Certain bias acts would see increased penalties, under legislation introduced to combat a rise in hate crimes and online harassment.

Assemblyman Gary Schaer, D-Passaic, is behind a package of bills that focuses on acts of hate on college campuses, in schools, at houses of worship, and online.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, New Jersey recorded a 30-year high for the number of antisemitic incidents in 2022. And the trend was exacerbated in the aftermath of the early October 2023 Hamas attacks on Israel.

Through the first 11 months of 2023, police departments across New Jersey recorded 2,477 bias incidents, according to the New Jersey State Police. The total through all of 2022 was 2,178.

"We need to put safeguards in place immediately to protect our residents in everyday life as well as online," Schaer said. "It is my hope that these bills will not only make New Jersey a safer place to live, but will also set an example for the rest of the country and the world."

Assemblyman Schaer's crime bills

One of Schaer's measures would create specific penalties for swatting incidents, aka false alarms, that involve a church, synagogue, temple, or other place of worship. The bill, A3560, establishes a second-degree offense for such an act, punishable by a prison term of 5 to 10 years, and/or a fine of up to $150,000.

The act of doxxing — knowingly disclosing the personal information of someone online, without their consent, in order to subject them to violence or intimidation, would be officially recognized as a crime, under another measure from Schaer.

The bill, A3561, would make doxxing a crime of the fourth degree. It would become a third-degree crime if the act results in serious harm for someone.

A third bill seeks clarity more than punishment. Under A3558, New Jersey would adopt a statewide definition of antisemitism. The bill would also appropriate $100,000 for the creation of a public awareness campaign to promote bias crime reporting.

According to Schaer, the same definition of antisemitism is shared by dozens of states in the U.S., as well as the U.S. Department of State, and a number of countries in Europe.

"You can't fight a crime if you can't define the crime," Schaer said. "This bill does that."

Top 30 schools most violent schools in New Jersey

These are the schools in New Jersey with the highest rates of violence. The rankings are based on the annual School Performance Reports for the 2021-22 school year. New Jersey 101.5 ranked the schools based on the rate of reported violent incidents per 100 students. Schools with enrolment less than 100 are excluded.

Gallery Credit: New Jersey 101.5

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