New Jersey bias crime reports hit seven-year high last year: report

New Jersey bias crime reports hit seven-year high last year: report
© State of New Jersey

New Jersey Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver (D) on Wednesday established an interagency task force to handle bias incidents in the Garden State following a report that found reports of such incidents reached a seven-year high in 2018.

Oliver, who is serving as acting governor as Gov. Phil Murphy’s (D) family vacations in Italy, established the Interagency Task Force to Combat Youth Bias in response to the report, which found 569 reported bias incidents in the state in 2018, up from 549 in 2017.

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The report also found that more than a quarter of the reported incidents occurred at higher education institutions, and minors were nearly 50 percent of identified offenders, according to the New Jersey State Police and Division on Civil Rights.

Between 2017 and 2018, the portion of known bias offenders in the state who were minors climbed from 29.6 percent to more than 46 percent, according to the report.

The report found 54 percent of the reported incidents were racially or ethnically motivated, while 35 percent were motivated by religion and 10 percent by sexual orientation or gender identity.

The data for 2017 had a similar breakdown, and about 72 percent of reported racially-motivated incidents in both years were aimed at African Americans.

Hispanics were the most-targeted ethnic group in 2017 and 2018, while the most common category of reported bias incidents based on religion were anti-Semitic, according to the report.

The task force will be chaired by Division on Civil Rights Director Rachel Wainer-Apter and include representatives of eight state agencies, according to the state.

“We are deeply disturbed by the upward trend of bias incidents happening nationwide, especially at our public colleges, and Governor Murphy and I are determined to do everything within our power as a state to stop them,” Oliver, who serves as commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs, said in a statement.

“Bias incidents target individuals because of what they look like, how they worship, or who they love,” said Attorney General Gurbir Grewal (D).

“They jeopardize our pursuit of freedom and opportunity. They erode, undermine, and attack the identity and heritage of our citizens. They dehumanize people. And they shake the foundations of our cultural and religious institutions. They have no place here in New Jersey. And today we are taking action to end them by focusing on our young people," he added.