dumont Swim Club and Dumont Hockey League are two of the area’s most popular pastimes.
When your family lands in Dumont you’ll make friends fast and enjoy attending community events like Dumont Day and Oktoberfest. Quiet, safe streets allow your kids to ride bikes with friends, climb trees and play tag without fear. Dumont’s crime statistics are impressively low. Authorities were alerted to less than 15 burglaries in 2011.
Scenic, historic and safe just begin to describe the dazzling community of Hopatcong, New Jersey. Situated on the western shore of Lake Hopatcong, residents enjoy boundless water recreation and lovely scenery year-round. In addition to a picturesque landscape, the Sussex County community enjoys distinction as a safe place to raise a family. No arsons, murders, rapes or robberies were reported to law enforcement in 2011.
This all-American community exudes undeniable charm. Easter egg hunts, hikes for charity, neighborhood barbeques, and parades unite the community and no doubt help keep crime at bay. Stay at home moms who relocate to Hopatcong might want to join the local Mom’s Club, or take part in a playgroup to meet new friends. Teens that have a passion for policing can become a member of the popular Police Explorers program. Small, quaint and secure, Hopatcong understands what building a strong community is all about.
Courtesy: Forest R. Whitesides, CC BY SA
Number eight on our list of the safest communities in New Jersey is beautiful Bergenfield. If education is at the top of your priority list, you’re going to be impressed with its ambitious school district. In addition to being honored as one of 2013’s Most Challenging Public High Schools in America by the “Washington Post,” Bergenfield High School also ranks in the top 5.5 percent of U.S. high schools and has been applauded for its focus on technology. In fact, it was recognized as a top ten “Digital School District” among mid-sized student population districts in America.
Want more reasons to call Bergenfield home? The community of roughly 30,000 was honored by Nerdwallet.com as the sixth best place to raise a young family in New Jersey. Move to Bergenfield and your kids are not only assured a good education, they’ll be safe too. No murders or rapes have been reported to law enforcement since 2002.
Named in honor of President James Madison, we weren’t surprised to discover that the suburban community of Madison exudes American appeal. A sense of volunteerism runs rampant through Madison, with neighbors helping neighbors and people from all walks of life joining together to enhance the community.
Newcomers will have no trouble feeling right at home in Madison’s quintessential downtown distinct, complete with a Main Street featuring locally owned and operated shops. Those who commute to New York City will appreciate that Madison’s century old stone train station shuttles them directly to Penn Station in less than an hour. And thanks to the community’s small size, you can leave your car parked at home and enjoy a walk or bike ride to work in the company of your neighbor.
In addition to a welcoming ambiance, low crime and an ideal location, you’ll also enjoy access to a dynamic array of art and culture in Madison, New Jersey.
Courtesy: Leif Knutsen, CC BY 2.5
10. Plainsboro Township
In addition to being one of the Garden State’s safest communities, Plainsboro is also one of its most active, well preserved and progressive. Call Plainsboro home and enjoy weekend strolls through Plainsboro Village, the original settlement in the center of town that has buildings from the 18th century, as well as new construction. And when school lets out, enroll your kids in a school vacation camp at the spectacular Plainsboro Preserve which includes a 50-acre lake, walking trails, a state of the art education center and an abundance of wildlife.
With over half of the community’s land preserved as open space, you can bet you’ll never run out of room to roam. Best yet, the West Windsor Plainsboro Regional School District is regularly ranked among one of the best districts in the state, and is among the top five statewide for highest SAT scores. In fact, 96 percent of the district’s students pursue a college education.
11. New Milford
Pair abundant recreation and historic preservation with a vibrant business community and you’ve created New Milford, New Jersey. It’s also safe, reporting just seven violent crimes in 2011. Head to New Milford and every member of your family, from toddlers to teens to seniors, will enjoy rich educational, recreational and cultural opportunities. From adult craft classes to children’s sports camps, women’s softball and special events like Easter egg hunts, New Milford keeps your active family entertained for a nominal charge.
Manhattan’s Central Park is less than 15 miles away, making for an entertaining weekend excursion. And when the sizzle of summer strikes, head to the popular New Milford Swim Club where you’ll find friendly faces, a first-class pool, and sprawling lawn that’s perfect for picnics. Looking for a relaxed community located in the heart of northern New Jersey? Pack your bags for New Milford.
12. Montgomery Township
You’ll be impressed by the community of Montgomery. Strategically located in Somerset County, half way between Philadelphia and New York City, Montgomery is making a name for itself by balancing quality of life with thriving economic opportunities. Almost one third of Montgomery consists of farm land or preserved open space, yet Fortune 500 companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Merrill Lynch and Bristol-Myers Squibb are found nearby.
Innovation is at the heart of the community’s novel initiative, Einstein’s Alley. A private, non-profit economic development initiative, Einstein’s Alley takes advantage of Montgomery’s close proximity to first-class universities, like Princeton and Rutgers, as well as several research powerhouses, to attract and develop pioneering startups in much the same way California’s Silicon Valley once did. Plus, it’s safe. In 2011, only two incidents of violent crime were reported to authorities.
13. Wyckoff Township
Touted as a community where “you know your neighbor,” Wyckoff’s sense of community serves as its cornerstone and likely contributes to its recognition as one of the safest communities in New Jersey. Offering over three dozen social and community organizations, you’ll have no trouble fitting in, in Wyckoff. Tree lined streets, a pleasing assortment of lovely homes, and abundant open space give Wyckoff a hometown vibe that’s hard to come by in today’s hustle and bustle world. It’s also one of the state’s greenest communities, having earned prestigious designation as a Sustainable Jersey “Silver” Certified Community, one of only a dozen towns to be certified at that level in 2013.
If hitting the links is your idea of a good time, you’ll be happy to learn that your clubs won’t hide in the closet when you move to Wyckoff. That’s because it’s surrounded by no less than 15 golf courses, five of which are public. Enhanced by a strong educational system boasting an unsurpassed assortment of athletic, artistic and philanthropic clubs, your children will find their niche in Wyckoff as quickly as you will.
14. Monroe Township, Middlesex County
Offering a safe environment, good schools and affordable housing, Monroe welcomes newcomers. According to the FBI, Monroe is the second safest community in sprawling Middlesex County, reporting seven crimes per 1,000 people in 2011 and a just 15 incidents of violent crime. Considering Monroe is home to nearly 40,000 people, those are impressive figures.
Monroe is often considered a mature community, as almost 50 percent of the population is 55 years or older. But it’s also an ideal locale for young families thanks to affordable housing options, low tax rates and stellar schools. In fact, in 2012, Monroe Township High School ranked number 124 on a list of the best public high schools in New Jersey. Looking for affordability and safe streets? Monroe might be your next move.
The FBI Crime Report proves what Ridgewood residents have long known; it’s a safe place to live. According to the report, authorities were alerted to less than 10 violent crimes in 2011. But safe neighborhoods are just the first of many reasons why those who move to Ridgewood tend to stay. Ask young families why they call Ridgewood home, and abundant youth programming will probably be at the top of their list. Young people enjoy sing-a-longs, eco-craft classes, dance programs and even junior science classes. “Kidsafe” self-defense, karate and safety awareness programs round-out the healthy, interactive opportunities designed especially for children.
The cool breeze of winter doesn’t stop Ridgewood citizens from enjoying community togetherness. Its winter “Come Alive Outside” event is amazingly popular, featuring bonfires, ice skating, snow shoeing, music, vendors, food and even ice sculptures.
Courtesy: Ben Schumin, CC BY 2.5
16. Readington Township
Noted for its picturesque rural landscape, recreational trails and preservation initiatives, Readington is a New Jersey community worth considering moving to. Outdoor enthusiasts will be thrilled to learn Readington takes great care in maintaining a top-notch selection of trails, and those with a green thumb are extended an open invitation to join the produce producing folks at the Readington Community Garden.
Its eclectic collection of museums offers living history, a chance to peak at local artifacts and a range of activities for every member of your family- such as cultural and educational programs. Summer camps, fitness and wellness programs, after-school care and environmental lessons are just a few of the gems offered by Readington’s Recreation Department. Above all, this historically agricultural community is safe- having reported no murders or rapes in 2011.
17. Hopewell Township
A commitment to the environment and a focus on sustainability are just two ways the community of Hopewell joins together to ensure the township is a pleasant place to raise a family for generations to come. Hopewell’s “My-Waste” app puts the power of local recycling in the hands of its citizens, and updates them on special events like post-holiday Styrofoam drop-off points.
The Hopewell Project, comprised of a diverse collection of citizens who are dedicated to advancing renewable energy sources, has a reputation for novel green thinking. The Hopewell House, a local solar/hydrogen powered home that covers all of a typical family’s energy needs without relying on any outside fuel source, is one of the Hopewell Project’s greatest accomplishments and proves that clean, safe, reliable, and renewable resources can also be powerful.
The Hopewell Valley Green Team is yet another important group that’s dedicated to Hopewell’s future, working diligently to bring about green initiatives and those that support sustainability. Toss in the fact that Hopewell is a safe community according to the FBI, and it’s surrounded by first-class employers like Merrill Lynch and Bristol-Myers Squibb, and you’ll have a hard time finding a reason not to make to move to Hopewell.
18. Morris Township
At the heart of many prosperous communities, you’ll discover a Chamber of Commerce and a government that supports businesses of all sizes. Such is the case with the community of Morris. Nearly 1,000 members strong, the Morris County Chamber of Commerce serves as the cornerstone of the business community in Morris. Alive with meaningful committees like Women in Business, Technology and Health and Wellness, the Chamber offers local business owners strong support and boundless valuable resources.
A well organized monthly newspaper and an impressive list of guest speakers add to the Chamber’s appeal. Its Leadership Morris program educates local business professionals about the opportunities, challenges, and people of Morris County, and includes an entire day committed to criminal justice discussions. If you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner looking for a safe community that’s also pro-business, you’ve just found it.
19. Hillsborough Township
If innovative school programming and diverse recreational opportunities are important to you, you’ll want to learn more about the delightful community of Hillsborough. Situated in Somerset County, approximately midway between Philadelphia and New York City, Hillsborough schools were among the first in the nation to incorporate Google Play into the classroom. And they are consistently offering students ways to amplify learning, like the popular World Languages Exploration Program, a free, 10 day after-school program that helps children explore French, German or Italian language and culture. The Hillsborough Education Foundation is not-for-profit organization that’s committed to enhancing the educational experiences of children, and promoting lifelong learning for all Hillsborough residents.
Take one peek at the Hillsborough Department of Parks and Recreation website and you’ll be ordering the moving van. We’re particularly impressed that as a Hillsborough resident, you’re granted access to the forward thinking Therapeutic Recreation programs that provide engaging and valuable recreation and leisure opportunities to people with developmental disabilities. All this, and Hillsborough is also safe. The community of nearly 40,000 reported just 10 violent crimes to authorities in 2011.
Courtesy: Hillsborough Township
20. Montville Township
The community of Montville enjoys a well earned reputation as pro-business locale that’s dedicated to science and technology education. Plus, it’s one of New Jersey’s safest places to call home. If you’re a small business owner, listen to the wealth of perks Montville has to offer. Perfectly positioned among major highways, New York City and Newark International Airport are both a mere 40 minute drive. Port Newark, a bustling deep-sea port is also less than an hour away.
Closer to your new home, you’ll enjoy access to nearly a dozen institutions of higher learning, and a highly skilled, tech savvy workforce. Montville’s Economic Development Committee helps your business find a suitable location, and ensures the community enjoys a diverse mix of businesses. And Montville High School offers your teen the chance to participate in an extensive science research program that’s affiliated with the State University of New York at Albany. Students enrolled in the demanding but rewarding program work independently on their own scientific research topic ranging all disciplines. Safe, progressive and dedicated to the future, it’s no wonder Montville residents enjoy a satisfying quality of life.
21. Randolph Township
We weren’t surprised to discover that the safe community of Randolph is backed by a police force that’s unmistakably proactive. The Randolph Township Police Department offers citizens a rich collection of community policing services, such as its Cops in Shops program, to help deter underage drinking, and its free Home Watch program that gives you peace of mind while you’re on vacation. Simply notify the police department that you’ll be away from home for an extended period of time and an officer will routinely perform an exterior check of your home and notify you of any suspicious activity.
Move to Randolph and you’ll want to take advantage of the department’s free security survey of your home or business and join the local Neighborhood Watch. And don’t hesitate to use the department’s Speaker’s Bureau. Officers are prepared to speak with your school or organization on a variety of topics, including stranger awareness, Internet safety, scams and identity theft. Our kudos to the Randolph Township Police Department for offering its citizens the Randolph ACTion Hotline, a 24-hour anonymous telephone line (without Caller ID). Think your family will feel safe in Randolph? We agree.
22. Raritan Township
According to the FBI Report, two violent crimes, no murders and no robberies were reported to law enforcement in 2011, earning Raritan, a community of over 22,000 residents, a New Jersey safe city designation. The Hunterdon County community is close-knit, friendly and educated. Relocate to Raritan and you’ll discover that approximately one third of your neighbors have earned their Bachelor’s degree, and 14 percent hold a Master’s degree. Low poverty and a 2009 higher than average state median household income of $108,430 further describe this centrally located Garden State community.
When it’s time to travel, head to Newark International Airport, Philadelphia or New York City; they are all an easy commute. If you’re a parent, you’ll appreciate that class size at the local Hunterdon Central High School is just 20 students, and the average student to teacher ratio is 10:1. In 2012, 99 percent of Hunterdon Central High School students met or exceeded state standards in language arts, and 93 percent met or exceeded state standards in math. Safe, convenient, and educated, Raritan is a smart move.
23. Cliffside Park
You know what they say about location and Cliffside Park has got it! Perfectly positioned along the Hudson River, between the George Washington Bridge and the Lincoln Tunnel, many New York City workers call Cliffside Park home. In fact, the average commute time of a Cliffside Park resident is just 30 minutes. The one square mile diverse community might be small in acreage, but it’s big on recognizing some of its most cherished members through programs like the Cliffside Park Rewards Program, a free program that offers discounts on goods and services to Cliffside Park military veterans, volunteers, and emergency responders.
And there is no shortage of places to shop when you call Cliffside Park home. Head across the Hudson River and hit Manhattan or stay close to home and explore the shops and boutiques owned by your neighbors along “The Avenue.” An active community policing bureau and low crime add to this Garden State treasure.
24. Mount Olive Township
Beach parties, carnivals, and abundant open space are just a few perks you’ll enjoy as a resident of this decidedly family oriented community. Those with a Mount Olive address head to Budd Lake Beach on a regular basis to enjoy picnics, parties, movies and organized late night swims. When the treasured Mount Olive Carnival rolls around, no less than 10,000 people take part in the five day celebration, where neighborhood kids enjoy the thrill of rides, tasty treats and a first-rate fireworks display. On Saturdays, you’ll find familiar faces at the local farmers market. If you’re itching to get out of town, join one of the community sponsored trips to an array of exciting destinations, or jump on Interstate 80 and you’ll find yourself in Manhattan in about an hour.
Parents of special needs children will be thrilled to learn that Mount Olive is home to Peak. The six year old organization is committed to giving special needs children access to an assortment of positive social, physical and educational environments. Reporting a nominal 10 violent crimes in 2011, Mount Olive is also a low crime community.
25. Manchester Township
Offering a safe environment, ideal location and boundless recreation, you’ll be happy to establish roots in Manchester. Just minutes from the Atlantic Ocean, your kids will grow up with sand between their toes. When you’re craving bright lights and big city life, Philadelphia, New York City and Atlantic City make the perfect weekend getaway.
Manchester truly offers something for every member of your family. Well maintained parks, pristine lakes and abundant preserved open space round-out the reasons why you’ll want to get to know Manchester. The Manchester Township Police Department rivals any you’d find in a much larger city. An intricate part of the Manchester community, officers provide high visibility, prompt response and an active Auxiliary Police and Police Explorers program.
26. Fort Lee
Fort Lee is honored as one of New Jersey’s safest cities, but that’s not all it has to offer. Located in Bergen County, across the Hudson River from magical Manhattan, Fort Lee is considered part of the New York City Metropolitan area. Commuters jump on the George Washington Bridge and find their way into New York City with relative ease.
When Fort Lee families need some R&R, they’ll find no shortage of things to do. The Fort Lee Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs, Fort Lee Recreation Department and Fort Lee Film Commission all serve up a select of programs and events to entertain and educate every member of your family.
As the birthplace of the film industry, movies are a major draw in Fort Lee, and pull families from a variety of ethnicities together. Revolutionary reenactments and the Tour de Fort Lee bicycling race are other annual popular events. An equestrian center, youth center, recreation center and 35,000 square foot community center offer endless activities year-round. When you relocate to Fort Lee, you’ll might not hear your tween cry “I’m bored” ever again.
Measuring 18 square miles, the central New Jersey community of Princeton is comprised of the former Township of Princeton and Borough of Princeton, which joined together in January of 2013.
Home to one of America’s most prominent universities, Princeton, New Jersey is a pedestrian friendly community that boasts tree-lined streets and bicycling paths that urge you to leave the car at home. In fact, Princeton was recently honored as a Bronze Level Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists.
Newcomers to suburban Princeton will be greeted by a diverse housing market, a well respected affordable housing program, and a unique Curbside Organic Program. Launched in 2011, the program gives residents the chance to keep food and other biodegradable items out of landfills. Safe neighborhoods and innovative programs are just two of the many reasons Princeton is a superb community to settle down in.
28. Marlboro Township
If you want your teen to be surrounded by a positive peer group, you may have just found your new home. Optimistic, forward thinking and unquestionably impressive, Marlboro is a community that focuses on developing the leaders of tomorrow and growing the businesses of today. Its Teen Advisory Committee, with more than 1,000 members, gives teens of Marlboro a voice in local government, cultivates leadership skills and a strong sense of community. Group members can be found instructing seniors on the latest technology, or pairing up with an elderly resident to enjoy a game of bowling on Wii. They also spearhead winter coat drives, and assist in a variety of community related activities.
If you’re a small business owner, you’ll be glad to hear that Marlboro’s Economic Development Committee is on your side the moment you drive into town. And Marlboro takes a proactive approach to keeping resident dollars close to home with its innovative Shop Marlboro program that provides property tax incentives for Marlboro residents to keep their purchasing dollars in the community.
29. East Windsor Township
You’ll have a hard time finding a community in New Jersey, or in any other state, that serves as many inspiring community-building programs as East Windsor does. Its Gran-Pals initiative pairs seniors with children who can use an extra role-model and local high school students have the opportunity to serve as Student Representatives to East Windsor boards and commissions, such as the Clean Communities Committee, Health Advisory Committee and Economic Development Commission.
Part of any robust community is a strong business-government alliance. East Windsor has got that too and it’s fueled by the Business Ombudsman who helps local businesses in any way possible, including serving as a one stop resource for those seeking development applications. If you’re looking for a community with safe neighborhoods and an innovative way of tackling today’s biggest challenges, it’s East Windsor.
30. Jefferson Township
Touted as the “year-round recreational capital of New Jersey,” the community of just more than 20,000 residents lives up to its motto. Camp Jefferson Summer Day Camp is one of the community’s strongest programs. The nine week, affordable, summer camp program offers youth the chance to enjoy a huge array of activities, including miniature golf, archery, fishing, zip-line fun, character development, science and nature activities, leatherworks, water slides and more.
Jefferson also operates a rich program for special needs children that includes the Challenger Soccer Program. Just 50 miles west of Manhattan and two hours north of Philadelphia, entrepreneurs and business owners will appreciate Jefferson’s strategic locale.
31. Palisades Park
Perched atop the New Jersey Palisades, Palisades Park was named in honor of its strategic location. Measuring just over one square mile, residents of the ethnically diverse community find themselves with fantastic access to New York City.
When it’s time for a family adventure, you can check out the Palisades Interstate Park. Measuring approximately 12 miles long, a half-mile wide, the park offers 2,500 acres of rugged Hudson River shorefront, dynamic uplands, and stunning cliffs. Within the park, your family will never tire of exploring more than 30 miles of hiking trails (perfect for cross country skiing), riverfront picnic areas, playgrounds, and a nature sanctuary. Honored as a National Historic Landmark, you won’t believe this peaceful place is just moments from bustling New York City.
Courtesy: CC BY SA 2.0
32. Manalapan Township
They say location is everything. That could be why those who move to Manalapan rarely leave. A low crime rate only adds to this 40,000 member community’s appeal. Just 15 miles from the sandy beaches of the New Jersey Shore, and less than 50 miles southwest of New York City, this surprisingly suburban community offers a first-rate quality of life that’s easy to get used to.
When you settle in Manalapan you’ll quickly discover that it’s a community where neighbors know each other’s names, and committees that promote community cohesiveness and financial health abound. Founded eight years ago, the Community Service Committee helps match volunteers with community projects, and Manalapan’s Economic Development Council supports new and growing businesses and the “Buy Manalapan” campaign. The Mayor’s Council on Special Needs cultivates programs and opportunities for individuals and families with special needs and the Shade Tree Committee performs a number of community outreach programs and advises the Manalapan Township Committee on tree and shrubbery matters.
Courtesy: Manalapan Patch
33. Scotch Plains Township
Just 30 miles west of New York City, and less than a half hour drive to Newark Liberty International Airport, Scotch Plains is a friendly community where it won’t take you long to meet new people. One way to do so is by joining the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Newcomers’ Club. Like the name implies, the club offers you, your spouse and your kids a variety of ways to know your neighbors. A substantial number of events are planned year-round, plus a handful of special interest groups hold their own events. Moms will enjoy morning coffee at a member’s house while kids play, or can head to a playgroup at a park or at a member’s home. Couples outings, ladies only events and special family programs are other ways the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Newcomers’ Club helps you feel at home.
If you’re dedicated to greenery, you’ll want to get to know the Scotch Plains Parks Open Space Trust Fund. Having received nearly $2 million in grants, you can bet that there will be plenty of park space for your little ones to roam. Best of all, Scotch Plains is safe. No murders, rapes or arsons were reported to authorities in 2011, according to the FBI Crime Report.
34. Cranford Township
The four square mile community of Cranford is close knit, proud of its civic organizations and involved in its recreational facilities. And according to the 2011 FBI Crime Report, less than 10 violent crimes were reported to law enforcement in 2011. A quiet community, where a number of residents commute to New York City daily from the local train station, Cranford has a reputation as a great place to raise a family.
Make Cranford your new hometown and you’ll not only appreciate its safe neighborhoods and convenient access to New York City, you’ll also enjoy two outdoor pools, a bike path, canoe club, neighborhood parks, tennis courts, and a fitness facility that offers endless recreation and youth sports. Cranford also makes an effort to balance the charm of yesteryear with a progressive future. One way the community does so is through the Centennial Village Group. The group is lead by volunteers who are dedicated to the revitalization and beautification of the Centennial Village business area, a local shopping and service area that has enjoyed remarkable rebirth.
35. Denville Township
No robberies, rapes or arsons were reported to law enforcement in 2011, making Denville a safe place to settle down. Just off Interstate 80, offering easy access to New York City, Denville is perfect for career-driven moms and dads who want their kids to enjoy small class sizes and a variety of after school activities. Rest assured, your children will have no trouble fitting in and making friends fast in Denville.
With an average class size of just 20 students, the Denville School District is well prepared to offer a rich extracurricular program that features a number of civic oriented clubs for students of all ages. Kiwanis Kids is a club for students who want to spread kindness and caring and support their community, country, and the world. The District’s Safety Patrol offers fifth graders the chance to provide services to elementary school students, and its Builders Club provides students with the opportunity to develop leadership skills, life skills and increase their civic engagement. Enroll your children in a Denville school and they’ll be well on their way to becoming a knowledgeable and responsible citizen.
A powerful sense of community, good schools and safe streets are a few reasons why those who grow up in Westfield often return to raise families of their own. Located about 25 miles southwest of New York City, with easy access to Newark Liberty International Airport, commuters and business travelers boast about Westfield’s convenient location. Close to home, those make the move to Westfield will take pleasure in a pedestrian friendly downtown that offers a mix of mom-and-pop shops and trendy chain store. Head in to a deli and you’ll likely find a familiar face or two.
If your family thrives on the outdoors, you’ll be glad to hear that Westfield is known throughout New Jersey for its prolific youth and adult recreation programs. The community of 30,000 has no less than nine municipal parks. Head to the ever popular Memorial Pool and you’ll see generations of families cooling off at the kiddie pool, feasting on an alfresco lunch, or enjoying family-friendly movie night.
Courtesy: Donald Siano, CC BY SA
37. Parsippany-Troy Hills Township
Lead by a government that understands accountability, the safe community of Parsippany-Troy Hills Township cares about its citizens’ concerns. That could be one reason why it enjoys nominal crime. Less than 30 violent crimes were reported to law enforcement in 2011, a remarkably low number for a community of more than 50,000 people. The Mayor’s Action Center acts as a clearing house for requests for all kinds of government services. Calls and requests are logged-in so they can be tracked and followed up on efficiently, and then sent to the appropriate department to be handled. Once the caller’s request has been taken care of, the mayor’s office sends the caller a letter detailing what action was taken. This is a great way for community members to keep Parsippany-Troy Hills in tip-top shape by reporting illegal dumping, asking for potholes to be repaired, reporting street lights being out and more.
Moms who move to Parsippany-Troy Hills will find getting acquainted with their new community is easy, especially thanks to the Parsippany Moms Club. An officially recognized chapter of the International MOMS Club, women of all ages and backgrounds join together to enjoy engaging speakers, park play dates, family parties, moms night out and arts and crafts.
Courtesy: Daniel Case, CC BY SA
38. Barnegat Township
Simply put, the people who call Barnegat home are exceptionally proud to do so. And there’s good reason. Not only is this community of 21,000 safe, Barnegat is perfect for the active family who desires relaxed, waterside living yet wants easy access to major mid-Atlantic cities. Located in southern New Jersey, you’ll find your family exploring the Ocean County Historical Trail, or building sand castles, crabbing or boating at Barnegat Bay. Barnegat’s charming historic district is ideal for antiquing, playing in the park or treating the kids to an ice cream sundae.
When it’s time to head out of town, you’ll enjoy an easy drive to Philadelphia, Atlantic City and the warm, welcoming beaches of Long Beach Island. Take a stroll through nearby Cape May County Zoo, or when the craving for an adventure hits, head to Six Flags Great Adventure. Kids’ fish and crab catching contests, an exciting Pirate’s Day Parade, Father/Daughter Dance and summer music concert series are just some of the rich programs you can expect to enjoy from Barnegat’s Recreation Department.
39. Pequannock Township
Just 24 miles west of Midtown Manhattan, and boasting a well established Parks and Recreation Department, location and access to healthy fun are just two reasons Pequannock is a superb community to settle in. You’ll discover your commute to New York City to be relatively stress-free, and when it’s time to hit the friendly skies, the Newark International Airport is only 30 miles away.
With an emphasis on sports and encouraging a healthy lifestyle, Pequannock offers your family 400 acres of parkland, 12 soccer fields, well maintained playgrounds, and access to several local lakes. Turn to the Pequannock Community Newsletter to keep informed on upcoming events, or join one of the community’s important committees, such as the Teen Advisory Committee. Small enough so you’ll see friends when you’re out and about, yet packed full of recreational opportunities, you’ll be glad you settled in Pequannock.
40. Nutley Township
This spirit of volunteerism runs rampant through Nutley, a picturesque community that’s concerned about safeguarding its pristine resources. Conveniently located near the Garden State Parkway and New Jersey Turnpike, Nutley is honored for its extensive park system. Rest assured, with more than 100 acres of recreational land and over 10,000 trees your family will never run out of places to roam in Nutley. In fact, you won’t have to travel far to enjoy a park or playground, because no home in the serene town is more than one half mile from a recreational opportunity.
If a living a green lifestyle is important to you, you’ll be glad to learn that local organization Greenutley is committed to raising awareness of green choices and promoting energy savings, eating local, growing organic and simplifying life. Move to Nutley and you’ll not only brag you live in one of New Jersey’s greenest communities, but one of its safest too.
41. South Brunswick Township
The benefits of South Brunswick are bountiful. It’s safe, reporting less than 20 aggravated assaults to law enforcement in 2011, religiously diverse and offers a plethora of parks of every size and type. In fact, there are 23 developed parks and trails in South Brunswick, plus the well regarded Rocky Top Dog Park where Fido finds his freedom.
Settle in to Brunswick and you’ll be centrally located to take advantage of a number of diverse recreational opportunities, such as the nature trail along a retired railroad path at the Cook Natural Area. Or head on a family excursion to the D & R Canal State Park that offers opportunities for jogging, bicycling, renting canoes, fishing and birding or explore the developing Freedom Trail Bikeway.
If all these outdoor opportunities aren’t enough, South Brunswick offers eight tracts of land with more than 1100 open acres. Located just off the New Jersey Turnpike, in less than an hour you’ll find yourself in New York City or building sand castles at Asbury Park.
42. Roxbury Township
Two years ago, Roxbury became the first community in the state to be honored as one of America’s Promise 100 Best Communities for Young People, thanks to its dedication to youth. The community of approximately 24,000 people operates more than 200 programs to serve the children within its boundaries. In addition to extensive before and after school programs, and teen center events, Roxbury businesses fund a back-to-school program that contributes food, gift cards and school supplies to youth that are near the poverty level. The community’s Supporting Friends of Social Services is a nonprofit group that offers financial aid to those who need assistance paying for heat or childcare.
When school lets out, teen summer programs ensure that kids have a positive and healthy place to spend their time. Roxbury’s Parents of Exceptional Children group supports developmentally challenged children and their parents by operating several ambitious programs like a theater group and a Friday night social. If family is your focus, you’ll have a hard time finding a community that offers a more well-run youth activities than Roxbury.
Courtesy: Roxbury Township Facebook
43. West Milford Township
Inspirational, innovative and progressive are just a few words that describe the education your children will enjoy in West Milford. In addition to a lively education, your family will take pleasure in a safe community that’s dotted with more than three dozen lakes, and surrounded by a scenic valley and traversed by pleasant roads that lead you off the beaten path. Unpack your bags in West Milford and it won’t take you long to realize it’s a place all generations feel equally comfortable.
Well over half of the community is undeveloped and state protected forests where mountain biking, hiking, boating, and fishing abound. Despite covering an area of more than 80 square miles, West Milford exudes an infectious small town charm and the West Milford Heritage Committee ensures it hasn’t forgotten its roots.
Formed almost two decades ago, the West Milford Heritage Committee is dedicated to preserving local history through the local Township museum. Its Historic Preservation Commission works to promote architecturally, historically and archaeologically significant buildings or districts and help them get recognized at the state and federal level.
Summit is known as a socially and culturally diverse community with a robust economy, safe neighborhoods and an ideal location. Situated just 30 minutes from Manhattan and from the Newark Liberty International Airport, it’s a commuter’s paradise. Summit also boasts a welcoming, walkable downtown where small business owners know you by name.
But the gem of Summit is its art. Dynamic galleries, cultural events, antique shops, and theatrical performances make Summit a destination for those who cherish creativity. The Summit Playhouse is a particularly popular destination. Founded in 1918, it is recognized as one of the longest continuously operated theaters in America. Summit Playhouse’s children’s productions are especially well received. If you plan on moving your business to vibrant Summit, or think you’ll launch a new endeavor, you’ll want to peruse the community’s welcome packet for new businesses. Artistic and cultural traditions are powerful in Summit, fostering an enhanced quality of life that citizens of all ages will appreciate.
45. Lakewood Township
Distinguished by its founders 200 years ago as the “The Garden Spot of the Garden State,” Lakewood still lives up to its name. And with nearly 95,000 residents, we’re very impressed with its status as one of New Jersey’s safest communities. One reason Lakewood remains safe despite its large population is likely because it offers the best of recreation, business and community events. The Lakewood BlueClaws, a Class A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies Major League Baseball Team brings out citizens from all walks of life to enjoy America’s most cherished pastime.
Other popular happenings include free summer concerts, an annual renaissance festival, paddle-sport events and a delightful children’s theater. Head to Lake Carasaljo to hike a gorgeous 4.5 mile trail, rent a boat or lay out a blanket and watch an electrifying Fourth of July fireworks show. If we’ve piqued your interest in Lakewood, you’ll want to explore its appealing comprehensive guide.
46. Fair Lawn
Located just off Interstate 80 and a mere 18 miles from New York City, Fair Lawn offers workers an easy commute into the Big Apple. And you’ll be hard pressed to find a more active community. In fact, our bet is that one reason Fair Lawn enjoys a low crime rate is because it goes above and beyond to keep youth actively entertained.
At the heart of the community you’ll discover the Fair Lawn Community Center, which offers an unmatched assortment of activities. Take a seat on the center’s state of the art 170-seat theater, and enjoy world class plays, musicals, and concerts. Sign your kids up for nearly any sport you can image, or let them explore their creativity with a class from the six decade old Fair Lawn Art Association, such as sewing for kids, or painting for teens. The center also boasts a teen center, teen lounge and youth center where kids can safely have fun on Friday and Saturday nights.
Packed with arcade games, TVs, air hockey tables and more, you’ll feel good about letting youth tween explore his independence at Fair Lawn’s youth center. Of course, moms and dads aren’t left out. Take a look at a sampling of the center’s amazing events. Stop in the computer center, catch up with neighbors while you walk around the track or enjoy a pick-up game of basketball or table tennis. All this, and membership is free! Settle in Fair Lawn and we’re sure you and your kids will be glad you did.
47. Middletown Township
When a town of over 60,000 residents makes the list of the state’s safest communities, you know they’re doing something right. And we’re not the only ones who think so. Middletown has been honored with several awards, including an Excellence in Programming award from the NJ Parks and Recreation Association for its innovative kids’ camps, and landing a place on “Money” magazine’s Top 100 Places to Live in the United States list. A well trained police force, commitment to smart growth and appreciation for community history are just a few examples of what makes Middletown special.
This year, citizens of all ages will take part in the wealth of activities planned for Middletown 350, a celebration of the township’s founding 350 years ago in 1664. One full, event packed year include numerous opportunities for well established residents and newcomers to learn about Middletown’s dynamic history. Colonial tea parties, kids’ contests celebrating important Middletown women, an adult-only time capsule review party, and a host of community concerts are just a few examples of the diverse celebrations Middletown residents will enjoy. Pack your bags; there’s a lot happening in Middletown.
48. Medford Township
Medford is a Garden State gem. Surrounded by bountiful forest, dotted with several lakes, and recognized as a Tree City USA for more than 26 years, life is good in Medford. It’s also noted as one of the finest suburbs of the Philadelphia area, and it won’t take you long to get to the Jersey Shore. The tight-knit community of Medford is also safe, according to the FBI Crime Report which reveals six aggravated assaults were reported to law enforcement in 2011. So when your family shops Medford’s vibrant historic, you’ll feel at-ease knowing they’re not in harm’s way.
Helping keep crime out of neighborhoods is just one benefit of the Medford’s unique Homeowners’ Association Advisory Board which helps foster communication between Medford government and the various homeowners’ associations located throughout the community. If you and your family like to bicycle, you’ll be glad to learn that Medford takes cycling seriously, and has developed a comprehensive Bicycle Network Plan. Perfectly located, safe and serene, Medford is a community worth getting to know.
49. Piscataway Township
Those who call Piscataway home are lucky to do so. That’s because the historically rich community not only offers an impressive assortment of things to do, it’s also boasts safe neighborhoods where people chat in front lawns, and kids still ride bikes. The FBI Crime Report notes no murders or rapes were reported to law enforcement in 2011, and there has been a drop in violent crime. Piscataway’s active Community Policing Program no doubt deters criminals. A Citizen Police Academy, D.A.R.E. program, Youth Police Academy, National Night Out and Neighborhood Watch initiatives are just a few ways police have successfully united with citizens to stand strong against crime.
Landing on “Money” magazine’s coveted Top 100 Places to Live in the United States only confirms what Piscataway’s residents have known all along- it’s a good place to raise a family. Commuters will be thankful that they won’t waste much time getting to work in New York City. Piscataway is a short drive from the train station in New Brunswick, and New York’s Pennsylvania Station is about a 30 minute ride. Plus Interstate 287 and the New Jersey Turnpike are easily accessible. Offering a safe environment, solid policing, and convenience to New York City, Piscataway won’t disappoint you.
50. Hazlet Township
Hazlet might be a small community, but its healthy programming makes a big impression. Yoga, T’ai Chi Chih, kickboxing, and Zumba are just a few of the classes Hazlet’s Recreation Department offers. Mommy and Me gathering are an ideal way for newcomers to find fast friends, and enjoy engaging with their young ones. Art classes give you an excuse to catch up with girlfriends while you cultivate your talent, and if water-sports sound fun, when summer hits your family will have plenty to do.
Pack up the kids and the sunscreen and take off for the Hazlet Swim and Tennis Club where your family will enjoy swim lessons, water sports, arts and crafts, and of course, a well stocked snack bar appropriately named the Belly Flop Café. There’s also a swim team, where children as young as five years of age can enjoy the thrill of team spirit and competition. Need more family outings? Jump on the Garden State Parkway and held to New York City for a weekend adventure, or tickle your toes in the sand at one of New Jersey’s famous beaches. When you get a Hazlet address, you’ll be surrounded by a safe community, welcoming folks and endless recreation.
Courtesy: Township of Hazlet
New Jersey’s safest communities are impressively diverse, yet have one trait in common: a commitment to engaging community programming. If you live in one of the state’s top 50 safest communities, we’d like to hear what you think about your hometown.
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Egg Harbor Township