Number of Chicago Hate Crimes Dropped in 2017

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The greater Chicago area is well-known for many things. Some of them are good, such as deep-dish pizza and the attractions at the Navy Pier. Others are not so good, including the city’s reputation for violent crime . Two recent reports, however, seem to offer a measure of relief for those concerned about the violent crime in Chicago. The first one indicates that shootings and homicides were down in April compared to the same period last year for the 14th consecutive month—with more than a 20 percent decrease in the year-to-date numbers. The second report came from the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and showed that hate crimes in the city dropped in 2017 by nearly 16 percent over 2016.

Cycling Numbers

In 2016, Chicago police reported 73 separate hate crime incidents, an increase from 59 in 2015. The up-and-down cycle has been occurring since at least 2012. The numbers will spike one year, drop the next, then go back up again. For 2017, CPD shows that there were only 61 reported hate crimes.

If these numbers seem rather low, it is because of the fairly strict definition of a hate crime as provided by Illinois law. According to the Illinois Criminal Code, a hate crime is a crime motivated by “the actual or perceived race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, or national origin” of the victim. Hate crimes include, but are not limited to:

• Assault;

• Battery;

• Stalking, both in person and online;

• Intimidation;

• Criminal trespass; and

• Harassment.

Police and prosecutors have the power to elevate misdemeanor charges to felonies if they have evidence that the act in question can be considered a hate crime.

Reasons Are Unclear

While any drop in crime numbers is encouraging, experts and victims’ advocates are not sure what is driving them down. Some are wondering if there are actually fewer crimes being committed or if more crimes are going unreported. There is also the issue of motivation, because in order to be considered a hate crime, the perpetrator must be driven by the victim’s actual or perceived racial or other minority status. Determining what caused someone to commit a crime can be extremely difficult in many cases.

Federal numbers for 2017 have not yet been released, but national hate crime numbers were up in 2016 over 2015. “There are national trends,” said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, “but the regional ones are far more important. New York and Chicago are still near their recent highs.”

A Skilled Attorney Can Help

If you or a member of your family has been charged with any type of crime, including a hate crime, contact an experienced Joliet criminal defense attorney . Call 815-740-4025 to schedule a free consultation at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba today.