New Jersey saw 22% surge in incidents of bias in 2023, data shows

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Reports in New Jersey of incidents of bias — like antisemitism and anti-Black behavior among others — climbed by 22% last year, according to preliminary data released Thursday by the attorney general.

Attorney General Matt Platkin's office released the unofficial data for 2023 that saw reports to law enforcement climb to 2,699 from 2,221 the year before along with an analysis for 2022 and 2021 that showed an increase of 17% year over year.

The number of incidents recorded in 2022 is the highest the state has seen since record keeping began about 30 years ago.

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"We’re seeing a real rise in bias and hate in the state. It’s not something we take lightly. And we’re using every available tool, to prevent it," Platkin said in a phone interview.

The data reflects reports members of the public make to police across the state, including state police, alleging hate crimes or other incidents of bias against protected classes under the law, including race, religion and gender. The incidents include racially discriminatory graffiti, threats or actual physical harm.

The increase stems from a number of factors, according to Platkin. Among them are increased outreach to communities encouraging such reporting, he said. But the rise also mirrors trends seen in other states, and nationally, in higher reports of hate crimes specifically. The FBI, for instance, reported last year that hate crimes climbed nearly 12% in 2021. He also cited political divisiveness, the spread of misinformation on social media and a backlash to the demonstrations that followed George Floyd's murder in 2020.

The most recently available figures from New Jersey show anti-Black and anti-Jewish bias were the most common race and religion-based reasons for reports, reflecting trends from the prior years. Anti-Black incidents accounted for 34% of all bias motivations, while anti-Jewish bias motivated 22%, according to the attorney general's office.

Last year also saw a rise in anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bias, the data showed. Anti-Muslim incident reports climbed to 107 from 61, while anti-Arab incidents reached 78 last year, from 46 in 2022. Platkin pointed to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel as a likely factor in those reports.

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Platkin also said Thursday his office launched an online data dashboard aimed at giving the public information about bias incident statistics across the state.

From 2021 to 2023, 217 people were charged with bias intimidation in the state, Platkin said.

"Even if we can’t charge someone with crime or or hold someone accountable personally, we can see trends that are alarming and deploy resources to hopefully prevent bias incidents from occurring in the first place," he said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey called the trends "disturbing" and lauded the attorney general for creating the online portal.

"We can’t address the problem if we don’t understand the extent of it," said Jim Sullivan, deputy policy director of the state's chapter of the ACLU.

He also called on lawmakers to come up with policies that support the targeted communities.

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