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Hate crime reports increase by 60 percent in Chicago; political vitriol blamed

The Chicago Police Department received 78 reports of hate crimes during all of 2018. With nearly two months to go this year, there have already been 77 hate crime reports based on immigration status, sexual orientation and religion.

Chicago City Hall
During budget hearings at City Hall Wednesday, aldermen were told hate crimes have increased this year in the city.
Rich Hein/Sun-Times

President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened to cut off federal funding to sanctuary cities like Chicago that refuse to cooperate with federal crackdowns against illegal immigrants.

He has used his massive Twitter following to demand a border wall and espouse positions his opponents have denounced as racist and anti-immigrant.

The political vitriol emanating from Washington D.C. is apparently having a spill-over effect in Chicago.

The Chicago Police Department has seen a 60% increase in reported hate crimes — from 78 all of last year, to 77 with nearly two months to go in 2019.

Mona Noriega, chairman and of the city’s Commission on Human Relations, talked about the troubling trend while on the hot seat Wednesday at City Council budget hearings.

“We’ve seen a 60% increase in reported hate crimes this year. I don’t think that’s unusual in regards to what the context of the United States is,” Noriega said.

“We’re seeing an increase in regards to immigrants, sexual orientation, religion. Those are the areas in which hate crimes have increased.

Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) said he’s certain the surge in hate crimes “has to do with the political environment, divisiveness in the public dialogue and, of course, inherent racism.”

The increase is “maybe not shocking, but it’s incredibly troubling” in a city that is “incredibly diverse,” said Ald. Harry Osterman (48th).

“We, as a city, have to do more on that front ... trying to come up with a cohesive way to address that,” Osterman said.

“There are actionable things that we, as a City Council in partnership with you and the mayor, can do to bring people together to talk about this, raise awareness, address it on the ground. All of us would like to help out on that front.”

As the 2020 election approaches and the impeachment inquiry heats up, “this is gonna continue to escalate, given the politics and the rhetoric we’re hearing every day,” Osterman predicted.

“We all want to be aggressive in trying to address it,” he said, suggesting Mayor Lori Lightfoot record public service announcements to “raise awareness.”

When “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett was accused of staging a hate crime against himself, there was concern that the high-profile incident would have a chilling effect on legitimate reports of hate crimes.

Reilly discussed that case on Wednesday, without mentioning Smollett’s name.

“I think you’d agree that, when you have false reports of hate crime, that can do a tremendous amount of damage to legitimate reports,” the alderman said.

Noriega replied: “I only know of one.”

Reilly countered: “I know of one. It occurred in my ward. And thanks to pod cams, we caught him.”

Jussie Smollett leaves court after charges were dropped in March 2019.
Jussie Smollett leaves court after charges against him were dropped in March 2019. Smollett had been accused of staging a racist attack on himself.
Sun-Times file