In Newark, Summit Event Brings Officials, Community Leaders Together to Tackle Bias Crime

Hamm’s plea, which was met mostly with applause from the crowd, was just one of many suggestions community leaders and elected officials brought to the table at the summit event. The event, which was hosted by New Jersey Acting Attorney General Matt Platkin, featured keynote speakers, several panel discussions, and Q&A session to discuss what can be done to address violent acts of hate and bias in New Jersey.

In New Jersey, crimes against certain persons and/or groups that were motivated by factors such as race, religion sexual orientation or gender have happened on a scale that has leaders concerned. 

In 2020, officials from the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program announced that 267 of 485 recorded hate crime incidents were racially motivated. Additionally, 62 incidents were motivated by sexual orientation.

This data troubled many elected officials and leaders at the summit including Gov. Phil Murphy.

“I am also greatly concerned by the increase in instances of bias against members of our LGBTQIA+ community, particularly the transgender community and even more so against trans youth,” Murphy said.

These types of incidents against LGBTQ+ hit close to home right in the state’s largest city where the summit was held.

In April 2020, Ashley Moore, a transgender woman, was found dead outside the YMCA in Newark. In 2017, a student at East Side High School who identified as transgender was attacked by a group of students in the hallway. The attack, which was caught on video, was investigated as an alleged bias crime. All students involved were suspended, with one senior student facing criminal charges.

Today, bias crime still impacts Newark.

In fact, there was a slight increase in bias crime incidents reported in Newark between 2020 and 2021. In 2020, Newark Police received 11 reports of bias crimes, according to Newark Police data. In 2021, the department received 16 reports of bias crimes. To date, five reports have been recorded this year, according to data.

When it comes to combating bias crime, multiple community stakeholders engaged in a panel discussion at the summit, offering suggestions on how to respond and react to these incidents. One of the panelists, Richard Robinson, who chairs the NAACP’s Newark chapter, said improvements need to be carried out in several key areas, particularly policing.

In Newark, years of alleged civil rights abuses and unconstitutional police practices by the Newark Police Department were put in the spotlight which led to an investigation headed by the U.S. Department of Justice. Subsequently, the DOJ entered into a consent decree with the city in 2016. The court order required the city’s police department to undertake various reforms and training.

Various improvements in the department’s policing have been reported since, including an increase in administration training and more engagement with the LGBTQ+ community. However, Robinson noted that bias crime still lingers in the community.

“The Newark Police Department is heading in the right direction under the leadership of Public Safety Director Brian O’Hara, but just because they’re doing things the right way, the way they should be with good intentions, doesn’t mean that people aren’t being victimized,” Robinson said during the panel discussion.

Other suggestions to combat bias offered by the panelists included robust reporting of bias incidents, bystander intervention training, and more ethnic representation in government and community organizations to better reflect the communities they serve.

Robinson called for more communication between social justice organizations and law enforcement. 

“There’s still work to be done, and that comes from partnerships,” he said. “Know your law enforcement in your particular area. If you don’t them, I will help you get to know them.”

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published this page in News and Politics 2022-06-22 02:26:09 -0700