State legislators recently introduced two bills designed to improve reporting and collection of bias and hate crime information in the state of New Jersey. These actions come as hate crimes in the state have been on the rise over the past three years.
Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37) introduced legislation to require the New Jersey Attorney General to publish bias crime data every month. Current law mandates the Attorney General to publish this information quarterly.
The legislation (A-5744) comes in response to reports of a rise in bias incidents in New Jersey in 2020. Data shows that attacks against Black residents made up the largest overall share of incidents in the state, rising 84% over the last year. Bias crimes targeted against Asian residents rose 74% over the last year, up to 68 in 2020 from 39 in 2019 .
Attorney General Accounting
“This legislation seeks to codify the recent decision by Attorney General (Gurbir) Grewal to issue monthly reports on the prevalence of bias crimes in our state,” said Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle. “As we continue to evaluate policies and programs that may aid in reducing bias crime and intolerance in our communities, it is critical that we have the data to guide us.”
“It is my hope that this legislation will also help to increase transparency around the growing issue of bias and hate crimes in our State, ensuring that our communities are aware of these growing trends so that we can work together to ensure that all New Jerseyans can live safely without fear of prejudice or violence.”
In the State Senate, the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee advanced bill S-2268, which would require the New Jersey Attorney General to report bias intimidation offenses to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for inclusion in their annual report on hate crimes.
Fighting Hate Crime
“Hate crimes have a devastating impact on victims, families, and communities,” said State Sen. Joe Cryan (D-20), the vice chair of the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee and former Union County Sheriff. “But the number of crimes motivated by bias and hate all across the country are under-reported. We want to address some of the shortcomings of data reporting to better equip law enforcement agencies to protect people and to tackle the rampant culture of violent intolerance that persists.”
Under current New Jersey law, a person is guilty of a bias intimidation crime if they commit, attempt to commit, conspire with another to commit, or threaten the immediate commission of an offense intended to intimidate an individual or group of individuals because of race, color, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, or ethnicity.
In 2019, 561 hate crimes were reported in total in New Jersey. In more than half of reported hate crimes last year people were targeted because of their race or ethnicity, while 53 incidents were linked to perceived sexual orientation and seven were due to gender identity.
“Reliable statistics help the FBI to provide a representative picture of hate crimes to inform, educate, and strengthen communities,” said State Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-14), the Chair of the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee. “This data helps law enforcement and the government to identify challenges and direct resources to combat these crimes, to support crime victims and to help law enforcement in its work.”