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Report: Hate And Bias Crimes Increase In Eugene, Race Remains Top Motivator

Eugene documented 70 percent more reports of hate and bias activity in 2017 compared to the year before, according to the city’s sixth annual hate and bias crime report, and race remains the leading motivating factor behind such activity.

According to the report, 139 bias crimes and non-criminal incidents were reported in Eugene in 2017. That’s compared to 82 crimes in 2016 and 59 in 2015. Such reports include bias crimes motivated by prejudice based on actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

“For Eugene to be truly safe, vibrant and welcoming for all, it is essential to continue to provide support to victims of bias activity and to develop and implement strategies to reduce this activity and the underlying attitudes that perpetuate it,” said Katie Babits, a human rights and equity analyst with the Office of Human Rights and Neighborhood Involvement.

“We are proud to partner with organizations to proactively educate and provide resources in response to this type of activity. As a community we can act in solidarity to send a message that this behavior is not welcome in Eugene.”

In 2017, 87 hate crimes were reported to the Eugene Police Department — a nearly 100 percent increase since 2016. According to police data, vandalism replaced intimidation as the most common hate crime charge, and race remains the leading motivating factor of such crimes. Reports of vandalism involved swastikas; racist, homophobic and transphobic slurs; and white nationalist recruitment material.

A Eugene police officer at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Track And Field Trials at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, on Sunday, July 3, 2016.

A Eugene police officer at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Track And Field Trials at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, on Sunday, July 3, 2016.

Bradley W. Parks/OPB

The report attributes the rise in hate and bias incidents to a possible combination of factors that involve both the victims and perpetrators of such incidents. The report notes the increase could be due to the fact that perpetrators feel more emboldened to act on feelings of hate, while victims feel more empowered to report such incidents to ensure they’re being documented. Though, it’s widely understood that hate and bias crimes remain largely undocumented. The Eugene report notes that, nationally, only 25 to 42 percent of hate crimes are actually reported to police.

Still, the numbers out of Eugene are in line with nationwide trends that indicate an uptick in hate and bias crimes in America. FBI statistics showed hate crimes rose 4.6 percent in 2016 compared to 2015, with more than half of those incidents being motivated by the victim’s race.

In Eugene, African-Americans are significantly over-represented as victims of hate and bias crimes. Of the 31 reported race-related hate crimes, 25 were committed against African-Americans.

Additionally, crimes motivated by bias against religion more than doubled since 2016. The Jewish community was targeted 15 out of 19 reported crimes motivated by religion. Incidents involving physical violence rose slightly from 10 incidents in 2016 to 12 in 2017. People of color and members of the LGBTQ community were the primary targets of physical violence.

The report was compiled through a collaboration between the city, the Office of Human Rights and Neighborhood Involvement and the Eugene Police Department.

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