In an impressive feat of bureaucratic wizardry, Attorney General John Kroger unveiled a significant advance in Oregon's crime reporting system at the Q Center today, only five days after a public forum on gay bashing held at the center revealed serious gaps in reporting of Oregon's hate crime stats.
Thanks to the public outcry over a recent gay bashing and the AG's quick response, you can now report a hate crime online, whether you're a victim or a witness. The reporting system, modeled on an already-existing process the AG's office built to report environmental crimes, requires people reporting crimes to enter their name and contact info, but allows them to choose whether they want the state to investigate the crime or just know about it for their own statistics. Kroger also told reporters that he was committed to reviewing and strengthening Oregon's hate crimes laws, which, he says, are currently weaker than neighboring states like Idaho's.
- If you see something, say something.
"When we started to compile information about hate crimes, we would often see a media report of an incident, but not a police report. We have a pretty significant underreporting problem," says Kroger. "People are afraid to tell the police what happened, or are uncomfortable telling the police for some reason."
Statistics show that reports of "bias-motivated assaults" have dropped in Portland from 26 in 2007 to 22 in 2008 and 15 in 2009. But numerous people at last week's packed public forum on gay bashing questioned the accuracy of the stats. Numerous LGBT audience members told emotional stories to the event's panel, including state and local law enforcement officers and Mayor Sam Adams, about times when they or friends did not report gay bashings to police either because they felt a certain police officer was hostile or thought that reporting the incident would do no good.
"One of the problems is we don't know what we don't know," says Shawn Ruddel, the chief of the state's criminal justice division. He and Kroger are hoping the online reporting will cut out some of the hurdles that keep Oregonians from reporting hate crimes. "Choke me with information," he says.
Again, the link to report a potential hate crime (like a gay bashing, but also an assault, threat or intimidation based on race, gender, or religion) is HERE.