New Jersey saw 22% increase in bias incidents in 2023, data shows

  • Reports of bias incidents in New Jersey increased 22 percent last year, based on data released by Attorney General Matt Platkin's office.
  • In 2023, reports to law enforcement increased to 2,699 from 2,221 the previous year, with a 17% year-over-year increase observed in 2022 and 2021.
  • From 2021 to 2023, 217 people were charged with partisan intimidation in the state, according to Attorney General Matt Platkin.

Reports in New Jersey of incidents of bias — such as anti-Semitism and anti-Black behavior, among others — increased 22 percent last year, according to preliminary data released Thursday by the attorney general.

Attorney General Matt Platkin's office released unofficial data for 2023 that saw reports to law enforcement climb to 2,699 from 2,221 the previous year, as well as an analysis for 2022 and 2021 that showed a 17% year-over-year increase.

The number of incidents recorded in 2022 is the highest the state has seen since record-keeping began about 30 years ago.

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“We're seeing a real rise in prejudice and hatred in the state. It's not something we take lightly. And we're using every tool available to prevent it,” Platkin said during the a telephone interview.

Matt Platkin

New Jersey Attorney General Matt Platkin speaks during a news conference at his office, December 12, 2023, in Trenton, New Jersey. Reports in New Jersey of bias incidents increased 22 percent last year, according to data released Thursday by the Advocate. general. (AP Photo/Mike Catalini, file)

The data reflects reports the public makes to police across the state, including state police, alleging hate crimes or other incidents of bias against legally protected classes, including race , religion and sex. Incidents include racist graffiti, threats or actual physical violence.

This increase stems from a number of factors, according to Platkin. Among them are increased awareness of communities encouraging such reporting, he said. But the increase also mirrors trends seen in other states, and nationally, with higher reports of hate crimes in particular. The FBI, for example, reported last year that hate crimes increased nearly 12% in 2021. It also cited political divisions, the spread of misinformation on social media and backlash to protests that followed the murder of George Floyd in 2020.

The most recent figures available in New Jersey show that anti-Black and anti-Jewish bias were the most common race- and religion-based reasons for reporting, mirroring trends in previous years. Anti-Black incidents accounted for 34% of all bias motivations, while anti-Jewish bias motivated 22%, according to the attorney general's office.

The past year also saw a rise in anti-Muslim and anti-Arab prejudice, according to the data. Reports of anti-Muslim incidents rose from 61 to 107, while anti-Arab incidents reached 78 last year, up from 46 in 2022. Platkin highlighted Hamas' attack on Israel on October 7 as a likely factor in these reports.

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Platkin also said Thursday that his office launched an online data dashboard aimed at providing the public with information on bias incident statistics across the state.

From 2021 to 2023, 217 people were charged with partisan intimidation in the state, Platkin said.

“While we cannot accuse anyone of a crime or hold someone personally responsible, we can see alarming trends and deploy resources to hopefully prevent incidents of bias from occurring in first place,” he said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey called the trends “troubling” and praised the attorney general for creating the online portal.

“We can't solve the problem if we don't understand the magnitude of it,” said Jim Sullivan, deputy political director of the state's ACLU chapter.

He also called on lawmakers to develop policies that support targeted communities.

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