By the City of Portland’s Crime Prevention Program
In Portland, we have seen an uptick in hateful intimidation and harassment in our City over the last few months. Incidents range from swastika graffiti to the recent killings on the Max Train, leaving many Portland residents feeling on edge. When encountering these situations, there are many ways to respond to protect and support ourselves, our families and community members, depending on the safety of the situation. No matter how small the action, what we do can go a long way to communicating that hate will not be tolerated in our city.
The Portland Police Bureau (PPB) defines bias crime as “any criminal act that targets a victim based on the suspect's perception of the victim's race, color, religion, national origin or sexual orientation.” According to the PPB, they investigate all reported incidents of bias crimes and encourage any member of our community who is the victim of such a crime to contact law enforcement.
The City of Portland’s Crime Prevention Program remains committed to serving all community members of Portland, including the undocumented community. The City has a long-standing commitment to serving all residents regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, age or disability.
During this time of unrest, we encourage you to build community, maintain a healthy awareness over your environment, take steps to protect yourself and look after community members.
Safety Planning for Public Places
Many people will not encounter hateful incidents. However, it is a good idea to consider personal safety while out in public. Some steps you can take:
- Be alert and aware of your surroundings while in public. Lengthy distractions such as using your phone can draw your attention away from your surroundings.
- Follow your intuition and act on it. Listen to that feeling or voice telling you that something is unsafe. It is helpful to have a plan of what you might do in various circumstances, but your intuition is the ultimate guide in determining the appropriate and safe response in a particular situation.
- Protect your personal space. As advised by the Portland Police Bureau’s WomenStrength* Program, “Displaying a confident and decisive attitude can communicate that our personal space will not be violated easily.”
- Identify potential allies that you can turn to in a time of need in public. This may include a bus driver, a store clerk and other individuals.
- Alter plans when necessary to escape or avoid a dangerous situation. For example, if you are driving and someone is continuing to yell at you from another vehicle, change your direction or stop at a place where help is available.
- If you have a regular route you travel every day, identify places and people you can turn to for support.
- Get angry if people try to harm you and harness it into action. WomenStrength states, “Your anger can help you to overcome fear and has the potential to scare off an attacker.”
- Call 9-1-1 for an immediate threat to life or property or a crime in progress. If the incident is escalating with a possibility of violence, don’t hesitate to call. If it is not an immediate threat, you can contact the police non-emergency number at 503-823-3333.
If you see someone harassing or making racist remarks to another person, do what you can to support the affected individual. Here are some tips:
- Assess the safety of the situation and trust your intuition to determine how you will be involved. Can you intervene to help this person? Is there someone else in the environment who you can alert for help? Do you need to call the police? You want to help and not escalate the situation and your intuition can guide you on how to respond.
- Breathe or do what is necessary to remain calm. If enraged, dealing with the attacker in a calm and centered demeanor can help de-escalate the situation. Keep your voice calm, firm, low, slow and even. Use short, simple sentences. Avoid complex logic; agitated people cannot understand complicated concepts—they are thinking at a very simple level.
- Be careful about how you position yourself if you are involved in an interaction. If possible, create at least two arms-length of distance between you and the aggressor, which allows more time to react. You also want to position yourself to see what the aggressor is doing. Do not position yourself with your back facing him or her.
- Engage in unexpected behavior. The aggressor expects the person targeted and bystanders to engage in a heated exchange or cower. A helpful technique that has been widely shared involves a bystander:
- Approaching and engaging the targeted individual in a calm and friendly conversation on a random subject while ignoring the aggressor.
- Building a safe space by continuing the conversation, maintaining eye contact and continuing to ignore the aggressor.
- Escorting the person to a safe place if the aggressor remains in the area.
During a local bystander training, teachers encouraged bystanders to ask the person being targeted if they want your assistance to empower them to choose if you will be involved.
- Interrupt aggression with communication:
- Say something. Depending on the situation, that may be a forceful statement to stop the behavior.
- Do something. If it feels too dangerous to speak up, nonverbal interactions can be impactful. For example, you can stand by the individual under attack and make eye contact with him or her, so that it is clear you are a support. In some situations, brief, serious, direct eye contact with an aggressor may make them reconsider their actions.
We need to look out for one another during this challenging time. Every action we take can go a long way to communicating that hate will not be tolerated in our city.
*WomenStrength is a program through the Portland Police Bureau offering free self-defense courses in English and Spanish for women and co-ed personal safety classes for community groups.