New Jersey residents say safest city is ... in New York

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Halloween is scary enough without having to spend it in New Jersey, according to a poll of Jersey residents who were asked which areas they feel safest in. Their response? Manhattan, across the river in New York.

About 800 New Jersey residents were interviewed by telephone and asked to rank six regional cities for the Fairleigh Dickinson University poll, whose findings were released Monday. Four of the cities were in New Jersey: Camden, Newark, Trenton and Atlantic City. The other two were Philadelphia and Manhattan (which is not a city itself, but is one of the five boroughs that makes up New York City).


While outsiders might think of Manhattan as a menacing metropolis overrun by thugs lurking in dark subway tunnels or in the doorways of its towering skyscrapers, people in this region know better. New York City’s crime rate has plummeted since the crack epidemic sent it soaring in the 1980s. According to police department statistics, there were 536 murders in the city last year, compared to 2,262 in 1990.

That’s enough to make 78% of respondents say that they feel safe or very safe in Manhattan, according to the poll. Placing second was Atlantic City, the seaside New Jersey gambling mecca, where 64% of respondents said they felt safe or very safe. Trailing far behind the rest of the field: the troubled city of Camden, which has been called one of America’s most dangerous cities. Only 13% felt very or somewhat safe there.

Dogged by police layoffs brought on by the recession, Camden was ranked the second-most-dangerous city in the country, after St. Louis, Mo., by CQ Press, a publisher of reference material that uses FBI crime statistics to compile its annual ranking of metropolitan areas. Read more about its crime rankings here.

The poll results don’t bode well for New Jersey’s efforts to revive the fortunes of its biggest metropolitan areas, said Peter Woolley, the poll director.

“If New Jersey is going to be healthy, its cities will have to be viable,” he said in this press release. “One measure of viability is how safe people feel going to those cities.”


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-- Tina Susman in New York