2020 saw stunning rise (45%) of bias incidents in N.J.

1,441 incidents nearly topped 2019 (when there were 994) and 2018 (when there were just 569) combined

Gov. Phil Murphy takes pride in the state’s rich ethnic diversity. And law enforcement officials said their longstanding relationships in the community led to the almost entirely peaceful protests following the death of George Floyd last summer.

New Jersey, however, was not immune from incidents of hate and bias.

On Tuesday, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan released preliminary data reporting 1,441 bias incidents in New Jersey in 2020 — the highest annual total ever — with dramatic increases in incidents targeting Black, Hispanic/Latino, Asian and LGBTQ+ individuals.

The 1,441 bias incidents represented the highest annual total reported since bias crimes reporting standards were enacted in 1991 — and marks a 45% increase from 2019. Even more, 2020 marks the second straight year of dramatic increases in reported bias incidents. In 2019, there were 994 bias incidents reported to law enforcement, a 75% increase from the 569 incidents reported in 2018 and the largest one-year increase for the past 20 years.

The report was released in conjunction with a roundtable discussion on bias and hate crimes among Murphy, Grewal,  U.S. Rep. Andy Kim (D-3rd Dist.) and others — a day after a shooting in Colorado killed 10 and a week after a shooting in Atlanta killed eight, including six Asian women.

Murphy said the shootings in Atlanta showed there is a hate problem in this country.

“And the data we just released in New Jersey shows that we are not immune to it,” he said. “We held a roundtable today because we need to talk about this problem and tackle it head-on. We’re taking the lead through innovative initiatives to allow us to identify the sources of bias and intolerance, and to take the right steps to eradicate hate in our wonderfully diverse state.”

According to the preliminary data of reported incidents:

  • Black individuals were the most frequent targets of bias incidents, with 47% of all reported incidents in 2020 involving anti-Black bias, for a total of 682. This represents an 84% increase over 2019, when 371 such incidents were reported.
  • Anti-Hispanic bias incidents increased 113%, from 48 in 2019 to 102 in 2020.
  • Bias incidents targeting Asian or Pacific Islander individuals increased 82%, from 39 in 2019 to 71 in 2020, which also represents more than a four-fold increase from 2018, when 16 incidents were reported.
  • Bias incidents targeting individuals on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation, or targeting transgender or gender nonconforming individuals, increased 57%, from 148 in 2019 to 232 in 2020.
  • Bias incidents targeting Arab individuals rose 55%, from 20 in 2019 to 31 in 2020.
  • Anti-Islamic incidents increased 30%, from 37 in 2019 to 48 in 2020.
  • Anti-Jewish incidents declined 14% in 2020 compared to 2019, from 345 to 298.

At least some of the increase in reported bias incidents likely reflects significant efforts by New Jersey’s law enforcement community to standardize their reporting practices, build trust with New Jersey’s most vulnerable populations and ensure that all acts of bias reported to local law enforcement are immediately reported to the state, state officials said.

Grewal said everyone should take note of the statistics.

“Today’s reporting should serve as a wake-up call to all of us that we must redouble our efforts to push back against this rising tide of hate and intolerance we’ve been experiencing, not just in our country, but also in the Garden State,” he said. “While the conduct of many of our leaders and the failure of social media platforms to take adequate action have helped fuel this rise, in New Jersey, we are doing all we can to not allow hate to become normalized.

“By raising awareness as we are today and through our increased enforcement and education efforts, I am confident that we will begin to see these alarming trends reverse course.”

Kim, a Korean American who recently tweeted about an experience with bias in his past, said action is needed by everyone.

“The fight to stop Asian hate starts with lifting up Asian voices,” he said. “The pain of discrimination has been felt by so many across our state and country, and last week’s murders were a stark example of the high cost of inaction.

“I want to thank Gov. Murphy and Attorney General Grewal for joining me in lifting up the stories of AAPI New Jerseyans. Being heard is an important step towards healing and towards the solutions we need right now to put an end to these horrible acts.”