NEW YORK (JTA) — A New Jersey teenager was charged with multiple counts of bias intimidation after he allegedly tried to lure Orthodox women as part of a gang initiation.
Police said Rafael Laurano-Flores, 18, of Lakewood had planned to touch and knock down an Orthodox Jewish woman in the southern New Jersey township, according to the Asbury Park Press. Lakewood has a large haredi Orthodox population.
Pinny Werner, coordinator of the Lakewood Civilian Safety Watch, told the newspaper, “We have not seen gang-related targeting in a long time. People are like, ‘What is going on?’ It has always been gang against gang, but now we don’t know if this is some kind of ‘knockout game’ or what.”
The Anti-Defamation League’s New Jersey Regional Office issued a statement saying it was “incredibly disheartened to learn of this tragic instance where people were allegedly targeted because of their religion and gender.”
“Hate crimes have an impact far beyond the individual victim of the crime. When a victim is chosen because of his or her religion and gender, other members of those groups feel unsafe and unwelcome,” it said.
The ADL statement also “applauds the quick and responsive work of the Lakewood Police Department” in apprehending Laurano-Flores and charging him on Tuesday.