State report: Bias incidents on the rise in N.J.

A total of 1,441 bias incidents were reported in New Jersey in 2020, the highest annual total ever, with dramatic increases in incidents targeting Black, Latino, Asian and LGBTQ people, state officials said during a roundtable event on Tuesday.

The data captures only reported bias incidents. According to a report from the U.S. Department of Justice, more than half of the victims of hate crimes in the U.S. from 2011 to 2015 did not report them.

Preliminary totals for reported bias incidents reflect a 45 percent increase over 2019, and mark the second straight year of dramatic increases in reported bias incidents, officials said. In 2019, 994 bias incidents were reported to law enforcement officials, a 75 percent increase over the 569 incidents reported in 2018, and the largest one-year increase over the past two decades.

“As we were starkly reminded by the horrific shootings last week in Atlanta, our country has a hate problem,” said Gov. Phil Murphy. “And the data we just released in New Jersey shows that we are not immune to it. We held a roundtable today because we need to talk about this problem and tackle it head on. We’re taking the lead through innovative initiatives to allow us to identify the sources of bias and intolerance and to take the right steps to eradicate hate in our wonderfully diverse state. We’re committed to protecting our residents and making New Jersey safer, stronger, and fairer.”

Black people were the most frequent targets of bias incidents in 2020 in New Jersey, comprising 47 percent of all reported incidents. The 682 incidents represent an 84-percent increase over 2019, when 371 such incidents were reported.

Anti-Hispanic bias incidents increased 113 percent from 48 incidents in 2019 to 102 incidents in 2020.

Bias incidents targeting Asians or Pacific Islanders increased 82 percent from 39 incidents in 2019 to 71 in 2020, which also represents more than a four-fold increase from 2018, when 16 incidents were reported.

“The fight to stop Asian hate starts with lifting up Asian voices. The pain of discrimination has been felt by so many across our state and country, and last week’s murders were a stark example of the high cost of inaction,” said Congressman Andy Kim.

Bias incidents targeting people on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation, or targeting transgender or gender non-conforming people, increased 57 percent from 148 incidents in 2019 to 232 incidents in 2020.

Incidents targeting Arab people rose 55 percent from 20 incidents in 2019 to 31 incidents in 2020. Anti-Islamic incidents increased 30 percent from 37 incidents in 2019 to 48 in 2020.

Reported anti-Jewish incidents declined 14 percent in 2020 compared with 2019, down from 345 incidents to 298, officials said.

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced steps that his office will be taking to make more data on bias incidents available to the public, including beginning to release data monthly instead of annually. Officials said that at least some of the increase in reported bias incidents likely reflects significant efforts by the state’s law enforcement community to standardize their reporting practices, build trust with New Jersey’s most vulnerable populations, and ensure that all acts of bias reported to local law enforcement are immediately reported to the state.

“Today’s reporting should serve as a wake-up call to all of us that we must redouble our efforts to push back against this rising tide of hate and intolerance we’ve been experiencing not just in our country, but also in the Garden State,” Grewal said. “While the conduct of many of our leaders and the failure of social media platforms to take adequate action have helped fuel this rise, in New Jersey we are doing all we can to not allow hate to become normalized. By raising awareness as we are today and through our increased enforcement and education efforts, I am confident that we will begin to see these alarming trends reverse course.”

The preliminary figure of 1,441 bias incidents in the state in 2020 was compiled as part of the New Jersey Uniform Crime Reporting System, which is operated by the New Jersey State Police to track crime rates in the state. Every state, county, and local law enforcement agency must submit information to the system on any bias incident reported to them. The state will issue final data later in the year. Officials also announced Tuesday that the state will release monthly bias incident data moving forward.

Members of the public can report bias crimes by visiting or calling 800-277-BIAS.