PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Racially-charged messages were left on 2 Eugene businesses over the weekend, and now the state’s coalition against hate crimes says it’s seeing a spike in this kind of behavior.
On Saturday afternoon, Eugene police received reports of swastikas tagged on Jerry and Walts Four Wheel Service.
Hours later, more swastikas were left at Old Nick’s Pub in Eugene. The area where the graffiti was drawn reportedly had signs that read “hate free zone”, police said.
“I just thought it was unfortunate that all the people in the community now have to spend their time and resources repairing damage done over the weekend,” one of the local business owners said.
Randy Blazak, chair of the Oregon Coalition Against Hate Crimes, says it’s hard to know how often hate crimes are happening.
“Hate crimes are kind of a constant in our society, but there has been an uptick,” he told KOIN 6 News. “I think these issues bubble under the surface and they’re politically incorrect speech until someone tells them that’s OK.”
Last November, a local mom said she found a swastika painted on her garage. Days earlier, vandals wrote the N-word and drew swastikas on the walls of Reed College’s library. In October, a pair of Longview churches were the sites of similar crimes.
But Blazak says not all hate crimes like these are reported to authorities.
“We know hate crimes are hugely underreported, kind of like sex crimes,” he said. “It’s just the tip of the iceberg that we get.”
And while reporting the crimes is crucial, Blazak says, so is what comes next.
“Community response now is based on this idea of ‘not in our town,'” he said. “The community has to send a strong voice that we don’t agree with people who committed the hate crimes, we stand with the victim.”
According to Blazak, a study from the Department of Justice revealed hate crimes may be happening 17 times more often than they are reported.
If you have information on the cases of hate crime that happened over the weekend, including who may have committed them, call Eugene police at 541.682.5111.