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By The Skanner News
Published: 06 July 2020

Salem, Oregon—Oregon Attorney General Ellen last week highlighted the results of the first Senate Bill 577 report from the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission (CJC), which is designed to share data on Oregon’s new hate and bias crimes and bias incidents law. The report, which was statutorily required under Senate Bill 577, was released on July 1. Much of the data came from the Oregon Department of Justice’s new Bias Response Hotline, which was established in January 2020. Other data, from the Oregon Uniform Crime Reporting Program, housed at Oregon State Police, to which all Oregon law enforcement agencies are mandated to report bias crime data, as well as from the Law Enforcement Data System and Odyssey or Oregon eCourt data system, was also included in the report.

“We have been anticipating this first report from the CJC as a critical step in sharing with the public the bias and discrimination our communities of color and other marginalized populations in Oregon are experiencing. As we improve the collection of data on both hate crimes and bias incidents, we can better support victims and advance appropriate education and prevention programs,” said Attorney General Rosenblum. “If you are a witness, reporting hate and bias sheds light on the experiences of some of our most vulnerable community members, and it demonstrates that you are an ally and you will not stand for hate in our state.”

Bias law updated

In 2019, the Oregon legislature passed Senate Bill 577, which updated Oregon’s hate and bias crimes law for the first time in over 20 years. As a result of the new law, the Oregon Department of Justice in January 2020 launched a unique hotline that is staffed by trained advocates Monday through Friday. Now, any victim or witness of a bias incident or a hate crime can call Oregon DOJ’s Bias Response Hotline to report an incident, connect with trained staff and receive a referral to local, culturally responsive community services or law enforcement. The hotline is victim-centered, meaning victims’ choices, needs, and safety are prioritized in our response. The new law also now includes a definition of “bias incident” and adds gender identity in the list of protected classes.

The report also highlights that race was the most targeted class for both bias crimes reported to law enforcement and bias incidents reported to the hotline during the reporting period ending in May 2020.  While the Bias Response Hotline received a surge of calls in March and April for bias toward Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander community members due to erroneous beliefs about COVID-19, Black/African American, Latinx, and American Indian/Alaska Native people were also commonly targeted victims. Disability was the second most targeted class in bias incidents reported to the Bias Response Hotline, but the sixth most targeted class for crimes reported to law enforcement. Reports of bias to the hotline continue to rise.

The key findings of this report are:

  • In May 2020, hotline advocates made 128 contacts with 58 different with victims and reporters of bias via the hotline and web portal.
  • Victims and reporters of bias requested information about the criminal and civil justice systems, including the process of reporting and the flow of a prosecuted case in the system. 
  • Victims requested information about accessing civil protective orders.
  • Victims received referrals to victim service programs specifically designed to deliver services to victims of crime.
  • Victims received numerous referrals to other services, supports, and resources from non-victim service agencies, including counseling options, governmental programs, and culturally specific community programs.
  • Hotline advocates engaged in individual advocacy for victims numerous times, meaning advocates made calls, emails, and other contacts to assist victims in securing rights, remedies, and services from other agencies.

“Bias victimizes the person who is targeted, but it also victimizes their friends and family, and in fact our larger community.

"Language and conduct intended to other and divide us can be just as harmful as hands-on assaults,” said Johanna Costa, Oregon DOJ’s Bias Response Coordinator. “We shared very important data and statistics with the CJC for this report, but through the Bias Response Hotline we treat victims and reporters as nuanced humans who deserve and receive support and community in the aftermath of such hateful and harmful conduct.”

Any victim or witness of a bias incident or a hate crime can visit www.StandAgainstHate.Oregon.Gov or call Oregon DOJ’s Hate and Bias Hotline at 1-844-924-BIAS (2427), (711 for Oregon Relay) to report an incident and talk with trained staff.

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