On Aug. 19, the City of Eugene released it’s ninth annual Hate and Bias Report, which showed a jump in both reported hate crimes and non-criminal bias incidents in 2020 – as well as the number of violent incidents.
The report, co-authored by the Office of Human Rights and Neighborhood Involvement (HNRI) and the Eugene Police Department, says that 93 hate and bias incidents were reported in Eugene last year, up from 66 last year.
That’s a 40 percent increase after two straight years of declining hate crimes. Last year saw the second highest number of reported hate crimes in the nine-year period the city has been collecting data, trailing only 2017.
Of the 93 total hate and bias incidents, 54 were reported to police as literal hate crimes. Fourteen of those crimes–28 percent–involved physical violence. Of these violent hate crimes, 50 percent were targeted at Eugene’s Black community – which makes up 1.7 percent of the city’s population.
In 2019, there were 11 violent hate crimes, representing 20 percent of all hate crimes reported.
Race-related hate crimes made up 66 percent of all hate crimes committed in Eugene in 2020, higher than the national average of 58 percent. The vast majority of race-related hate crimes were targeted at Black people, but there were also reported hate crimes against what the city defines as “Hispanic/Latino” and “multi-racial” people.
But race wasn’t the sole motivator in 2020’s hate crimes. There were five reported hate crimes that targeted members of the LGBTQ community, four that targeted the Jewish community, and two that targeted disabled people.
There were also three reported hate crimes against white people–though there is no further detail about these hate crimes beyond that–and three hate crimes motivated by “political affiliation”–which again provides no further detail than that. One Protestant Christian also reported a hate crime against them.
The remainder were reported as “non-criminal incidents,” meaning that they either did not meet the criteria to be considered a crime or the victim chose not to press charges. Many of these incidents are reported by the HNRI, who field complaints from community members who do not want to file police reports about hate and bias incidents.
Non-criminal hate and bias incidents jumped last year from 19 to 39 – an increase of 105 percent.
That’s probably undercounting incidents, too. The report, taking data and cues from the Department of Justice, says that as many as 54 percent of hate crimes go unreported to law enforcement. Furthermore, the number of vandalism cases is likely far higher, because the authors used a very narrow definition of vandalism. Per the report: “The presence of hate graffiti is not always classified as a hate crime as by definition a crime must have a victim.”
The report acknowledges that “the struggles of 2020”–meaning the pandemic, economic anxiety, civil unrest, and all that political street fighting–likely contributed to the rise in hate and bias crimes last year.
The authors of the report also mentioned that the community was reporting a noticeable uptick in anti-Asian crimes and incidents, though the victims of the bias crimes universally declined to file police reports regarding the incidents. The HNRI admits that they’re aware of at least one criminal case that did not get reported to the police, which forced what might’ve been considered a hate crime to get filed with the non-criminal complaints.
Curiously, the report makes an explicit connection between anti-Asian sentiment and the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic – twice using language commonly heard from the mouth of the former president.
Lane County ranked third in documented hate incidents last year, according to the Oregon Department of Justice, with 104 incidents reported through the hotline set up by SB 577. Only Multnomah (271) and Benton (136) counties had more. And, again, these are likely underreported numbers, as few people who are victims of hate crimes take the time to call the Department of Justice.
The authors–at least five of whom are police officers–also take care to note that “this report does not include potential human rights violations committed by Eugene Police Department employees.”
That’s in a different report, released by the Police Auditor’s office.
Published alongside the Hate and Bias report was the City’s Hate and Bias Response Plan, which serves as a primer for anyone interested in the city’s response to a hate crime. It explains, briefly, the long process that a reported hate crime report travels within the Eugene Police Department and the city government, as the Chief of Police, City Manager, Mayor, and City Council all have to be notified of a potential hate crime.
The document suggests that a good way for the city and police to confront a hate crime is to “organize/participate in counter-action (leafleting, vigil, public statements, etc.)” alongside “faith groups, student, and neighborhood groups” to confront the hate head-on.
If only anyone had thought to try that before.