As hate crimes in New Jersey continue to rise, New Jersey state legislators have passed legislation to help collect data on bias intimidation offenses.
Under current New Jersey law, a person is guilty of a bias intimidation crime if he or she commits, attempts to commit, conspires with another to commit, or threatens the immediate commission of an offense intended to intimidate an individual or group of individuals because of race, color, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, or ethnicity.
The full Assembly voted 79-0 on Monday unanimously advancing legislation that would require the NJ Attorney General to report bias intimidation offenses to the FBI for inclusion in its annual report on hate crimes.
The bill was sponsored by Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson), Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen) and Assemblywoman Carol Murphy (D-Burlington).
According to Chiaravalloti, the bill aims to develop a clear, comprehensive picture of how deeply violence is permeating New Jersey communities.
“By requiring the Attorney General to add bias intimidation statistics to those currently reported to the FBI, this bill simply seeks to expand the pool of data available for analysis,” Chiaravalloti said.
The data made available by the new reporting process would provide a more accurate picture of hate crimes in the Garden State. Having a better understanding of bias intimidation offenses can help the federal government determine the catalyst of the crime and work toward a solution or method of prevention.
Assemblyman Johnson acknowledged that for too many residents, the fear of becoming victim to a bias crime is a daily one. The bill, if signed by the governor, would help law enforcement better protect citizens.
“Under this measure, we hope to address some of the shortcomings of data reporting to better equip law enforcement agencies to protect people and to tackle the rampant culture of violent intolerance that persists,” Johnson said.
Providing this additional data to the FBI would ensure New Jersey does its due diligence to help understand the true scope of the problem at the national level. Assemblywoman Murphy noted the disparity between the number of hate crimes that occur versus the number of hate crimes reported.
The bill would work toward increasing the number of victims who come forward to report bias intimidation offenses.
“The number of crimes motivated by bias and hate all across the country are vastly under-reported, especially when it comes to the targeting of people within the disabled and LGBTQ communities,” Murphy said.
Public health crisis
In the same vein, a resolution declaring violent crimes a public health crisis passed the State Assembly.
According to the FBI, more than one million violent crimes take place throughout the United States each year, including more than 16,000 homicides, and some New Jersey Assembly members have had enough.
Assemblywomen Angela McKnight (D-Hudson), Cleopatra Tucker (D-Essex), and Carol Murphy (D-Burlington) sponsored the resolution that declares violence a public health crisis.
The resolution passed the full Assembly on March 2, with a vote of 74-0-1.
“Violence is so pervasive in our society today that we can tend to normalize it, but we cannot ignore its significance,” the assemblywomen said in a joint statement.
According to the assemblywomen, the constant news of gun violence in our schools, neighborhoods, places of worship leaves many people on edge while desensitizing others to the suffering it causes.
“We will never forget the attack in Jersey City last year that took the lives of four New Jersey residents, and we must not forget the hundreds of lives lost each year to homicide – including those who die from gun violence,” the assemblywomen stated.
The resolution was also inspired by victims of sexual violence.
There are over 433,000 victims of sexual assault in the United States each year. These incidents cultivate an environment of fear that women in particular must live with every day.
“We must bring attention to this statewide issue by declaring violence a public health crisis and continuing to do everything we can to reduce its prevalence,” the assemblywomen continued.
The resolution has been filed with the Secretary of State and will be transmitted to the Commissioner of Health and the Attorney General.
The newly passed bill will head to Acting Governor Sheila Oliver to sign into law.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Dan Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.