A city official is responding to an FBI report showing Eugene has the highest number of hate crimes in Oregon. KLCC’s Brian Bull reports.
The FBI’s 2017 data shows Eugene with almost half of Oregon’s 149 reported crimes against race, religion, disability, and sexual orientation. And an earlier report by the city shows a nearly 70 percent increase in hate crimes from 2016 to last year.
“I do think that people should feel safe here in Eugene,” says Katie Babits. She’s the city’s Human Rights and Equity Analyst.
Babits acknowledges that Eugene is a largely homogenous community, and because of that not everyone is aware of hate crime activity. She says there’s several reasons for the increase.
“There’s a chance that people may feel more empowered to act on their feelings of hate, and that could be contributing factor,” she tells KLCC.
“Also our office has done a lot of community outreach with community organizations that support marginalized populations in Eugene. An effort to make sure that people are more aware.”
In other words, people may be more alert and more apt to recognize and report hate crimes.
The FBI’s latest report shows the City of Eugene with 72 reported hate crimes in 2017.
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That’s a high number, but it’s still smaller than incidents listed in the city’s official report released in March. In that document, the number of hate and bias crimes last year was 139.
David Natt is a lieutenant with the Eugene Police Department. He says the difference in numbers falls down to the number of protected classes - groups vulnerable to prejudice - that the city recognizes versus the state and federal governments.
“The number of protected classes as covered by Oregon is greater than the federal, and then the City of Eugene is actually greater than the Oregon definition of protected classes,” explains Natt.
“I think the City of Eugene has more than a dozen: sexual orientation, income, housing status, ethnicity, national origin, I mean…all the things that you can think of that’d potentially be a protected class.”
Natt says for hateful incidents that don’t rise to criminal levels, the City of Eugene’s Human Rights and Equity Commission can help victims find resources and support.
Copyright 2018, KLCC.