Hate crimes are rising in Chicago but the official figures may only represent the tip of the iceberg, according to experts.
Chicago police charged people with 39 hate crimes in the first half of 2017, putting the city on course to surpass a previous high of 73 in 2016, reported DNAInfo.
Information obtained via the Freedom of Information Act revealed the Chicago Police Department classified 362 offenses as hate crimes from 2012 to June 2017. The department started keeping electronic records in 2012.
Hate crimes are felonies in Illinois. A conviction for a hate crime for a first offense may be charged with a Class 4 felony carrying a prison term of up to three years and a fine of up to $25,000. A second offense may result in a conviction of a Class 2 felony carrying a prison term of three to seven years.
Hate crimes under Illinois law are committed "by reason of the actual or perceived race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, or national origin."
Hate crimes also allow victims to file civil lawsuits for damages.
In January, police charged four African-American adults with hate crimes after an alleged attack on a white man with mental disabilities, reported the Washington Post.
In Chicago, a determination on whether an offense represents a hate crime is made by the police department or the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. The federal authorities can also bring hate crime charges.
Hate crimes go underreported in Chicago, according to Betsy Shuman-Moore, director of the hate crime project for the Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights. She said:
“We do live with the fact that most hate crimes are underreported. We think that they have been more underreported now than ever.”
She said in many cases the victims are not reporting the crimes. In other cases, police are not necessarily pursuing a hate based motive.
However, dealing with possible hate crimes is part of the curriculum for Police Department recruits who attend an event every year at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie.
Police detectives are given a two-hour course on how to investigate hate crimes. Sergeants and lieutenants attend a session related to the rights or minorities.
Chicago police officers who deal with a possible hate crime must notify their supervisors, a regular detectives unit and detectives in the Civil Rights Unit.
If you have been charged with a hate crime you should contact Abdallah Law for a free evaluation. Call us at (312) 229-0008.