New Jersey : Safety by City
- Asbury Park
- Atlantic City
- East Orange
- Hamilton Township
- Jersey City
- Long Beach Island
- Mountain Lakes
- Mt. Laurel
- New Brunswick
- Red Bank
- Seaside Heights
- Toms River
- Upper Township & Ocean City
- West Orange
Elizabeth, New Jersey, is neighbored by Newark to the north and Staten Island, New York, across the bridge.
She’s a lady with plenty going on in her own city, but with a bonus being so close to the Big Apple.
Elizabeth is one of the oldest European settlements in New Jersey, dating back to 1664.
The diverse communities make this a cultural gold mine while still being one of the major transportation hubs on the East Coast.
The city exudes vibrancy, even when visiting what is usually a stagnant city website.
Her colorful name with the motto “It All Starts Here” piques your interest.
A great interest came to Elizabeth after the release of a popular Broadway musical.
Well, the word got around, they said, this kid is insane, man
Took up a collection just to send him to the mainland
Get your education, don’t forget from whence you came
And the world is gonna know your name
What’s your name, man?
That’s right, Alexander Hamilton came to America and immediately started his education in Elizabethtown (as it was called at the time).
The “damn fool who shot him,” Aaron Burr, also attended school here.
Elizabeth is a great mix of history, culture, cuisine, and shopping.
This is a middle-class community and a medium-sized city with a growing population of more than 137,000 people.
It does get some of the big city crime, which is expected as you get closer to New York City.
The feedback I’ve gotten on Elizabeth ranges from “The city has great nightlife” to “It’s not the best place for tourists.”
Let’s dig in and see what you think.
Warnings & Dangers in Elizabeth
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk here. Elizabeth consistently ranks in the Top 10 Most Dangerous Cities in New Jersey. It also has some crime statistics that might make a tourist nervous, like car thefts and car break-ins. You have a lot to see here but need to have big-city grit to feel safe.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : MEDIUM
Whether it's connected to car thefts or not, Elizabeth's residents use public transportation often. New Jersey Transit makes it easy to get around the city, and there are trains to bigger cities in the east. Taxis and rideshares will be easy to find. If you have a rental car, this is a great transportation hub too. Every option comes with a medium risk.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM
This is another medium risk, with an average of 25 pickpockets happening each year. Carry only what you need and keep valuable items, like smartwatches, at home.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
The year-round weather potential brings another medium risk, from winter snow storms to hurricane season to nor'easter risks. Flooding, extreme heat/cold, and pollution are other concerns. You can read the Union County Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan on the county's website.
MUGGING RISK : MEDIUM
This is a medium risk bordering on high, with 78% of robberies happening in public places and more than one-third of all violent crimes happening against strangers. It's really important to avoid the dangerous parts of town, which we'll outline a little later.
TERRORISM RISK : MEDIUM
Being this close to New York City and having a growing number of hate crimes in New Jersey brings this another medium risk. You can read the latest Terrorism Advisory Bulletin at any time on the Homeland Security website.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
Most of the scams here are going after residents, but beware of any communication that you don't initiate. While most of them follow a similar pattern, like the threat of punishment if a person doesn't pay, it's critical not to trust anyone that is trying to get your money. The police department's website has fraud prevention tips on common scam information.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Women need common sense and street smarts here. Elizabeth falls in between "not the worst" and "isn't the best" when it comes to safety, so use standard precautions like not walking around at night alone, avoiding private house parties, and don't trust anyone you meet on social platforms.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2022 Water Quality Report shows no violations and full compliance in most of the tap water in Elizabeth. I'd be cautious of tap water near the port. There's a lot to unpack in the 2022 Healthy Community Planning Report for Elizabeth, but it's good information. Pay special attention to the air quality.
Safest Places to Visit in Elizabeth
GoElizabethNJ.com is the official tourism site for Elizabeth.
A free mobile app can help you plan your trip and bookmark preferred activities.
You can request certain brochures to be mailed to you, but I’d definitely not give your phone number on that form.
The fewer people who have your phone number, the less likely it is to fall into scammers’ hands.
Elizabeth is known for its cultural diversity, and that goes for dining, arts, and amenities.
Foodies should head to Elmora Avenue, in a part of town known as Elmore/West End.
In the Midtown (aka Uptown) section of the city, you’ll find the commercial hub, historic museums, and great gardens.
Step back in time and tour the historic Liberty Hall Museum, once the home of New Jersey’s first elected governor, William Livingston.
Explore the beautifully preserved rooms, gardens, and exhibits that depict over 240 years of American history.
Book your tour ahead of time.
Boxwood Hall is a historic treasure.
The Georgian-style mansion was the former home of the first president of the Continental Congress
Today, visitors can take guided tours of this well-preserved architectural gem.
You’ll be amazed at the number of historical figures who walked the same hallways you will.
Outlet shopping doesn’t get much better than the Mills at Jersey Gardens.
There’s also a movie theater and plenty of restaurants on site.
Check the schedule for outdoor events throughout the year.
If you prefer local shopping and artisan items, The Market at Elizabeth Avenue is perfect for you.
Warinanco Park is designed by the same “parkitect” that designed New York’s Central Park.
Throughout 240 acres, there are woods to explore, a lake to enjoy, and several sporting events to cheer on!
Local events happen throughout the year.
In winter, head to the outdoor ice rink.
Elizabeth is a busy port town, which means there’s a lot to do at the waterfront.
This part of the city is known as Elizabethport and Downtown.
You’ll get great views of the New York City skyline while cranes maneuver containers on and off ships.
There’s a park right on the waterfront.
Shops and historic homes of various eras fill the streets, as this is the oldest part of the city.
You can use that travel app to get an audio walking tour of the historic districts.
It’s a 3.5-mile route, so wear comfortable shoes or rent a bicycle.
NOTE: There have been some special events revolving around Alexander Hamilton’s time in Elizabeth, but you’ll need to check with the tourism bureau to see if that is still going on when you visit.
Places to Avoid in Elizabeth
The area around the port holds the highest risk for everything from violent crimes to car break-ins.
It’s best visited during the day and with excellent situational awareness.
Any neighborhoods inside the 439 loop should be explored with caution, as there are some sketchy parts of town.
Most people who will tell you to avoid certain parts of Elizabeth will also mention the amazing restaurant scene is worth coming back for.
It’s a much different series of concerns to live here than to visit here.
Another thing to consider is that the Newark airport lines the northern edge of the city.
Staying anywhere near it will mean a lot of airport noise.
The air quality near downtown and the port can be bad due to all the industrial elements choking the air.
With a great nightlife scene too, I’d strongly recommend leaving before a bar or nightclub closes.
As large crowds pour out of a club, there’s just a bigger risk of trouble.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Elizabeth
- Elizabeth does have its own police department. You can follow them on Facebook @ElizabethNJPD or Instagram @Elizabethnjpolice. You can schedule a tour of the police department which will give you a good hour to ask specific safety questions.
- Sign up for a Nixle account where you can get immediate alerts about major crimes, traffic disruptions, and weather concerns. The city also has the CEO Alerts program to give additional safety and event information.
- Use an app like AirNow to check the air quality when you’re visiting. This could help you plan a day inside if there’s bad air quality or seize a day when the winds are working in your favor to enjoy the outdoors.
- Download the NJ Transit mobile app to get updated schedules throughout each season. You can also get alerts if your bus or train is running more than 15 minutes behind.
- The Elizabeth Fast Ferry gets you to and from New York City on a 30-minute boat ride. Free parking is available at the Elizabeth Pier, but don’t leave anything of value inside—not even a phone charging cord or GPS holder.
- As a major transportation hub, that means it’s also a focal point of sex and human trafficking. Read the information about the Blue Campaign on the police department’s website to see common signs of a sex trafficking victim.
- The city of Elizabeth has a YouTube channel @CityofElizabeth, with videos of local events, interviews with the police chief, and more. It’s a great way to get a feel for the city and see new programs.
- Elizabethparking.org is the website to hunt down parking spots and get a feel for the area before you start driving around looking for a spot.
- If you’ll have a rental car, ask the company if they provide an EZ Pass to drive on the Garden State Parkway or New Jersey Turnpike. You’ll have to pay a toll regardless, but it’s much easier if the pass device is installed from the start. The tolls would then be added to your final bill.
- Look up a video of Tropical Storm Ida’s impact on Elizabeth. It gives a shocking reminder of how a storm doesn’t need to be a hurricane to do extensive damage. Don’t visit Elizabeth if a tropical system is headed that way. There’s too much of a flood risk.
So... How Safe Is Elizabeth Really?
How safe Elizabeth is will largely depend on what environments you’re used to at home.
While it’s a medium-sized city, it’s among large cities that all tend to blend together.
As of 2021, the violent crime rate was 15% higher than the national average, which doesn’t set many alarms for people used to big-city life.
The part that makes me raise an eyebrow is that 35% of violent crimes happened against strangers, and the majority of robberies are highway robberies, there’s a reason to be concerned.
Half of all thefts are car break-ins or car accessory thefts.
An average of 14 cars are stolen each week, a problem throughout New Jersey.
Most of those cars will go right on a boat and not be seen again.
What’s particularly interesting about Elizabeth is that even people who speak poorly of living there still have a reason to go back, like the Hispanic food or the nightlife.
With all that said, there’s not a conscious effort for crooks to go after tourists.
They are just always looking for crimes of opportunity.
The safer you are with every step of your visit, the less likely of a target you will be.
How Does Elizabeth Compare?
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- Visas - You'll need a visa or visa waiver in addition to your passport if you're an international guest. The U.S. State Department has a helpful Visa Wizard to get you started on the right path.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here, and there will be plenty of places to exchange currency. Your best value comes from your home bank, where the fees will be the lowest. I'd avoid carrying cash here and use a credit card for the best fraud protection.
- Weather - You'll get four distinct seasons here, so dress accordingly. I'd grab some of those COVID masks in case the air quality is bad. Comfortable shoes are important because there's a lot of walking to be done.
- Airports - Newark Liberty International Airport is just 10 minutes from Elizabeth. New York's JFK airport is just 30 miles away, but that's going to take at least an hour with traffic.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance is critical to give peace of mind during a trip. Your car should have extra protection in case of theft or break-in. Check to see what protection you have if a tropical storm or hurricane cancels your trip.
Elizabeth Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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