The number of reported incidents of prejudice in New Jersey surged again last year, hitting a record high for the third straight year and surpassing the 2020 total by nearly 30%, according to a statement from the attorney general’s office Friday.
The 1,871 incidents reported to police in 2021 were spurred by sharp increases in crimes against Asian Americans, transgender people and other members of the LGBTQ+ community, the bureau said in a statement accompanying its annual report.
During an interview on Friday, New Jersey Acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin said the increase was partly due to better and more frequent reporting.
But some of the uglier discourses from the last year, like false rhetoric about it The Chinese origins of COVID-19a backlash to the Black Lives Matter protests that followed Murder of George Floyd in 2020 and racial overtones that twined The last presidential election could also be to blame, said the Attorney General.
“There is a national machine that encourages hateful, biased rhetoric, and there are social media platforms that proliferate it,” Platkin said in an interview Friday. “We’re deluding ourselves if we don’t think those words don’t translate to the incidents we’re seeing… it’s unacceptable.”
The number of incidents reported last year was the highest since the state began keeping records in 1994, the attorney general said. And it marks a 400% increase since 2015.
What is a bias incident?
Prejudice incidents are suspected or confirmed acts of intimidation motivated by a victim’s perceived or actual race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender, gender identity, or gender expression, as defined by state law.
The offenses may include harassment, vandalism, assault, terrorist threat, arson, criminal mischief and manslaughter, among others, the attorney general said. But not every event leads to an indictment against the alleged perpetrator.
The state also attributed part of the increase to more reports of prejudice-based harassment, which accounted for 57% of the overall increase, the statement said.
The story continues below the chart
Despite a rise in prejudice against other groups, anti-Black and anti-Jewish incidents remained highest in the past year.
Anti-Black prejudice was cited as the motivation for 877 reported incidents in 2021, or 39% of the annual total. And anti-Jewish sentiment was the reason for 347 incidents, or 15%, last year.
But others suffered too.
The report showed an 87% increase in prejudice against Asian Americans, from 69 in 2020 to 129 in 2021.
“It’s upsetting to hear that there’s an exponential increase considering what we’ve been through in the last few years,” said Linda Kow, board member of AAPI Montclair, a group that works to educate the community about anti-Asian crime to clarify bias.
And the number of crimes against LGBTQ+ people increased by 64% from 227 in 2020 to 373 last year. Within this community, transgender people saw a massive 171% increase, from 17 in 2020 to 46 in 2021.
“The trends are not good,” Platkin said. “But that just means we have to be more vigilant.”
Factors affecting the numbers
The attorney general’s office said the numbers could reflect, among other things, the size of the state’s relevant population, victims’ willingness to report crimes to police and barriers to reporting.
The New Jersey State Police, which compiles the data, also said 275 incidents occurred online over the past year.
And the number of bias incidents in elementary and high schools rose 116% to 207 in 2021, up from 96 the year before.
State officials have tried to stem the tide by mandating schools to educate students about the historical contributions of Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and members of the LGBTQ+ community, the attorney general said.
The state Department of Law and Public Safety has also provided more than $1 million in federal grants for public awareness campaigns and upgrades to the records management system, which helps police report incidents to a national database, he said.
Members of the public may report incidents of bias to their local law enforcement agencies through the state’s online portal at https://bias.njcivilrights.gov or by calling 800-277-BIAS.
Contributor Mary Chao contributed to this report.
Steve Janoski covers law enforcement for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news about those protecting your local community, subscribe or activate your digital account today.
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