You rarely see federal officials trying to communicate with you via pizza box or banner plane.

But a concerning spike in the number of hate crimes has prompted the Federal Bureau of Investigation to resort to an unconventional campaign in order to reach the public.

"We're using this campaign to encourage anyone who has been a victim of those crimes to report it so we can solve it, and hold the offenders accountable," said James Dennehy, special agent-in-charge of the Newark FBI.

Dennehy said New Jersey registered a 12% spike in hate crimes between 2021 and 2022. But it's believed the actual number of biased incidents that occur is much higher than the number of crimes that are reported to authorities.

"We know it's an underreported crime for many reasons," Dennehy said. "People may fear coming forward, they may not think what happened to them was a hate crime, or they don't believe anyone will care."

Hate crimes are a federal violation, and the FBI investigates when they're made aware of an incident.

The FBI says hate crimes are not only an attack on the victim — they are meant to threaten and intimidate an entire community. A hate crime is a traditional offense with an added element of bias against a race, religion, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability.

The most frequent targets, Dennehy said, are the Black community, Jewish community, and LGBTQ+ community.

"Bottom line: Silence Won't Solve a Hate Crime. Report it." is the message running with ads throughout New Jersey. The FBI is using digital billboards, NJ Transit buses, Facebook, and pizza boxes to get the message across. Over the holiday weekend, plane banners with the message were flown along the shore from Sandy Hook to Cape May.

If you believe you are a victim or a witness of a hate crime, you can report it by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI or online using this page.

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