There are already just as many hate and bias crimes reported in Portland in the first four months of 2017 as there were in all of 2016, according to the Portland Police Bureau. That includes the racially motivated attack on a MAX train that left two people dead.
But fear of reporting crimes to police among immigrants and communities of color could mean that number is even higher.
Cue Portland United Against Hate, which began as a community conversation around the uptick in racially motivated hate crimes in Portland. Now $350,000 in grants have been allocated to the group and the Office of Neighborhood Involvement to help community members track, respond to and prevent hate crimes themselves.
The grant money would allow community groups to create a central place to document hate crimes. The money also aims to help organizations develop the capacity to respond to bias and hate crimes through tasks such as community awareness-building.
Portland Commissioner Chloe Eudaly is in charge of the office running the grant program. She says the idea behind the program is to make sure the groups affected by hate crimes are represented in efforts to track them.
“Obviously that’s going to be the Muslim community, the Latino community, LGBTQ community, African-Americans and other communities of color,” Eudaly said. “These are groups that are always at risk. But we now have an administration that seems to be fomenting fear and prejudice and anger toward them.”
But that fear is also reciprocated. Eudaly says the idea behind the grants is to give communities of color a safe place to report hate crimes.
“Unfortunately, I think [the] primary issue there is many members of these various communities may not feel comfortable coming forward to the police,” she said,” especially immigrants and refugees who feel their immigration status could put them at risk, or groups such as the African-American community who have historic and ongoing issues with police bureau.”
Eudaly says priority will go to groups considered most at-risk. Applications for the grants close August 14.