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Attorney General’s Bias Hotline mostly tracks ‘hate’ that isn’t a crime

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(The Center Square) – The Oregon Department of Justice Civil Rights Unit released its Bias Crimes (2023) Report this week, revealing that most complaints sent to the state’s Bias Response Hotline are not about crimes.

The hotline is increasing in popularity, as it saw a 229% increase in reported incidents from 2020 to 2023, plus a 222% increase in reported bias crimes and non-criminal bias incidents, from 910 in 2020 to 2,932 in 2023, according to a press release from the Oregon Department of Justice.

Yet, the overwhelming majority of the incidents reported last year were not crimes, the data revealed. About 22% of the reports sent to the hotline were bias crimes. Of those reports, 12% were felony bias crimes, while the rest were misdemeanors.

The hotline launched in 2020. It offers an alternative way for the state’s residents to report crimes rather than going directly to law enforcement. It is confidential and provides people help connecting to various community resources, the release said.

Though reports to the hotline have increased, and most reports aren’t crimes, the state claims that hate crimes are vastly underreported, according to the release.

“Acts of bias and hatred are cruel and cowardly, and they deny people the dignity of safety and belonging every Oregonian deserves,” Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said in a statement. “Hate speech, slur-filled graffiti, bigoted flyering campaigns, and bias-motivated assaults are what we are seeing and hearing about regularly on the Hotline. The work our Civil Rights Unit does is integral to combating hate in Oregon. We know most people don’t tell anyone — oftentimes including law enforcement — about their hate and bias experiences, so it is critical we continue to invest in and support our front-line advocates providing crucial services to Oregonians throughout the state on the Hotline.”

From 2022 to 2023, the biggest jump in complaints to the hotline was for anti-Muslim (263% increase) and anti-Semitic (144% increase) incidents.

“What we’re seeing in Oregon, we believe, is a ‘both-and’ scenario, where we believe the data shows both an increase in incidents and an increase in awareness of and engagement with the Bias Response Hotline,” Fay Stetz-Waters, Oregon DOJ’s Director of Civil Rights and Social Justice, said. “At the core of the Hotline’s services is a recognition that data reflect numbers, but we are supporting actual human beings whose lives have been turned upside down by hate. We must acknowledge the reality that hate and bias are plaguing all our communities, that it has enormous impact in community members’ ability to thrive, and that the Hotline is one critical tool for providing support, tracking, and documenting this scourge, and ultimately helping to pave a path to human-centered healing.”

Additionally, the report found a drop in bias-motivated reports in schools, from 444 in 2022 to 300 in 2023.

“Younger persons remain at risk, however, as the Hotline has seen yearly increases in bias crimes and bias incidents targeting young people,” the release said.

One can report incidents to the state’s Bias Response Hotline at StandAgainstHate.Oregon.gov or by calling 1-844-924-BIAS (2427).

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