Oregon Hate Crimes Increase

Photo: ODOT

Photo: ODOT

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum last night received the second annual report from the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission (CJC) on 2020 data on hate crimes and bias incidents in Oregon. In total, 1,101 reports were made to the Oregon DOJ Bias Response Hotline (Hotline) in 2020--a 134% surge in reporting in the second half of 2020. In addition, 377 bias crimes were reported to Oregon law enforcement agencies in 2020, indicating a 38% surge in reporting from 2019.

Most reports to the Hotline related to race-based targeting, primarily of Black and African American people. Reports of anti-Asian bias also surged paralleling the beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic, the protests following the George Floyd killing, and the National election.

“We are grateful to the CJC for this report which gives us a better understanding of the hate crimes and bias incidents Oregonians are experiencing throughout the state,” said Attorney General Rosenblum. “By having stronger data about these incidents, we are able to better respond and support victims of hate and bias. We know there are parts of Oregon with significant barriers to getting support--and we are on a mission to change that in those communities.”

The CJC’s report is statutorily required to be delivered to the Oregon legislature and the Attorney General by July 1 of each year. The data used for the report came from Oregon DOJ’s Bias Response Hotline, the Oregon State Police, three district attorneys’ offices, the Law Enforcement Data System and Oregon eCourt data system.

Key findings in 2020:

The Oregon DOJ’s hotline received 1,101 total reports. For reports from May 1 through December 31, 2020 when the Hotline began tracking response time, 26% of reports were responded to immediately, 69% were responded to within a day, and all but one was responded to within a week.

From May 1 through December 31, 2020 when the Hotline began tracking information on referrals and services provided to victims, hotline advocates made 2,001 contacts with victims to provide emotional support and crisis intervention. Hotline advocates also made 684 referrals to services, and engaged in individual advocacy 701 times.

From July 1 through December 31, 2020, Multnomah County, Lane County, and Benton County collected prosecution data. In those three counties, there were a total of 31 bias crimes referred for consideration of criminal prosecution by law enforcement agencies.

Of those 31 referrals, 27 cases were filed as bias crimes, and 16 have been indicted as Bias Crime in the First Degree felonies. However, 18 of those cases remain open awaiting trial or adjudication.

Statewide data from the Law Enforcement Data System (LEDS) indicate that in 2020 there were 78 arrests with a charge of Bias Crime in the First Degree (ORS 166.165) or Bias Crime in the Second Degree (ORS 166.155).

According to statewide data from the Oregon DOC, 18 defendants were convicted of a Bias Crime in the First or Second Degree in 2020. Of those, 17 were sentenced to probation, and 1 received a prison sentence.

CJC Recommendations:

Increased staffing for DOJ’s hotline.

More training for law enforcement to ensure that bias crimes and incidents are properly reported, investigated and prosecuted, and that victims are referred to appropriate services.

Continued efforts to educate the community about Oregon’s bias crime laws, the Hotline and the resources available to victims and survivors.

In 2019, following the recommendations of the Attorney General’s Task Force on Hate Crimes, the Oregon legislature updated Oregon’s hate and bias crimes laws for the first time in over 20 years and established a new requirement for a hotline. As a result, Oregon DOJ launched its statewide Bias Response Hotline staffed by trained advocates in January 2020. A victim or witness of a bias incident or a hate crime can call the Hotline to report an incident, connect with trained staff, or receive a referral to community services or law enforcement.

The 2021 Oregon legislature built upon its work from 2019 and recently adopted the definition of gender identity that appears in the new hate crimes law. This update clarifies the definitions of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” throughout Oregon law. Now, in addition to being a class of persons protected from hate crimes, gender identity is listed as a distinct protected class in anti-discrimination laws related to housing, employment, public accommodations, education, and health care.

To address one of the CJC’s recommendations, the Oregon legislature this year provided additional funding to support the work of DOJ’s Civil Rights Unit and provide more Hotline staff and resources.

Hotline Contact Information:

Any victim or witness of a bias incident or a hate crime can visit www.StandAgainstHate.Oregon.Gov or call Oregon DOJ’s Bias Response Hotline at 1-844-924-BIAS (2427). The Hotline accepts all Relay calls and has access to 240+ interpreters) to report an incident and talk with trained staff.

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