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'We have a lot more work to do': Reports of race-based crimes up in Eugene

With the historic Mims house near downtown as the backdrop, Eugene Human Rights officials rolled out the 2015 hate crimes report. (SBG/Tom Adams)

EUGENE, Ore. - With the historic Mims house near downtown as the backdrop, Eugene Human Rights officials rolled out the 2015 hate crimes report.

The only good news is overall bias crime numbers dropped from 69 to 59.

It's little solace if you're an African American.

"African American community members are disproportionately impacted by hate and bias activity, and in 2015 there were 17 incidents involving physical violence," said Jennifer Van Der Haeghen with the City of Eugene Office of Human Rights.

Of the 49 criminal hate crimes in Eugene, 25 of those were race-based, up 50 percent from 2014.

"That tells me that we as a community, we as a police department, we have a lot more work to do," Captain Sam Kamkar said.

Twenty of the 25 victims were black.

Ibrahim Coulibaly with the Eugene NAACP remembers his own encounter with racism in Eugene from a few years back.

"They started calling us names, the n word," he said, "and we almost got into a fight."

He never reported the incident to police.

"In their culture, they do everything to avoid the police," he said, referring to his West African cousin he was with that day.

That leads to under reporting of hate crimes.

"We want folks to report these crimes to us because that helps us in figuring out who did it and trying to reach the ultimate goal," said Lt. Jennifer Bills with Eugene Police.

From swastikas on mailboxes and schools to physical attacks, police say higher reporting of these incidents will help them work toward a safer Eugene.

READ | City of Eugene Hate & Bias Incident Response

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