Portland hopes to increase hate crime reporting

Hate crimes are under-reported in Portland

Portland City Hall (file)
Portland City Hall (file)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The City of Portland is planning to use $350,000 in grant money to educate people on the importance of reporting hate crimes.

Right now, only a small percentage of victims actually come forward but the city hopes to change that.

“There’s a sense of urgency,” Linda Castillo with the Office of Neighborhood Involvement said.

Portland Police: What is a bias crime?

Officials feel to really be able to identify and fight hate-motivated incidents, they need to get a handle on what’s really happening, which means they need more people to report the crimes.

The bureau is taking applications from community groups that will use the money to educate and motivate victims about the importance of reporting their experiences.

“It’s important for communities to start to collect those stories and that information because so much more of it happens than we are aware of,” Castillo said.

The stabbing death of two men who were defending young women from a hate-fueled rant on the MAX was a major catalyst for the city’s grant initiative, which is part of its Portland United Against Hate partnership with groups like the Coalition of Communities of Color.

“It’s basically changing the format of the way that we report hate incidents,” Interim Executive Director at CCC Dani Ledezma said. “So the first step will be creating an instrument to be able to ask questions about what occurred.”

Sociologist and hate crime expert Randy Blazak said according to the Department of Justice, only 1 in 15 hate crimes are reported.

Blazak said the grant will create a sort of safe-haven or middle ground for many people touched by hate-based incidents who might otherwise never come forward.

“Some communities, including immigrant communities and African American communities and gay and lesbian communities have a little bit of distrust of law enforcement already built in,” Blazak said. “So those types of hate crimes are already under reported.”