Bias incidents in N.J. spiked in 2020, data shows

Posted Mar 23, 2021

There were at least 1,441 bias incidents reported by New Jersey law enforcement agencies last year — a 45 percent increase over 2019, according to preliminary data released by the New Jersey State Police on Tuesday.

“As we were starkly reminded by the horrific shootings last week in Atlanta, our country has a hate problem,” Gov. Phil Murphy said during a roundtable on anti-Asian racism and violence.

“And the data we just released in New Jersey shows that we are not immune to it.”

Attacks against Black New Jerseyans, which make up the largest overall share of incidents in New Jersey, rose sharply, up 84 percent over the previous year, the data shows. Bias incidents targeted at Asians also rose 74 percent last year, up from 39 in 2019 to 68 in 2020.

Spike in bias crimes targeted against Asians have been reported around the country over the last year, with many attributing the rise to anti-Chinese rhetoric related to the coronavirus.

Murphy was joined Tuesday by advocates from the Asian and Jewish communities as well as New Jersey Rep. Andy Kim and state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, both the first Asian men to hold their respective posts in public office.

Both shared personal stories of racism during the roundtable.

Kim, who is Korean-American, shared that one of his own children had what may have been his first brush with ignorance when another student kept calling him “Chinese boy.”

“My five-year-old had no idea what was going on. He told him, ‘I’m a New Jersey boy,’” Kim said. “How innocent and beautiful is that? But it broke my heart as a father.”

Grewal, an Indian-American Sikh who was born in New Jersey, said “not a day went by in my childhood that I wasn’t singled out or harassed because of my appearance or for the color of my skin, that I wasn’t told to go back where I came from.”

Bias crime data has historically been flawed, and it’s unclear how much of the spike can be attributed to better reporting practices in New Jersey, where local departments report statistics regularly to the State Police and the Attorney General’s Office, which produces an annual report analyzing trends.

Experts who study bias crimes, however, say poor reporting practices and fear of law enforcement by marginalized communities contribute to a likely undercount.

The new data, breaking down reported bias incidents across 34 categories, shows anti-Hispanic bias incidents increased 113 percent, from 48 in 2019 to 102 in 2020. Anti-semitic incidents, which make up more than a third of all reported crimes in the state, fell 15 percent, from 345 in 2019 to 298 in 2020.

Grewal said Thursday that his office would begin releasing bias incident statistics, which are generally released annually, on a monthly basis starting in April.

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-03-24 03:31:04 -0700