| From left: Q Center's Kendell Clawson, Asst. AG Diane Sykes, AG John Kroger, Asst. AG Sean Riddell |
Oregon Attorney General John Kroger hopes a new online hate crime reporting tool will lead to a better understanding of how the offenses affect people in Oregon. Speaking with reporters and advocates for the LGBTQ community Wednesday at the Q Center in Portland, Kroger said he hopes the website will allow his office to gather more precise data about bias crimes in the state and provide information about how existing bias laws can be strengthened.
Kroger said his attorneys in his office are hoping to reverse a trend they see: Media reports of many hate crimes are not followed with police reports, and people not feeling comfortable reporting incidents to authority figures.
"They don't feel if they reported the incident that the process will result in an appropriate response," he said.
The website will gather the events of a bias crime – defined in Oregon law as intimidation motivated by a person's race, color, sexual orientation, national origin or religion – and request information about the person reporting the crime. The person reporting a bias crime can choose whether they want to be contacted by investigators or merely report the crime for informational purposes.
Victims will also be able to specify where they wish to meet, and if they'd prefer to meet with plain clothes officers as well as attorneys from the Oregon Department of Justice, according to Sean Ridell, chief of the criminal justice division.
For many LGBTQ people, anonymity in reporting is important, says Kendell Clawson, the executive director of Q Center.
"For some people, the fear of the unknown and that you have to go to hardcore authority people and not know how they feel about gay people (keeps them from reporting crimes)," she said.
Ridell said his office would do everything allowed by law to ensure victims remain outside the view of public records laws. Kroger said he expects to submit a series of legislative proposals in 2011 in part modeled on hate crimes laws in Idaho.