Hate crimes down in Eugene

According to Eugene’s annual Hate and Bias Report, hate crimes in Eugene have decreased 42% since last year.

The report–a collaboration between the Office of Human Rights and Neighborhood Involvement and the Eugene Police Department–says that 47 hate crimes were reported to EPD in 2018, down from 74 in 2017 and similar to hate crime rates from 2014 to 2016. Vandalism was the most common hate crime in the city last year, followed by assault and intimidation. According to the report, “most criminal vandalism was related to swastika graffiti,” adding in a footnote that “swastika use is on the rise, but among those who understand it the least.”

The report also provides several explanations for the spike in hate crimes in 2017, including “the results of the 2016 election, increased occurrence of people acting on hateful beliefs, current national discourse, increased motivation to report [hate crimes], etc.” EPD also altered its strategy regarding vandalism reporting in 2017, allowing officers to report graffiti when they witnessed it–rather than waiting for a complaint from the public.

But while overall hate crimes are down in Eugene, incidents of physical violence motivated by sexual orientation and gender more than doubled last year, making the LGBTQ community the second-most targeted group in Eugene. The report recommends that “violence against [the] LGBTQ community be monitored closely to determine if the identified increase is due to normal variation or if it signals a developing trend.”

African-Americans and Jews continue to be the primary targets of racially motivated hate and bias crimes in the city. African-Americans represent less than two percent of Eugene’s population, but are harassed and assaulted more than any other racial group, according to the report.  Eugene’s Jewish community was targeted by vandals at least five times in 2018, all of which involved swastikas. Some incidents included other slurs and epithets, which the report labeled “anti-multi-racial group.”

Though Eugene often tops lists of hate crime rates in Oregon and nationwide, it can be attributed to a more vigilant reporting process within the city and the police department. In addition to EPD officers recording instances of hateful graffiti during their patrols, the city has enacted programs–like the HRNI–to encourage people to self-report instances of hate and bias without fear of repercussion or retaliation.

Still, a United States Department of Justice survey found that 54 percent of hate crimes went unreported between 2011-2015. Furthermore, groups most affected by hate and bias crimes in Eugene–the Black and Queer communities–are less likely to report hate crimes to police.

The report does not include incidents of hate or bias committed by EPD officers.

The full report can be found here.