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
Toms River, New Jersey, is a town near the Jersey Shore, moments from Seaside Heights, but still with plenty of beaches and activities of its own.
Toms River is the county seat of Ocean County and home to nearly 100,000 residents.
The borders hopscotch from the mainland to the barrier island of the shore.
While the town has a rich history through colonial times and into the industrial revolution, it is perhaps the home at 18 Brooks Road that made the biggest impact in the late 1970s when the Amityville Horror movie house was chosen here.
It has also made television history with HBO’s Boardwalk Empire and MTV’s Jersey Shore.
Today, Toms River offers many attractions for visitors of all ages and interests.
You get beaches on the bay side and ocean front, with the masses of traffic you’d expect in a tourist town.
The town is also home to a toxic blemish that is believed to have led to cancer clusters in the 1990s all due to improper toxic chemical disposal from what is now one of the worst Superfund sites in America.
There are a lot of safety tips to discuss visiting Tom’s River, so let’s get to it.
Warnings & Dangers in Toms River
OVERALL RISK: MEDIUM
There's a medium risk here, partially due to the lack of transparent recent crime data and the sheer number of tourists who come through this town. It's not that there's an inherent risk, but there sure is a lot of potential risk.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
NJ Transit provides routes to Toms River across the state, with special beach routes assigned in the summer. Taxis and rideshares will be easy to find. Rental cars are a great option, but you will be sitting in a lot of traffic during the high season.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: MEDIUM
We don't have any type of recent crime data regarding thefts, much less pickpockets and purse snatchings. You should treat it as a medium risk, as you would in any tourist town.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: LOW
Tom River has water on many sides of its many shorelines. That's going to create a flooding risk, especially when this area is prone to powerful hurricanes and nor'easters. Winter storms are possible, too, with high winds and bitterly cold temperatures.
MUGGING RISK: MEDIUM
In 2022, there were several reports of robberies and break-ins, but that's more likely to impact vehicles and homes than a person on the street. There's a low risk by most accounts, but without specific crime data, it should be treated as a medium risk.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
This is a low-risk category with no hard targets in the Toms River area. You should review the latest Terrorism Advisory Bulletin from Homeland Security to get a larger view of terror concerns in America before your visit.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
The most recent scams target residents, with a scammer posing as a police officer. The main concern for tourists would be home rental scams, which can be avoided by using a Better Business Bureau-approved rental company and asking for proof of a rental permit. Don't ever wire money to secure a home, and if a deal sounds too good to be true, it is.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
Women should use all the standard safety precautions, especially if part of the trip will be enjoying the nightlife in Seaside Heights across the bridge. The risk for women is the same as the risk for anyone else. Just use common sense and situational awareness.
TAP WATER RISK: MEDIUM
I'm giving this a medium risk simply to encourage you to be informed about the Superfund site and progress on cleanup. Some people in town wouldn't think about drinking tap water, but the latest water quality report shows full compliance and no violations. Veolia processes the tap water here, and you can reach out with questions by calling 1-877-565-1456.
Safest Places to Visit in Toms River
The Exit82.com website is the tourism site for this area, named after the exit to Toms River off the Garden State Parkway.
It does heavily lean toward Seaside Heights.
Ocean County Tourism is another website that covers the entire county, which includes Toms River.
There is a website called Toms River Online, and while it’s not very fancy, it does have good information, and I see no cybersecurity issues with it.
Toms River is home to one of the largest shopping malls in the state.
Spanning over one million square feet, it offers a diverse selection of over 120 stores, including major retailers, fashion boutiques, and dining options.
These are national brand stores, but there are plenty of unique boutiques closer to the beach.
Insectropolis is the “Bugseum of New Jersey,” with more bugs, butterflies, and spiders than you can even imagine.
There’s a Creepy Cavern full of spiders, a Mud Tube to see termites at work, and the famous Rubber Tree Plant.
Cattus Island County Park is another way to see bugs in nature and also features a nature center with more animals on display.
The park has seven miles of trails that lead through salt marshes and to the bayside beach.
The town is situated on Barnegat Bay, Toms River, and Silver Bay, with two sections of it on the ocean.
The beaches are Ortley Beach, Chadwick Beach, and Dover Beaches North.
River Lady Cruises offer paddleboat tours along the river, with sightseeing, lunch, and dinner options available.
The boat fits 150 people.
The boat launch is near two waterfront parks, where you can enjoy the view and walk along the river.
Look for local events held at Huddy Park, like the Downtown Toms River Farmer’s Market.
Places to Avoid in Toms River
There aren’t dangerous parts of town or undesirable neighborhoods here, but unless you’re visiting friends or family, there really isn’t a reason to go into the neighborhoods.
New Jersey Route 37 is the main road through town, and traffic will be intense during the summer.
The town has grown with more tourists coming in, but the roads haven’t really kept up.
The Superfund site is west of Garden State Parkway, so most visitors won’t even know it’s there.
At some point, the land will be turned into a 1,000-acre park, but cleanup could take a few more years.
2026 is the expected final date for cleanup.
There are some hotels near the Superfund site, so if that creeps you out, stay east of the Garden State Parkway.
One thing to note is that Barnegat Lighthouse is definitely worth visiting at the state park, but it’s not directly attached to Toms River.
It’s 20 miles on another barrier island, where you’ll drive through Surf City and Harvey Cedars, two other popular beach locations.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Toms River
- Toms River has its own police department. You can find them on Facebook @tomsriverpolice. The email address is email@example.com, and the phone number is (732) 349-0150.
- You can sign up for a Nixle account to get emergency information from the police and fire departments as situations arise. This will include everything from approaching severe weather, traffic accidents, and hazmat situations.
- The police department has an online form for crime tips. You can leave information about criminal or suspicious activity that isn’t urgent and choose if you leave your name and contact information. Every little bit helps!
- Beach badges are required for everyone except for those 12 and under or over the age of 62 from June 16th until Labor Day. The badge must be worn on the front side of your bathing suit.
- The beaches in Toms River have new lightning warning system sirens that go off when lighting is within 20 miles. This can help evacuate the beaches faster and is a direct result of a lifeguard killed by lightning in 2021 during a fast-forming storm.
- Toms River Police warn about a group of people known as the Felony Lane Gang that break into cars looking for purses, valuables, cash, and credit cards. They can scout an entire parking lot in seconds with a device that breaks windows quickly. These people also carry weapons and shouldn’t be approached.
- Tomsriver.org has daily news emails you can sign up for to get information about events and safety updates in the town.
- There’s a great video on the police department’s Facebook page dated March 24, 2023. It shows a theft in progress in a grocery store. This video is a great lesson in how sneaky a thief can be, even if you just turn your head for a few seconds.
- Low-speed vehicles, like golf carts, are allowed on some town streets, but not all. They also cannot go more than 25 miles per hour. You can get ticketed and arrested for thinking like speeding and DUI on a golf cart.
- Do not stay in this area if there is a tropical storm or hurricane approaching. Evacuations could mean hours in traffic, and if you choose to stay, you could be without clean water or power for days or weeks. It’s not worth the risk.
So... How Safe Is Toms River Really?
At first, I was delightfully surprised to see that Toms River had updated crime data for 2021 since almost all New Jersey towns haven’t submitted crime data since 2020.
However, the data is not correct as it’s just not feasible that thefts went from 834 to 3 between 2020 and 2021.
The same with violent crime, going from 85 to 0.
What we do know is that thefts were down 300% from 2011 to 2020.
Violent crime is still 75% less than the national average.
By all accounts, at least through 2020, this is a really safe city.
We have seen some headline-grabbing stories since 2020, like a triple shooting at a Hookah lounge and juvenile crime that led to curfew crackdowns.
Toms River is much safer statistically than the neighboring town of Seaside Heights.
However, we run into a wall that lacks transparency since neither police department has issued updated crime data since the surge of violent crime nationwide.
This is still a busy tourist destination, and it’s also a city of 100,000 people, which means even with a safer crime rating, you aren’t immune to criminal activity.
Use common sense, situational awareness, and basic safety steps to have the best time possible in Toms River, New Jersey.
How Does Toms River Compare?
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A visa or visa waiver is required for all international guests arriving at the airport or port of entry. You will also need a passport that is not within six months of expiring.
Only the U.S. Dollar can be used here. Exchange currency before you leave home to get the lowest fees and best exchange rates at your personal bank. Avoid using ATMs at the Jersey Shore for safety and to avoid high fees.
This region gets four distinct seasons, and even the beach can be covered in inches of snow during the winter. Summer guests need sunscreen, bug spray, water shoes, and comfortable walking shoes. Winter guests should bring all the warm accessories, with special attention to covering their heads and hands during the bitterly cold breezes.
Atlantic City International Airport is 50 miles south. Philadelphia's airport is the largest and just 64 miles away.
Travel insurance is ideal when visiting a beach destination, and confirm if you have protection against hurricanes or nor'easters that could close down beach and barrier island access.
Toms River Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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