‘A worrying trend.’ Bias incidents up over 65% in the last year in New Jersey

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Preliminary numbers show New Jersey is dealing with an unprecedented increase in hate and bias.

The numbers, released Monday by Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, show there were 944 bias incidents reported to police in 2019, a 65.9% increase over 2018 and the largest year-over-year increase in New Jersey history.

Kane in Your Corner documented years of bias crimes and incidents in a groundbreaking investigation into “Hate at Home” last year. It found bias incidents of all kinds have been steadily increasing in New Jersey since 2015. Last month, the years of increased bias activity culminated in the deadly attack on the JC Kosher Supermarket in Jersey City.

RELATED: Attorney general: Bias incidents in 2019 up 65% from 2018 in New Jersey 
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“This is the first time in recent history, at least since we've started tracking, that you had a violent shooting attack on a Jewish target in New Jersey,” says Richard Priem of the Anti-Defamation League, which tracks acts of anti-Semitism nationwide. “The fact that three weeks later, a similar attack happened in Monsey, New York, definitely underscores a worrying trend, which is that these incidents are becoming more violent."

Because the new numbers are preliminary, they could change as they are reconciled by law enforcement agencies. There is also no breakdown yet on who the targets are. But last year, Kane In Your Corner investigated every reported bias incident in New Jersey since 2016, from people beaten or menaced because of the race or ethnicity, to houses of worship repeatedly vandalized with swastikas and hateful graffiti.

MORE: Hate at Home: A Kane in Your Corner Report 

The “Hate at Home” project concluded that when bias was motivated by race, the black community was the most common target; when religion was the motive, the Jewish community was most often targeted.

Kane In Your Corner also found only a fraction of bias incidents get prosecuted as bias crimes. In 2017, when there were 549 confirmed bias incidents, 34 people were arrested. But only three were convicted of bias offenses.

Sen. Robert Menendez, who wrote New Jersey’s bias crime statute while a member of the state Legislature, says the law needs to be “vigorously enforced.” He adds, “We can't eradicate with a law all the hatred in someone's heart, but we can send a societal message that we don't tolerate it by having enhanced penalties when someone is convicted of a crime of hate.”

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