The city of Eugene released its eighth annual hate and bias report Wednesday, which recorded 15 fewer incidents than in 2018. But the actual number could be higher.
In 2019, 66 bias crimes and non-criminal incidents were reported to the city through its Office of Human Rights and Neighborhood Involvement, or HRNI, and the Eugene Police Department. Of those, 48 were categorized as hate crimes and 18 as non-criminal incidents. In 2018, 81 cases were reported. Of those, 47 were criminal and 34 were non-criminal cases. This is an 18% decrease in reported hate and bias activity, due to the decline in reported non-criminal cases.
The city defines bias crimes to include “all classes of crime motivated by prejudice that is based on actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. Non-criminal incidents are acts of hate which are based on actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability, but by nature do not raise to the level of crime by definition.”
Residents who have experienced a hate crime can report the incident through Office of Human Rights and Neighborhood Involvement or the Eugene Police Department. HNRI then collects statistical information, as well as criminal and non-criminal hate and bias activity, and provides people and the community with support in response to a hate and bias. Activity.
The police department takes reports, provides alerts to HRNI and city officials, and investigates criminal activity.
The results indicate race and ethnicity continues to be the leading motivating factor for reported hate and bias activity in 2019. African Americans were the group most affected by the crimes of physical violence and intimidation, as well as the primary targets of noncriminal incidents. The Jewish community was the main target of criminal vandalism, which includes graffiti containing hate messages.
Of the 21 reported race-related hate crimes, 17 were committed against Black and African American community members, and nine were committed against Jewish community members.
“The Jewish community was the main target of vandalism, and African Americans were the group most effected by physical violence and discrimination,” Mayor Lucy Vinis said at a press conference on Wednesday at the Mims Historic House. “In short, this report confirms what we have heard in the Black Lives Matter protests this year. African Americans, who comprise less than 2% of our population, were subjected to almost one-third of all reported hate and bias crimes.”
For comparison, in 2018, the Latino/Hispanic community and LGBTQ community members were the groups most impacted in non-criminal incidents. Reported hate crimes against LGBTQ+ community members were significantly lower in 2019.
Fabio Andrade, the human rights and equity analyst for the Eugene Office of Human Rights and Neighborhood Involvement, said the geographic distribution of hate and bias cases did not change from previous years.
“We have a concentration of cases in the central neighborhoods—those downtown, [in the] Whiteaker, and Jefferson Westside,” Andrade said. “We also have some cases surrounding high schools.”
But many community members of color have said they do not feel comfortable reporting incidents of hate because they don’t trust law enforcement, or they fear backlash from community members. So the actual number of hate and bias activity could be even higher. According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s 2017 Crime Victimization Survey, 54% of hate crimes nationally were not reported to police from 2011-2015.
Joel Iboa with the Eugene Human Rights Commission said the number of reported incidents could have been higher if we weren’t in a pandemic.
“As COVID-19 has ravaged our community, as people are supposed to [shelter] in place at home, we see that this year we only had one more hate crime than we did last year,” said Iboa. “Even though we’re supposed to be staying at home. What would that number look like had we not all be forced to quarantine? I can guarantee you that it would be much, much higher.”
In a press release, Andrade wrote that the number of hate crimes and discrimination has decreased due to residents and community organizations supporting others, and voicing opposition to groups promoting hate and bigotry.
But Andrade wrote more work needs to be done to prevent an increase in hate activity in next year’s report.
“We believe that awareness of the issue and our reporting system is increasing,” Andrade wrote. “It is the second consecutive year that we report a decline in the number of reported cases, which is something positive. Unfortunately, preliminary numbers for 2020 indicate a reversal of that trend. We are expecting an increase in the number of cases in the next annual report. This illustrates the need for sustained work to promote actions that demonstrate that everyone belongs in our city.”
Many speakers at Wednesday’s press conference, including Vinis, said confronting hate in the community should be a community-wide effort.
“By the time a situation needs a police officer, we should ask ourselves how we as a society failed that person or that group of people that led to that moment,” said Vinis. “It’s up to all of us to reflect on our own implicit, as well as explicit biases, and to look at our increasingly diverse community through a new lens. A lens that sees people for the value they bring to our community.”