Ashley Grams (KGW)
PORTLAND, Ore. (KGW) — The Oregon DOJ says hate and bias incidents are on the rise. An annual report from the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission released in July says the state’s bias response hotline has received a surge in calls since 2021.
“It’s not surprising, sadly, in terms of what conduct we’re seeing across the state,” said Johanna Costa, the DOJ’s bias response coordinator.
The Bias Response Hotline has seen a 72% increase in reports from 2021 to 2022 and a 178% increase since the line started.
The hotline was started in 2020 in response to a growing number of bias crimes, and the passage of SB 577 during the 2019 legislative session, which changed bias crime laws.
The report details a growing number of hate crimes and bias incidents directed at Black, Jewish and LGBTQ+ Oregonians.
Bias against Black Americans make up “nearly one in four reports” recorded in 2022, the report reads.
It also says antisemitism is the most common type of religious bias, and there was an “increase in reported gender identity-based bias of 639% since 2020.”
Costa said she’s glad Oregonians are more aware of their options and have increasingly reported these incidents. But Costas explained that more reports don’t always lead to more prosecutions or convictions.
“If the hotline is just seeing the tip of the iceberg, then law enforcement is just seeing a snowflake on that iceberg,” Costa said.
She believes it’s time for a change in focus and time to meet the needs of Oregon communities.
“Bias crimes aren’t new,” Costa said. “This shift is happening far too late and we have a lot of work to do.”
Earlier this spring, the Oregon DOJ began offering new services to survivors of bias crimes, including counseling and emergency money.
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