Is Shelter Island Safe? Crime Rates & Safety Report

Updated On August 17, 2023
Shelter Island, United States
Safety Index:
85
* Based on Research & Crime Data

Like a jewel in a crown, Shelter Island, New York, is beautifully placed between Long Island’s North and South Fork.

This secluded island paradise is a world away from the bustling Hamptons scene, offering visitors a chance to unwind and appreciate the simple pleasures of seaside living.

Shelter Island’s appeal lies in its beautifully preserved beaches, lush nature trails, and historic New England-style villages.

The year-round population is 2,500, but that sells to almost 10,000 during the summer.

Miles of shoreline wrap around the island, with postcard-worthy beaches that remain uncrowded even at the height of summer.

The golden sands and calm blue waters create a coastal landscape reminiscent of New England.

Inland, over 10,000 acres of woodlands, salt marshes, and meadows compose the Mashomack Preserve.

Hiking trails wind through the rolling hills and forests, opening up to stunning views of Peconic Bay.

The human history here is just as alluring.

Historic districts like Hay Beach Village offer a glimpse into 19th-century island life.

And Mansions like the Mashomack Manor House tell tales of prosperous early American estates.

Yet with all it has to offer, Shelter Island maintains a serene, welcoming atmosphere.

The pace of life slows down, allowing you to disconnect from technology and reconnect with nature’s simple joys.

NOTE: In any research you do, make sure you’re looking at Shelter Island, New York.

There’s a Shelter Island near San Diego that will also pop up in search results.

Warnings & Dangers in Shelter Island

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK: LOW

Shelter Island has a low risk with a crime rate that barely registers and a community that is ultra-engaged in keeping it that way.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW

You'll have to take a ferry to get to Shelter Island. You can bring a car, which is smart if you want to drive around since taxis and rideshares might be hard to come by. Bike rentals are available on the island. All options are low risk.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW

This is another low risk, as many of the places to visit are very spread out. You shouldn't let that give you a false sense of safety. Don't carry around valuables, and only bring what you need. Leaving beach bags in the sand while you go in the water is always risky, even in safe communities.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM

This is a medium risk since Shelter Island is so exposed to the ocean and surrounding waterways. Hurricanes, nor'easters, winter storms, and severe weather can happen throughout the year, with some storms forming quickly in the summer.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK: LOW

Shelter Island Police report two robberies in the past 20 years. Enjoy the low risk, but don't take it for granted.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK: LOW

This is another low-risk as a remote community with no potential targets. While it's still close to NYC, you should stay aware of any suspicious activity and report it immediately.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK: LOW

The police department has a long list of potential scams on the front page of its website. It's unclear if that's because the scams have often been happening or just as a matter of informing people without any other crime concerns to address. It's a low risk, but it stays low if you stay informed.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW

This is a perfect place for a girlfriend getaway or solo adventure. The only warning to heed is if you plan to hike or paddle alone. Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to be back.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK: LOW

The town hasn't posted a water quality report since 2021, but a huge water main replacement project took place in 2023. If you have any questions or concerns about water quality, you can call (631)665-0663. However, there's a low risk on any given day.

Safest Places to Visit in Shelter Island

The Shelter Island Chamber of Commerce and Shelter Island town website have great resources for visitors.

You can get a tourism guide, but they will only email it to you.

That means you have to give your email address through the website.

Shelter Island has over 5 miles of shoreline with numerous beaches to explore.

Crescent Beach is a popular spot with soft sand perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and beachcombing.

At low tide, you can walk out to tiny Ram Island.

Sunset Beach is known for its gorgeous sunsets and also has a snack bar serving cold drinks and light fare.

For a more secluded beach experience, check out Silver Beach or Bootleggers Alley Beach.

Both are tucked away on the more remote north side of the island.

No matter which beach you choose, the calm blue waters and sandy shores of Shelter Island make for ideal waterfront relaxation.

NOTE: The town website has in-depth information about each beach, lifeguard status, and amenities like freshwater or restrooms.

History buffs will appreciate the island’s well-preserved historic hamlets like Hay Beach and Heights.

Stroll down tree-lined streets past 19th-century homes and the picturesque Union Chapel.

The Shelter Island Historical Society offers guided tours and exhibits on the island’s rich past dating back to the 1600s.

Don’t miss the Mashomack Preserve Manor House, a stately Georgian-style mansion nestled on over 2,000 acres of protected land.

The 1774 building offers tours providing a glimpse into the elegant lifestyle of the early inhabitants.

Shelter Island has over 10,000 acres of open space with 47 trails perfect for hiking and biking.

Explore the woodlands and salt marshes of Mashomack Preserve or ride along the shoreline bike trail at Sunset Beach.

At the Vineyard Overlook, take in panoramic vistas of the Peconic Bay vineyards and Rafes Creek from a cliff-top perch.

For kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, head to Silver Beach or Coecles Harbor.

Rentals are available right on-site.

Maps of all outdoor areas, trails, and historic sites are on the aforementioned websites.

The island also boasts excellent fishing, sailing, and golfing for sports enthusiasts.

After a day of outdoor adventures, grab dinner at one of the island’s farm-to-table restaurants serving the bounty of Long Island’s fields and waters.

A full list of restaurants is available on the Chamber of Commerce website.

(HINT: There are only 12.

Make reservations as often as you can in the summer.)

Places to Avoid in Shelter Island

You won’t find a dangerous neighborhood or bad part of town here.

In fact, the homes here are so beautiful you’ll want to see every neighborhood.

Just don’t go onto private property or in a gated community if you don’t have permission.

If you want to avoid the biggest crowds on Shelter Island, visit before Memorial Day or after Labor Day.

The summer population here triples.

For those visiting during hurricane season (June through November), don’t wait for an evacuation order to get out of the way of an approaching storm.

The limited roads and ferry requirements can make it a challenge to get off the island and then out of Long Island in a timely manner.

I could only find one grocery store and one farmer’s market on the island, so it might be wise to do major grocery shopping somewhere in Long Island if you want more options.

Shelter Island only has two gas stations as well.

As a matter of etiquette, avoid complaining about how small or “boring” the island is.

The vibe is exactly what the residents want, and have gone through major steps to stop it from becoming another Hamptons, including a ban on mega-mansions.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Shelter Island

  1. Shelter Island has its own police force. You can reach them by phone at (631) 749-0291 or find them on Facebook @ShelterIslandTownPolice. The email address for the public is townpolice@shelterislandtown.us.
  2. Sign up for CodeRED notifications through the police department’s website. It’s imperative to stay aware of incoming weather risks. You can also sign up for Suffolk County alerts through Smart 911. (I have no idea why they wouldn’t use the same service, but they do not.)
  3. Two ferries service the island. One approaches from the north, the other from the south. This is important for one big reason – the Long Island peninsula splits, meaning different roads will take you to the correct ferry. The North Ferry is in Greenport, and the South Ferry is in North Haven. Both ferries will transport cars.
  4. Parking permits are required on the island from May 15 through September 15. You can buy seasonal, monthly, weekly, or daily passes. Daily passes are $25.
  5. The town website has several great resources for trails and waterways. One safety concern I want to punctuate is the risk of paddling in a boat zone. It’s a lesson I almost learned the hard way in Tampa Bay years ago. Never assume a boat can see you in a kayak or on a SUP. Don’t try to “beat the boat.” Stay out of the way of busy water traffic.
  6. Shelter Island has four public beaches. All other beaches are likely on private property or in members-only communities. Don’t try to sneak onto a private property stretch of beach.
  7. Beware of ticks on the marsh and forest paths of this community. Ticks can thrive in temperatures above freezing. Remove any attached tick as soon as possible. Know the signs of Lyme Disease, which could set in several weeks after a tick bite. The best way to avoid ticks is to wear long sleeves and long pants tucked into socks.
  8. New York state requires that all boat drivers pass a boating safety class. You won’t be able to rent a boat if you don’t have this. Check the NY Department of Environmental Conservation to learn more. While you’re there, pick up a fishing license if that’s on your activity list.
  9. Suffolk County has a “Social Host” law that prohibits parties where adults knowingly allow those under 21 to drink alcohol. You can report any suspicions to the police department. If you are one of the people hosting the party, you could face a fine of up to $1000 and up to a year in jail.
  10. E-Bikes are a popular way to get around Shelter Island, but you should know that nobody under the age of 16 is allowed to operate one. Helmets are required for those 16 and 17 years old but recommended for everyone.

So... How Safe Is Shelter Island Really?

Shelter Island is a sheltered lifestyle with very little crime.

Home break-ins and vandalism made the biggest headlines in 2023.

Even daily police blotters detail things like unreturned kayaks and abandoned bicycles.

The island community has only had two homicides in its 300-year history, with a particularly gruesome one in 2018.

That case involved the home invasion, assault, and eventual death of a priest and remains unsolved.

If it’s possible, some might find Shelter Island a little *too safe.

There aren’t any stoplights, downtown entertainment districts, and a list of grocery stores you can count on one hand.

The community members love its sheltered environment and don’t want it to become the next Hamptons.

This isn’t a party town, and any attempt to have a loud party will likely bring the entire police force to enforce the noise ordinance.

As a small island, there’s the ongoing safety risk of flooding and tropical storm damage.

Rising ocean levels threaten this end of Long Island even more in the next two decades.

Water and weather safety are the biggest lessons you can learn about this small town.

How Does Shelter Island Compare?

CitySafety Index
Shelter Island85
Orlando64
Las Vegas62
San Francisco61
Philadelphia60
Houston59
Atlanta58
Manama (Bahrain)54
Tianjin (China)67
Brussels (Belgium)60
Shanghai (China)66
Belize City (Belize)37
La Paz (Bolivia)52

Useful Information

Visas

Visas

A visa or visa waiver is required to be paired with a valid passport if you're traveling from outside the U.S. Check your eligibility status for a waiver on the U.S. State Department website.

Currency

Currency

You can only use the U.S. Dollar here and throughout the country. Exchanging currency is best done at your home bank or the NYC Metro area airport. Credit cards offer the best fraud protection if you'd rather use that for purchases.

Weather

Weather

Warm weather should only be expected from June through September, but temperatures at night can still get chilly. Bring some warm layers for colder nights. Winters are cold, and you'll want insulated, waterproof layers. Comfortable walking shoes, bug spray, and sunscreen are needed throughout the year.

Airports

Airports

JFK and LaGuardia are the closest airports, both within two and a half hours. Plan the ferry travel time into your travel timing.

Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance

You don't want to risk a hurricane or winter storm leaving you stranded or with a canceled flight. Get travel insurance, which goes into effect as soon as you purchase it.

Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Shelter Island Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan -1° C
Feb 0° C
Mar 4° C
Apr 9° C
May 15° C
Jun 20° C
Jul 23° C
Aug 22° C
Sep 19° C
Oct 13° C
Nov 8° C
Dec 3° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
34813192427262317126
Low
°C
-5-4-14101519181594-1
High
°F
373946556675817973635443
Low
°F
232530395059666459483930

New York - Safety by City

CitySafety Index
Albany77
Binghamton61
Brooklyn74
Buffalo58
Cooperstown78
Elmira64
Fair Haven75
Greenport Village78
Ithaca62
Jamestown54
Lake George78
Lake Placid82
Lewisboro88
Long Island83
Manhattan82
Mt Vernon62
New Paltz79
New Rochelle77
New York City67
Niagara Falls63
Oswego75
Poughkeepsie79
Queens73
Rochester67
Rye76
Saranac Lake77
Saratoga Springs74
Schenectady52
Seneca Falls79
Shelter Island85
Sleepy Hollow77
Syracuse71
Utica57
Watertown63
Watkins Glen81
White Plains77
Yonkers59

Where to Next?

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