EUGENE, Ore. - The 2017 Hate and Bias Report revealed that reported hate and bias crimes and incidents have nearly doubled since 2016.
City staff said 139 bias crimes and incidents were reported this last year along with 87 hate crimes and incidents. They found that race is still the biggest contributing factor to these incidents, and that out of the 87 reported hate crimes and incidents, 25 were committed against African Americans. They also saw a rise in crimes related to religion, specifically the Jewish community.
"People don't feel safe, and it's simply unacceptable that people living in our community should not feel safe," said Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis.
Mayor Vinis did say that some of the increase in these numbers does come from different ways of reporting and qualifying the incidents. For example, graffiti with offensive symbols, like a swastika, would factor into the number. However, she said that shouldn't deter people from realizing that the rising number is an issue. She said she believes it comes mostly from living in a time where people are feeling empowered in expressing their hate.
Eugene Police said they now include hate and bias incidents in their training. They make sure officers can identify if a situation involves an element of hate or bias, and then act accordingly.
"It's important for the safety of all of our community, and all the members of our community to feel safe in the community, and be able to report these things and understand that we're paying attention to them in a meaningful manner," said Lt. David Natt with the Eugene Police Department.
In response to the large number of incidents, two organizations with the City of Eugene have joined forces to make sure all incidents get reported and all people feel safe in reporting, because they do think the comfortability of people reporting also had something to do with the large number. Eugene Police Department and the Human Rights and Neighborhood Involvement team came together to both be a source for reporting and to put on the Hate and Bias forum.
The forum took place on Saturday, March 10, at the UO Knight Law Center. It featured three panels: a panel of law enforcement, a panel of resources for those who do encounter these crimes and incidents, and a community panel for people to share their personal experiences.
Staff with the city said this forum is extremely important because it gives people the opportunity to find resources and it lets the community know this is still an ongoing issue.
"I just want to make it apparent to everyone that hatred and bigotry does exist in our community, and it's not welcome here," said Katie Babits with Human Rights and Neighborhood Involvement.