PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The FBI Portland office launched a hate crimes awareness campaign on Wednesday morning.
Hate crimes go underreported and hate crimes are on the rise, Special Agent in Charge of the Portland Field Office Kieran Ramsey said.
Ramsey said he hopes the new campaign will increase reporting and drive educational awareness.
“We want to hear from victims out there,” he said.
The FBI earlier this week released the 2020 state and national hate crime statistics.
“There’s a noted increase for the state of Oregon, as there is nationally,” Ramsey said.
There were 271 hate crimes reported in Oregon in 2020, up from 170 incidents reported in 2019, according to the FBI. During that same time frame, the number of victims reportedly increased from 242 to 360. Race/ethnicity/ancestry was the bias motivator in 70% of reported incidents in Oregon and most of the victims were Black.
“There are any number of factors, societal drivers across the country and here in Oregon with the divisiveness, we can see with various segments in our community,” said Ramsey. “There are differences in social drivers in each community.”
Randy Blazak with the Oregon Coalition Against Hate Crimes said part of what is driving the increase in hate crimes is opposition to demographic changes taking place as the country’s population becomes more diverse.
“They don’t know how to manage that change so they’re reacting in a very aggressive way,” Blazak said, adding that political polarization is also contributing to hate crimes. “People are more on each sides and they’re in their media silos, they get the information that reinforces their side, so we’re losing that common ground.”
Blazak said each hate crime impacts entire communities, not just the individual victim.
“Each one of those is like throwing a cinder block into a pond — it has ripples. And there are a lot of people who feel unsafe in Oregon,” he said.
As part of the hate crimes awareness campaign, the FBI will put billboards in Milwaukie, Beaverton, Clackamas and Salem, among other cities, as well as benches with ads in Portland. They will also use online, radio and TV advertising to encourage people to report hate crimes and explaining how to do so.
Anyone who has information about or believes they are a victim of a federal hate crime should contact the FBI by phone at 1-800-CALL-FBI or online at tips.fbi.gov.