Does state’s high rank in bias offenses mean
we’re just better reporters?
This state ranks second only to California in a national tally of hate crimes, but local watchdogs say this is the result of better reporting rather than more crime.
In the FBI’s annual Unified Crime Report, which collects data from law-enforcement agencies across the country, New Jersey police reported 783 bias incident investigations, which resulted in 8’5 target-type bias incident offenses, a 4 percent increase. California ranked first with 1,’97 crimes reported.
At ‘8 percent, or ”9 bias offenses, Jews were the religious group most frequently targeted across the state. This statistic lends credence to an Anti-Defamation League report that ranked New Jersey second in the nation for anti-Semitic incidents in ‘006. New York state ranked No. 1.
"This is a startling statistic for the 46th smallest state," said Etzion Neuer, director of the ADL’s New Jersey office, referring to the UCR and ADL statistics. "We can only speculate as to the reasons, and I would also suggest that there is no one satisfactory response."
Bergen County saw a rise in bias incidents from 39 in ‘005 to 64 in ‘006. Passaic County saw a smaller increase from 1’ in ‘005 to 18 in ‘006, while Hudson County had a decrease from ‘6 in ‘005 to ” in ‘006.
Of the crimes reported statewide, harassment accounted for 41 percent of all bias offenses, while racial bias accounted for 48 percent of all bias crimes. (The difference between a "hate crime" and a "bias crime" is minor and mostly dependent on how different departments report such a crime, according to Capt. Al Della Fave of the New Jersey State Police.)
Neuer offered some suggestions as to why New Jersey’s numbers seem disproportionately high: The state has the fourth largest Jewish population in the country, approximately 400,000, behind New York, California, and Florida; better reporting by police; and a high segregation rate in New Jersey school districts and towns, coupled with diverse populations, that leads to ignorance, intolerance, and, sometimes, contempt.
"We would like to see numbers plummet," Neuer said. "There is no ‘acceptable’ number of hate crimes in New Jersey: One is too many."
Although disconcerting, the numbers do not indicate a growing trend of hate crime in the state, said Della Fave.
"What we tend to believe is the real reason for the extreme numbers is New Jersey is at the forefront of reporting bias and hate crimes," he said. "The attorney general’s office for many years has stressed high levels of training for state and local police to make sure they are well trained in identifying hate crimes and bias offenses."
Neuer said that any rise in hate crimes, as in Bergen County, is "disturbing, and reflects the hate crime problem in America." But, he added, New Jersey is very rigorous in reporting hate crimes and state law-enforcement agencies have emphasized the importance of reporting these crimes.
"If potential victims know a reporting system is in place and see a well-publicized case result in a stiff sentence for the perpetrators, they will be more likely to report a hate crime in the future," he said.
New Jersey police made a total of 151 arrests last year as a result of bias crime, an increase of 68 percent from ‘005.
"Our reporting systems are really outstanding," Della Fave said. "With that increased reporting comes increased numbers. Maybe what we’re seeing is what’s been happening all along."
Failing to report a hate crime is nearly as bad as the offense itself, Neuer said. "Underreporting only serves to encourage perpetrators to continue their bigoted behavior and encourages similar behavior among their associates."
North Jersey has seen a number of recent hate crimes. Earlier this week vandals painted swastikas on businesses, traffic signs, and fences along a stretch of highway in Bloomingdale. In September, three young men were arrested in Clifton on charges of posting signs of swastikas and neo-Nazi slogans on the doors of Cong. Young Israel of Passaic-Clifton. The accused were also suspected of posting fliers of a man with a swastika armband tossing a Star of David into a trashcan. The posters were found in September near the Clifton Jewish Center and near Clifton’s Jewish Memorial Chapel. In October, three nooses were found hanging from a shelf in a Passaic Home Depot store.
"Local chiefs have to look at their municipalities to see where these offenses are happening and address them accordingly," Della Fave said. "Those chiefs now have this added tool to address the problem," he said referring to the crime report breakdowns.
Education remains the No. 1 tool to fight hate crimes, according to the ADL.
"Part of being a good citizen means learning to understand other races and cultures," Neuer said. "We must do a better job of ensuring that hate-crime awareness or diversity curriculums are provided in both elementary and secondary schools."
Bias incidents reported
by religion in ‘006
Against private property
Against public property
Type of bias incidents reported
Cross burning –
In person 361
Bias incidents by county
Bergen 64 39
Hudson ” ‘6
Passaic 18 1′