Poll says New Jerseyans feel unsafe

For the third time since the Fairleigh Dickinson University Poll began asking about perceptions of safety in major tristate cities, New Jersey comes up short. Manhattan and Philadelphia trump Atlantic City, Trenton, Newark and Camden in the eyes of New Jersey adults.

By far, New York City puts visitors at ease, with 79 percent who say they feel very or somewhat safe in the Big Apple. Almost a third (29%) say they feel very safe. Behind Manhattan is Philadelphia. Two-thirds (65%) express feelings of safety in the City of Brotherly Love.

Atlantic City, Newark, Trenton and Camden are behind with fewer saying they would not fear for their safety while spending time in these New Jersey marquee cities.

“Suburbs are fading in popularity with more homeowners wanting proximity to a city and its amenities. New Jersey certainly doesn’t lack for city living opportunities, but some of our bigger cities need to do a better job in convincing people that their safety is secure,” said Krista Jenkins, professor of political science and director of the poll.

The poll asked about these cities twice previously in 2011 and 2014. Nothing has changed significantly, with the exception of a slight decrease in perceptions of public safety for Atlantic City.

“Recent FBI crime data points to an overall reduction in violent crime in New Jersey. This continues a trend that began in 2012, with the most recent data covering crimes through 2016. Regardless of the overall improvement, perceptions of safety in some of New Jersey’s cities remain largely unchanged,” said Jenkins.

She failed to note that the vast majority of crimes reported to police in New Jersey have remained unsolved in recent years, including about half the murders.

graphic rendering of the tables

Despite public safety perceptions, significant development is taking place in New Jersey’s cities, with a two billion dollar investment in Newark’s redevelopment, and a venture capital fund has been started to grow a portfolio of startups.

Major companies including Whole Foods, Starbucks and Nike now have a presence in Newark, and the candy giant Mars is headed there as well. In Atlantic City, two new casinos are opening in June, and the recent Supreme Court decision legalizing sports betting is sure to help the struggling area.

And in Camden, the police department is taking significant steps to improve public safety and redevelopment is on the rise.

Where you live plays a role in how you perceive city life. For example, although a majority of those in the central and southern parts of the state evaluate Camden poorly, significantly more of these residents give the city higher marks for safety than those who live further away (urban core, northeast, northwest).

Conversely, those in the south are the least likely to give Newark high marks for safety, despite significant real estate and commercial investment in the area. The same is true for Manhattan, with those in the southern part of the state generally favorable toward NYC, but still the least likely to give it a positive rating for safety as compared with residents in other parts of the state.

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