The 10 safest towns in New Jersey are in the north, with River Vale at the top of the list.

The 10 safest towns in New Jersey are in the north, with River Vale at the top of the list.

Located in northern Bergen County, River Vale for the second straight year leads the National Council for Home Safety and Security list of the safest cities in the Garden State, based on crime rates, population count and department size.

Rounding out the top five for 2019 are Warren Township, in Somerset County, the top 10’s southernmost municipality; Washington Township in Morris County; Ringwood in Passaic County, and Tenafly in Bergen County.

River Vale Police Capt. Sean Scheidle, who replaces William Giordano as police chief on Feb. 1, said a combination of proactive policing, isolating geography, a lack of major thruways and a cooperative community likely landed his town on top.

“The geography itself isolates us a bit from outside factors coming in,” Scheidle said. “It’s kind of tucked out of the way, so that helps out a bit, but I like to think our guys are out there doing a good job being vigilant.”

River Vale, a town abutting New York State on the east end of the Pascack Valley, is barely eligible for the list, with a population of just over 10,000.

The rankings from the National Council for Home Safety and Security, a national trade association comprising alarm installers, contracts and other groups, rely upon FBI Uniform Crime Report statistics for documenting towns with populations of more than 10,000. Annual violent crime and non-violent crime rates are used in addition to a metric that factors in the size of the department with the total number of crimes.

River Vale tops the list for 2019 with the state’s lowest property crime rate of 1.46 for every 1,000 people, based on the most recently available FBI crime report data. With 21 officers, the town has roughly one officer for every 500 residents or 0.2 square miles.

Ringwood, another northern border town, with 21 officers, came in fourth in the 2019 rankings with a property crime rate roughly double that of River Vale. The town has about 2,000 more residents than River Vale, however. It also has about 24 more square miles, or more than 1.3 square miles per officer.

Ringwood Police Chief Joseph Walker said the lake-laden community’s size provides a lot of ground for officers to cover. Covering about 80 miles of road stresses the department’s cars, but Walker said his officers are out making their presence known, stopping suspicious vehicles and putting themselves in position to limit response time to two to three minutes.

“A lot of times you’ll find that if people know you have an aggressive force, especially the criminal element, they’re going to avoid you like the plague,” Walker said. “When they do come here, more often than not, we catch them.”

Walker said a larger force would allow his personnel to be more specialized. Still, he said his department is well supported by the local government and the community. Officers are performing adequately in two or sometimes three roles — from processing firearm applications to educating students on substance abuse prevention.

“It’s not the perfect scenario, but you’ve got to deal with the cards you’re dealt,” Walker said. “We’re fortunate that it’s been working out so far.”

Smaller communities swept the top 10. All have fewer than 20,000 residents, with Sparta Township in Sussex County registering as the largest and River Vale the smallest. Most, but not all, have higher median household incomes compared with neighboring communities, census data shows.

Five of the top 10 towns are in Bergen County. One each hail from Passaic, Somerset and Sussex counties. Two are in Morris County, including third-ranked Washington Township.

Lt. Douglas Compton of Washington Township said his department of 31 officers benefits from a supportive community and “young, aggressive patrol officers that are out there every day.”

“They’re out there patrolling every street, looking for anything that doesn’t fit and protecting our community as best as possible,” Compton said. “I think we’re in a great spot here. I think we’re very well protected, and it’s a great community to work for.”

According to the report, Washington Township registered the second-lowest annual property crime rate statewide, at 2.235 crimes for every 1,000 residents.

Statewide, the report found New Jersey’s property crime rate of 13.79 per 1,000 residents well below the national average of 40.43.

For 2019, the national council ranked the state the third-safest for property crimes, such as burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft and arson.

The state’s reported violent crime rate of 1.56 per 1,000 residents is less than half the national average of 3.47 per 1,000 residents, according to the council report. Violent crime involves force or threat of force and includes: murder and non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

10 safest NJ municipalities, 2019

1. River Vale Township (Bergen)

2. Warren Township (Somerset)

3. Washington Township (Morris)

4. Ringwood (Passaic)

5. Tenafly (Bergen)

6. Hillsdale (Bergen)

7. Chatham Township (Morris)

8. Sparta Township (Sussex)

9. New Milford (Bergen)

10. Westwood (Bergen)