🔴 One business was vandalized while another was threatened over the phone

🔴 It's not yet known if the cases are connected

🔴 Hate crimes can be reported to the Attorney General hotline at 800-277-2427 (BIAS)


WEST ORANGE — Two incidents of bias vandalism are under investigation in an Essex County community by Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore N. Stephens II.

The first incident happened between 7:25 p.m. Wednesday, July 12 and 7:13 a.m. Thursday, July 13 at Harper's Cafe on Valley Road when smashed the glass of the front door. Black paint was also smeared across the front window and paint was poured onto two pride banners that had been hanging outside the restaurant.

A brick was thrown through the front window of Harper's Thursday night.

Also on Thursday someone called a photo studio and asked the owner if she was Black because her hair was in braids. When she replied that she was Hispanic the caller threatened harm on her business if she did not move to another neighborhood.

"The Essex County Prosecutor's Office will not tolerate bias of any kind whether it's religious, whether it's sexual orientation. Any kind, there's no place for that," Stephens said.

Vandalism to Harper's Cafe in West Orange
Vandalism to Harper's Cafe in West Orange (Essex County Prosecutor's Office)

Hate not tolerated in Essex County

Stephens cited recent success with the arrest of a Clifton man in connection with the attempted firebombing in January of Temple Ner Tamid in Clifton.

"We want to make it clear that this is not the sort of thing that we're going to tolerate. We will turn over every stone as we did then to make sure we bring those individuals to justice," Stephens said.

The prosecutor said that it's not known if the same person is responsible for all three incidents are connected and all possibilities are under consideration. Stephens would not say if surveillance video offers a clear view of a possible suspect.

"Everything is on the table. We're looking at all leads at this point. It's too early to give any indication as to where that investigation is going," Stephens said.

Vandalism to Harper's Cafe in West Orange
Vandalism to Harper's Cafe in West Orange (Essex County Prosecutor's Office)

Help from the public

Assistant Prosecutor Roger Imhof said the public's help is also needed to help prosecute this and other bias cases because many incidents have at night making it difficult for surveillance videos to pick up clear images.

"If somebody's driving by and they see something or they hear something or know something reach out to the tipline. Reach out to law enforcement. You can do it anonymously but we need the public's help in combating this hatred," Imhof said.

The state Attorney General tipline is 800-277-2427 (BIAS).

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