TRENTON – Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and the Division on Civil Rights announced today the launch of the Community Peacemaker Collaborative, a new initiative designed to respond to the rise in bias and hate in New Jersey, including the significant uptick in antisemitism and Islamophobia in recent months.

The Community Relations Unit will fund the intitiative through a $347,000 four-year federal grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Program.

The Community Peacemaker Collaborative will train local community members to de-escalate conflict in their communities in response to bias incidents. The new initiative seeks to prevent and respond to bias incidents by training community and student leaders across all 21 counties on best practices for responding to bias incidents and conflict resolution techniques.

“In New Jersey, we will not stand idly by as the rise in bias and hate threatens the safety and security of our residents. Our diversity is our strength, and we remain steadfast in our commitment to ensuring that all New Jerseyans can live without fear,” Platkin said in a release. “The Division on Civil Rights has worked hard to increase awareness of the harm caused by bias and hate incidents, to educate the public about ways to respond to these incidents when they do happen, and importantly, to implement strategies to prevent incidents from occurring in the first place. The initiative announced today builds on that important work, providing even more tools for us – and every New Jerseyan – to combat bias.”

“Hate tears at the fabric of our communities, and it makes our residents feel less safe. Unfortunately, in recent months, we have witnessed an alarming increase in bias incidents, and particularly in bias targeting our Jewish and Muslim communities,” Division on Civil Rights Director Sundeep Iyer said. “So we must continue to develop innovative public education and enforcement strategies to protect New Jerseyans from bias and hate. We know that there is much more work to do to fight the rise in bias and hate across our state, and our office is committed to using every lever at our disposal – and working collaboratively with our law enforcement partners – as part of the fight.”

According to preliminary data compiled by the New Jersey State Police that is available for review on the Office of Justice Data’s new Bias Incident Dashboard, there was a total of 2,699 bias incidents reported to law enforcement agencies across New Jersey in 2023, a 22% increase compared to 2022. As in past years, the preliminary 2023 data shows that anti-Black and anti-Jewish bias remained the most common race- and religion-based motivations for reported bias incidents. Although these statistics are subject to change while reporting is finalized, the increase in bias incidents underscores the critical importance of taking a multipronged approach to eradicating hate and bias in New Jersey.

The Community Peacemaker Collaborative adds an important new tool in the state’s efforts to combat bias and hate. Other actions include comprehensive efforts to address bias incidents in K-12 schools and on college and university campuses, to use civil and criminal enforcement authority to respond to bias and hate, and to engage in public education, training, and outreach across New Jersey.  

More information about the Department’s ongoing efforts to combat bias and hate can be found here. 

Members of the public are encouraged to report bias incidents via the NJBIAS online portal at https://bias.njcivilrights.gov, to their local police departments, or by calling 800-277-BIAS. 

Anyone interested in learning more about the Community Peacemaker Collaborative or in participating in the program can contact DCR’s Community Relations Unit at [email protected].

Categories: State of NJ

Nanette LoBiondo Galloway

Award winning journalist covering news, events and people of Atlantic County for more than 20 years.