NJ lawmakers proposing online, searchable hate crimes registry
TRENTON – A group of lawmakers is drafting a proposal to create a searchable online registry of people convicted of hate crimes in New Jersey.
The bill is a work in progress and can’t be formally introduced until the Legislature is back in session, which is likely to be in November given the typical election-year calendar.
The suggestion originated with Burlington County Sheriff Anthony Basantis and comes in the wake of repeated racist outbursts by a Mount Laurel man, including in a viral video that led to bias intimidation charges and culminated in an angry protest outside his home last month.
Assemblywoman Carol Murphy, D-Burlington, who lives in Mount Laurel, said the public wants a say on what happens in their neighborhood. She said acts of hatred and discrimination are not going to be tolerated whether aimed at a person’s race, religion or sexual orientation.
“This is for public information. This is for you to know who it is that’s living next door to you and if they have a conviction, just like Megan’s Law,” Murphy said.
The registry would be operated by the state attorney general’s office, with information supplied by county prosecutors. It would apply to convictions, not charges. Murphy said it would apply to people with a single conviction for a hate crime, though the original announcement of the pending bill said it would apply to defendants who have more than one conviction for a hate crime in the state.
County prosecutors would have to submit information concerning hate crime offenders within 30 days of their conviction including: name and aliases; date and location of disposition; brief description of the offense; general description of the offender’s modus operandi; age, race, sex, date of birth, height, weight, eye color and any distinguishing scars or tattoos; photograph of the offender; make, model, color, year and license plate for any vehicle the offender operates; and the street address at which the offender resides.
Murphy said it’s for people to know information about who is in their neighborhood – not to encourage vigilantes.
“If you’re only using this database to commit the crime yourself or to target those folks, that’s not going to be tolerated either,” she said.
The sponsors of the planned bill also include Sen. Troy Singleton and Assemblyman Herb Conaway, both D-Burlington.
According to the New Jersey State Police’s Bias Incident Report for 2020, there were 1,441 incidents in which there was a suspected or confirmed violation of New Jersey’s bias intimidation statute.
Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at email@example.com.