The number of hate crimes reported in Oregon dropped in 2018 after a three-year increase, according to a new report released Tuesday, Nov. 12, by the FBI.
There were 118 hate crimes reported last year in Oregon, a drop from 146 in 2017. Previous FBI reports show that hate crime incidents in Oregon spiked at 187 in 2008 before declining. They rose again in 2016 to 104.
The FBI defines a hate crime as an offense such as vandalism or assault, motivated by bias against the victim's race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender or other protected characteristics.
While the FBI statistics are widely cited, they are considered incomplete because they rely on local law enforcement agencies to voluntarily report incidents. In Oregon, large swaths of the state reported no incidents in 2018.
"We feel that it's not a complete picture," said Shushma Raghavan, field director for social justice group Unite Oregon.
She said that the small drop is likely not significant because the numbers don't tell the whole story and that minorities continue to experience hate and violence at alarming levels. Raghavan said she is hopeful that Oregon's recently update hate crimes law will collect better data on the problem.
Despite the overall decrease, more police agencies reported with 24 cities represented compared to 20 the year before. Notably, Astoria, Bend, Grants Pass, Hermiston reported incidents in 2018. The FBI report shows that Oregon followed national trends. Law enforcement reported a total of 7,120 hate crime incidents in 2018, down slightly from the 7,175 reported the previous year.
An analysis of the FBI data by Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino shows that despite the overall decrease, hate crimes against Latinos, gays, transgender people, Sikhs, Asians and whites increased. The analysis also found that hate crimes against people, rather than property, rose to a 16-year high.
FBI data does not include a state-level breakdown on what groups were victimized by hate crimes. In Oregon, the 2018 numbers show fewer hate crimes committed against property while those against people held steady. In the previous year, the FBI counted 169 offenses, 86 of which were directed at people and 83 against property. In 2018, the FBI recorded a total of 139 offenses. Of those, 88 were committed against people while 48 were committed against property.
Race or religion continued to be the largest motivator for hate crimes in Oregon with the two accounting for about three-fourths on incidents in both 2017 and 2018.
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