Last year saw the highest annual total of bias incidents reported to New Jersey law enforcement since 1996; it was the largest year-over-year increase (65%) since 1991, when standards were enacted for reporting bias crimes. The figure, which comes from the state’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) system, is preliminary. The state Attorney General’s Office and State Police are expected to confirm the final data later this spring.
Commenting on the increase, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said, “These preliminary numbers reinforce what we’ve suspected all year, and what too many New Jersey residents know all too well,” adding, “More and more people are alerting law enforcement about acts of hatred and intolerance that target victims based solely on what they look like, how they worship, or who they love. Now more than ever, we need to come together as a community to confront this rising tide of hate.”
A press release from Grewal’s office noted that the increase “may be the result, in part, of improved reporting facilitated by the eUCR system, as well as recent incidents and outreach efforts that have raised the awareness of the public and law enforcement regarding the importance of reporting and thoroughly investigating all bias incidents.” At the same time, it underlined that “Because the data captures only reported bias incidents, it is under-inclusive in that it does not capture incidents that were never reported to local law enforcement.” According to a report from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than half of hate crime victims nationwide from 2011 to 2015 did not report the crimes to the police.
New Jersey’s bias intimidation statute covers harassment, assault, terroristic threats, or other specified acts “because of race, color, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, or ethnicity.”