Center on the Issues: Hate Crimes

Last month, Illinois’ attorney general called a summit of civil rights leaders and local activists, including Center on Halsted, to address a reported increase of hate crime incidents.

Hate crimes occur when a crime victim is intentional selected because of their identity. In 2016, the Chicago Police Department classified 73 crimes as hate crimes, the highest of any year since 2012, when the department started recording these numbers. Check out a graph of these crimes here. It is estimated that these numbers grossly underrepresent the actual number of hates crimes that occur.

“In many cases, it’s the victims who aren’t reporting such crimes,” said Kim Fountain, Chief Operating Officer at Center on Halsted.

“There are several reasons for that,” Fountain said. “There’s a mistrust of systems. There are experiences or what you hear on the news. Some feel too ashamed or ‘I’m going to be re-victimized.’ There are other moments where people just want to forget it happened.”

In addition to getting victim and witness help in identifying hate crimes, Chicago officials are limited in their resources in efforts to both identify potential hate crimes and investigating them, Fountain said.

“It’s not whether they are doing enough. It’s not so much that they don’t want to do the work, it’s that they are terribly under-resourced,” she said.

At the summit, Madigan highlighted new proposed legislation that would ensure that all victims of hate crimes are afforded the ability to file a civil cause of action in response to incidents including intimidation, stalking, cyberstalking and transmission of obscene messages. Democratic Rep. Litesa Wallace, of Rockford, on Feb. 10 introduced House Bill 3711

House Bill 3711 updates the existing statute by adding additional cyber-related misconduct as predicate acts and expands civil remedies for victims of hate crimes to deter those crimes.

Here is what you can do:

• In order to help pass HB 3711, you can show your support by submitting a witness slip at any time before the hearing, which has been rescheduled for some time next week, here. Completing a witness slip will ensure that your support is part of the public record.

• Center on Halsted created an LGBTQ Violence Resource Line in response to the growing need for victim assistance for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and HIV-positive people. It is the only LGBTQ-specific program committed to addressing violence against and within LGBTQ communities in Illinois. It has become a cornerstone of recovery for many LGBTQ victims, witnesses, and friends of those who have experience bias/discrimination, or domestic, sexual, hate or police violence in the Chicago area. Contact the LGBTQ Violence Resource Line at 773.871.CARE (2273) or at violence-resource@centeronhalsted.org.