Law enforcement agencies in Oregon documented a 59% increase in reports of hate crimes last year.
In Oregon, hate crimes rose from 170 incidents in 2019 to 271 incidents in 2020, according to data the FBI collected from law enforcement agencies across the state. The number of victims climbed to roughly 360 last year, up from approximately 242 in 2019. Because of the way the FBI collects the data, a small number victims can be counted more than once if the perpetrator committed the crime because they perceived the victim to to be part of multiple protected classes.
Nationally, reports of hate crimes rose to their highest levels in more than a decade.
“They reflect likely both an increase in reporting as well as an increase incidents,” said Kiran Ramsey, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Portland field office.
The FBI defines hate crimes as “a criminal offense motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias or biases against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender or gender identity.”
The increase came even as slightly fewer Oregon law enforcement agencies in total reported hate crimes. Last year, 207 of the 234 law enforcement agencies submitted data to the FBI, fewer than in 2019.
Ramsey said U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has tasked all FBI special agents in charge nationwide with reaching out to any local law enforcement agencies who are not reporting. He said the FBI is trying to increase reporting of bias incidents because they’re under reported.
“We’re trying to do so with great speed because we recognize the damage that this does to the victims, to the families and really the fabric of our community,” Ramsey said. “Hate crimes are on the rise across the country and Oregon is no exception.”
The Oregon Department of Justice tracks both non-criminal bias incidents, as well as hate crimes. Last year, the agency received 1,099 reports, a monthly average of roughly 91 bias incidents and crimes. So far in 2021, it’s received 565 reports, with a monthly average of approximately 141 bias incidents and crimes.
According to the FBI’s data, most of the hate crimes in Oregon targeted people because of their race or ethnicity. Black people accounted for roughly one-third of the victims.
Other motivators behind bias crimes included religion, sexual orientation and gender identity.
In Oregon, religion was the motivator in about 10% of cases, with victims who were perceived as Jewish targeted most often.
According to the FBI’s collection, sexual orientation was the motivator in about 10% of reported incidents in the state, while gender identity was the case in 3% of incidents.
Anyone with information about a hate crime can call the Oregon Department of Justice’s non-emergency Bias Response Hotline at 1-844-924-BIAS (1-844-924-2427), the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI, or report online at tips.fbi.gov.