The COVID-19 pandemic has caused heightened anxiety about public health and the economy as well as a big spike in white supremacist activity in the Garden State.

Jared Maples, the director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, says the state's white supremacist threat level has been raised from moderate to high.

“We did that based off of our intelligence collection and what we are analyzing throughout the state as a threat,” he said. “We’ve seen a dramatic uptick in recruiting, flyering, all the different behaviors you see. White supremacist groups in particular are taking advantage of this for anti-Semitic tropes, anti-Asian tropes.”

He said these groups are trying to foment violence.

“They are definitely trying to incite people to go off and commit an attack based off of the coronavirus and the blame they associate with the Jewish community, and the Asian community in some regards as well," he said.  “With the anti-Asian inspired rhetoric you’re seeing from the white supremacy groups, they’re blaming them for the actual virus itself and the spread.”

He said white supremacist groups will typically blame Jewish people for any problem that comes up in the world.

“This is really just an example of that, an add-on to their normal rhetoric," he said about the groups' pandemic messaging.

He said several white supremacist groups are using the pandemic to try and push what is termed accelerationism.

“The idea that this white supremacy, white power, will reign throughout and that a disease like COVID will accelerate that process,” he said.

He said if you get a white supremacist email, see something posted online or notice a flyer to call 1-866-4-SAFE-NJ or email tips@njohsp.gov.

He stressed notifying authorities of white supremacist messages is important.

“Please report it; let us know and we’ll handle that in a way that’s respectful of everyone’s rights — that’s important to this process as well but we won’t tolerate that hate, we won’t tolerate the criminal act.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com