In 2019, 48 hate crimes were reported in Eugene, according to the city’s annual Hate and Bias Report. The city of Eugene held a press conference at the Historic Mims House, the location of the Eugene-Springfield NAACP, to share the annual Hate and Bias report. Community leaders speaking at the Oct. 21 event included Mayor Lucy Vinis, Human Rights Commission Chair Joel Iboa and Eugene Police Chief Chris Skinner.
Hate and bias crimes are motivated by prejudice based on actual or perceived race, color, religion, nation origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability, according to the Eugene Police Department (EPD). This is the city’s ninth annual report.
“This is the fourth year that we have partnered with the city of Eugene, in hosting the release of our cities Hate and Bias report,” said Eric Richardson the executive director of the Eugene-Springfield NAACP. “Although we are here to talk about a hate and bias report, I think what we need to focus on at this point and moving forward is how we as a community are going to move forward and love.”
The Mims House was the first Black-owned home in Eugene, purchased by C.B. and Annie Mims in 1948, and is the location of the Eugene-Springfield NAACP’s offices.
In 2019, 66 hate and bias crimes were reported, 48 of those were categorized as hate crimes, and 18 as non-criminal incidents. In 2018, 81 cases were reported, with 47 being criminal, and 34 non-criminal.
While there is a slight decline in yearly reported cases, it’s not indicative that the community has become more tolerant, according to the report. Because of COVID-19, fewer people are leaving their homes, meaning less crimes are probably committed overall, as Iboa points out, “as people are supposed to be sheltered in place at home, we see this year has one more hate crime than last year even though were supposed to be at home. What would that number look like if we were not forced into quarantine? I can guarantee that number would be much higher.”
An example of a non-criminal incident is to circulate offensive material such as hate flyers placed on windshields, or thrown on lawns.
“It’s important to recognize how we got here, and the fact of the matter is Oregon was founded as a black exclusionary state. When states across the country were deciding on whether or not to have slavery, Oregon decided to exclude black folks altogether,” Iboa said. Iboa is currently running for Lane County commissioner.
Michael Kinnison, director of Community Development for the city of Eugene, said “Just last month the FBI director reported at a congressional Homeland Security Committee meeting that racially motivated violent extremism has been the most violent and the most prevalent among the FBIs domestic extremism cases.” He added, “Racially motivated violent extremists have been responsible for the most lethal activity in the U.S. in recent years.”
The city does reasonably assume that the hate crimes reported in this document likely represent a portion of the hate crimes committed in Eugene during 2019, according to the report. The National Crime Victimization Survey prepared by the U.S. Department of Justice indicated that 54 percent of hate-motivated incidents were not reported to law enforcement between 2011-2015.
The reasons for this vary, but for many Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) people fear that reporting would bring more trouble to the victim by the responding police. In addition this report does not include potential human rights violations committed by the Eugene Police Department, according to the Hate and Bias Report.
“I want to stress three reasons why this is so important. First, we can’t change what we don’t understand. This report gives us the essential information on what people in our community are facing,” Vinis said.
“Second, this report holds our city accountable. The City Council has made clear its commitment to making eugene a safe welcoming and inclusive community for everyone. We want communities of color, LGBQ communities and immigrant communities to know that as a city we stand by their human right to be safe and respected.”
Vinis continued, “Third, this report is one example of how the city delivers on council commitment. In 2019, council passed a resolution condemning white supremacy, and the action of alt right groups in Eugene. That adds to a list of other initiatives we’ve taken over the years to promote the rights of all groups living in our community.”
According to the report, race continues to be the leading motivating factor of hate crimes reported in Eugene. In 2019, 21 reported cases were due to race. In 2018 there were 17. These numbers have gone down from the first year this report was done in 2015 when there were 25 reports. Black and African American peoples are the most impacted by hate crimes, despite being 1.7 percent of the population, according to the Hate and Bias Report. Seventeen out of 21 reported race-related hate crimes were committed against African American people. Criminal vandalism targeted primarily the Jewish community, with eight of the 16 crimes targeting them.
“I’m here hoping there will be a time in the future that we won’t have to have an event like this,” Chief Chris Skinner said. “The other side of that emotion is here being incredibly hopeful and proud to be part of an organization and community that has created a system by which we are paying attention, and encouraging people to report.”
According to this year’s report the city of Eugene employs an Independent Police Auditor to investigate allegations of misconduct against police officers, those numbers are not included in the Hate and Bias Report. The University of Oregon employs its own police jurisdiction, they did not report a hate crime on any of its campus locations in 2019.
In addition the report says that hate crimes against people of Asian descent have increased due to the characterization of the novel coronavirus as a “Chinese virus.”
You can view the full report on the City of Eugene’s website, Eugene-or.gov/3913. If you wish to report a crime you can do so several different ways: By calling 541-862-5177, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, you can report online directly at Eugene-or.gov/2476.