Efforts from law enforcement to standardize the reporting of bias crimes may attribute to some of the increase, state officials said.
NEW JERSEY — The number of reported hate crimes more than doubled in five of New Jersey’s 21 counties last year, according to the Office of Attorney General. State officials released county-specific data this week as it continues to analyze an increase in such incidents from 2019-20.
A “bias incident” is a suspected or confirmed violation of New Jersey’s bias-intimidation statute, in which a victim is subjected to 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.”
The state attorney general’s office revealed last week that reported bias crimes increased in New Jersey over the past year, from 994 in 2019 to 1,441 in 2020. State officials partially attribute the increase to efforts from law enforcement to standardize the reporting of bias crimes.
The data also only includes reported incidents. More than half of victims of hate crimes from 2011-15 in the United States didn’t report them, according to a U.S. Department of Justice report.
The number of reported bias crimes more than doubled in the following counties in the past year: Atlantic (15 in 2019, 31 last year), Cape May (14 to 31), Gloucester (22 to 50), Mercer (42 to 140), Somerset (26 to 79) and Sussex (14 to 30). Only Cumberland, Hudson and Morris Counties saw a reduction in reported hate crimes last year.
Here’s the breakdown of reported bias incidents by county:
- Atlantic: 15 in 2019, 31 in 2020
- Bergen: 117 in 2019, 161 in 2020
- Burlington: 56 in 2019, 76 in 2020
- Camden: 53 in 2019, 55 in 2020
- Cape May: 14 in 2019, 31 in 2020
- Cumberland: 44 in 2019, 17 in 2020
- Essex: 35 in 2019, 61 in 2020
- Gloucester: 22 in 2019, 50 in 2020
- Hudson: 36 in 2019, 24 in 2020
- Hunterdon: 12 in 2019, 21 in 2020
- Mercer: 42 in 2019, 140 in 2020
- Middlesex: 103 in 2019, 149 in 2020
- Monmouth: 118 in 2019, 193 in 2020
- Morris: 72 in 2019, 62 in 2020
- Ocean: 94 in 2019, 115 in 2020
- Passaic: 65 in 2019, 66 in 2020
- Salem: one in 2019, two in 2020
- Somerset: 26 in 2019, 79 in 2020
- Sussex: 14 in 2019, 79 in 2020
- Union: 46 in 2019, 63 in 2020
- Warren: nine in 2019, 15 in 2020
State officials also released data by city and town, along with statistics of bias incidents against specific demographics, which can both be found here.
Last year, New Jersey reported its highest total of bias incidents against Black, Hispanic/Latino, Asian and LGBTQ+ individuals. The new data was also released in the wake of a shooting rampage in the Atlanta area, which left eight people dead, including six Asian women.
“As we were starkly reminded by the horrific shootings last week in Atlanta, our country has a hate problem,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “And the data we just released in New Jersey shows that we are not immune to it.”
Some law enforcement agencies throughout the Garden State introduced initiatives to centralize hate-crime reporting, which state officials think is one reason for the increase in bias incidents.
For instance, the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office created a Hate Crime Awareness and Prevention Unit and an online hate-crime reporting tool last August. Their purposes are to establish uniform standards for reporting potential bias incidents.
In 2019, hate crimes rose to their highest nationwide levels since in more than a decade, according to the FBI. The agency also recorded the highest number of hate-motivated killings since it began collecting the data in the early 1990s.
There were 51 hate-crime murders in 2019, which includes 22 people killed by a gunman targeting Mexicans at Walmart in El Paso, Texas. The suspect attempted to scare Latinos into leaving the United States, according to state and federal agencies.
The total of hate-crime murders also includes the shooting on a kosher grocery store in Jersey City.
The FBI reported 7,314 hate crimes in 2019 — up from 7,120 the prior year and the highest since 7,783 in 2008. The shootings, which killed four people, were “a targeted attack on the Jewish kosher deli,” Mayor Steven Fulop said.
Like New Jersey, law enforcement agencies across the nation have furthered efforts to centralize hate-crime reporting. More than 2,700 police departments and county sheriff’s departments in the United States failed to submit a single hate crime to the FBI’s crime database in the six years prior, according to the Associated Press.
The attorney general’s office and New Jersey State Police will begin making bias-incident data available to the public on a monthly basis starting in April. The monthly reports will show breakdowns by bias type and county.
“Some of the darkest hours that we have lived through recently as New Jersey residents have involved the horror of violence based on hate,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig. “We have seen anti-Semitic violence in Jersey City and a gender- and race-based attack at the home of a federal judge. Now, we face a rising tide of hatred directed at Asian-Americans.”