TRENTON — State officials say bias incidents jumped by 65 percent from 2018 to 2019 — the largest one-year increase in the time the state's been tracking the figures.

According to preliminary data released by Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal's office Monday, there were 944 bias incidents reported to New Jersey law enforcement in 2019. It said the figure is likely to change as numbers are finalized. Officials plan to release final, confirmed Uniform Crime Report data in the spring.

But Grewal said it's the highest number of bias incidents on record since 1996, and the highest year-to-year spike since bias crimes reporting standards were enacted in 1991.

It wasn't clear how much of that jump was connected to improved and increased reporting, after Grewal issued updates to the state's Bias Incident Investigation Standards last year. The updated standards in part streamlined reporting to the Electronic Uniform Crime Reporting maintained by the New Jersey State Police, and Grewal's office noted that may have played a role.

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Even so, he said in a news release, "these preliminary numbers reinforce what we’ve suspected all year, and what too many New Jersey residents know all too well."

“More and more people are alerting law enforcement about acts of hatred and intolerance that target victims based solely on what they look like, how they worship, or who they love," Grewal said. "Now more than ever, we need to come together as a community to confront this rising tide of hate.”

Grewal's office noted the data includes Dec. 10 shootings in Jersey City that resulted in the death of a police officer as well as several civilians in a kosher supermarket. The FBI said Monday the two shooters, who both died in an exchange of gunfire with police, had specifically targeted Jews and law enforcement and had explosive material that could have killed dozens of people.

Grewal said that headline-grabbing attack was "by far the most violent bias incident in New Jersey last year, but it was hardly the only one."

His office next month expects to announce the findings of an inter-agency task force to combat youth bias, formed after a report last year showed increases among juveniles.

The data only includes information reported to law enforcement. The AG's Office cited a report from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics saying more than than half of hate crime victims nationwide from 2011 to 2015 did not report the crimes to the police.

The preliminary 2019 figures do not include detailed data on the incidents, such as location, intended target, or age of the offender.

Jason Shames, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, said the group is deeply troubled by the rise in hate and bias incidents in the Garden State.

"Our office fields calls now all the time. Five years ago, we most definitely didn't," Shames said. "We're frightened to death that society in general has a culture of violence, and it's changed to where it's almost permissible, and people are sort of no longer afraid of what the consequences are for their actions."

But Shames commended law enforcement in the state for "doing everything they can" to protect the Jewish population, and for implementing stringent reporting laws.

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