Local attorney generals challenged by hate crimes

MGN

Following a listening session tour across the state some believe Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has a lot of work to do to strengthen hate crime laws.

She brought her task force on hate crimes to Portland, Eugene and Medford this week to talk to victims of hate crimes or those impacted by hate-motivated conduct.

In Oregon, hate crimes are prosecuted under intimidation in the first or second degree.

The perception of a victim's race, color, national origin, religion, or sexual orientation or disability is at the center of proving a hate crime took place.

Josephine County District Attorney Ryan Mulkins tells News 10 it's hard to investigate and prosecute.

"Victims don't often tell the police officer details that would lead to a hate crime investigation," Mulkins said.

Last year in Josephine County Mulkins said his office handled three cases of intimidation. None in 2017.

In fact, he said, historically the county has only seen eight cases over the last five years.

Last year in Jackson County, Beth Heckert's office handled 6 cases referred by police agencies for Intimidation.

"Of those, 2 were filed, 1 is pending review, 2 were refused and 1 was sent back to police for further investigation. In 2017 we only had one referred for intimidation. Since our numbers are so low, I am not sure you can really infer that much from this data," Heckert said

Last year a Church of Christ of Ladder Day Saints in the 2100 block of Brookhurst Street was tagged with spray paint using an upside down cross, satan 666 and a swear word.

Medford Police Lt. Mike Budreau said investigators didn't even have a suspect and the motivation was unclear

"While we don’t know if the suspect’s true motive for this crime was a crime against Mormons (or an attack against religion or a crime of opportunity etc.) we did report this crime to the FBI as a hate crime," Budreau said.

One of the speakers from Wednesday's AG meeting Monique Duval told News 10 she shared her experience with intimidation with the hopes that something will change.

"I've found that a lot of organizations have either helped or hindered and I find that education and awareness is a huge deal in bridging the gap and bringing the information we need to the general populace," Duval said.

With an estimated 75 people who attended the meeting at the Medford Public Library Wednesday, 15 people testified. There were members of the Jewish, LGBTQ, Spanish speaking and other communities who testified.

Rosenblum said the goal is to find a better way to collect data on hate crimes and helping victims across the state.

“It is appalling that hate-motivated crimes are on the increase in Oregon; this reality requires us to act. At these listening sessions we hope to create a safe place for Oregonians to share their experiences as targets of discrimination and hate motivated conduct,” said Rosenblum.

“Our task force is currently working with the Oregon legislature to propose bills that would strengthen Oregon’s hate crime laws. There are a lot of ideas about how to address hate crimes, but I need to hear directly from the community. This approach served us well with our police profiling listening sessions which led to successful reforms.”

Staff from the AG's office said the task force will use these testimonies to shape legislation for the upcoming Oregon Legislative Session.

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