More hate crimes reported in NJ — but real numbers may be worse
Crimes motivated by prejudice against others are on the rise in New Jersey, according to newly-released statistics from the State Police.
The latest Bias Incident Report, based on information from every law enforcement agency in the state, counted 417 bias incident offenses in 2016 — a 14 percent jump from the year prior.
Harassment accounted for nearly half of all the offenses reported. Black and Jewish individuals represented the most frequent racial and religious targets.
“It’s sad that we see bias incidents trending upward, but it’s not surprising, given that we have political leaders in this country who encourage the expression of intolerance and hatred, or in other cases, ignore or countenance it,” Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a news release. “What we need to do, as individuals and as a society, is to push back against this prejudice. We need to embrace the diversity that makes us stronger as a state and a nation, and we need to spread a countervailing message of tolerance and unity."
According to the data, schools were the most frequent locations for these crimes. Criminal mischief and property damage accounted for 34 percent of all bias incident offenses.
Jessica Henry, an associate professor of justice studies at Montclair State University, said despite a spike in the number of reported incidents, these annual snapshots are still not capturing the full scope of bigoted acts occurring throughout the state.
New Jersey has a robust system in place for tracking and responding to bias incidents, she said, but there are still plenty of reasons why certain targeted individuals may be reluctant to file an actual report.
"People in the immigrant community may not want to come forward because of their immigration status. Someone in the LGBTQ community may not want to come forward because they're not fully out to their friends or colleagues or employees," she said. "There are tensions between certain communities and police officers that make people less likely to come forward."
Henry noted the uptick in New Jersey incidents is in sync with a nationwide trend. According to the Anti-Defamation League, the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. rose 57 percent in 2017 compared to 2016 — the largest single-year increase on record.