Committee Endorses Push to Expand Chicago’s Hate Crime Law

Chicago City Hall. (Michael Izquierdo / WTTW News)Chicago City Hall. (Michael Izquierdo / WTTW News)

A proposal that would require city officials to track not just hate crimes but “hate incidents” is set for a final vote by the Chicago City Council on Wednesday.

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Authored by Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th Ward), the only Jewish member of the Chicago City Council, the measure expands the city’s hate crime ordinance, which was last updated more than 30 years ago. The City Council’s Public Safety Committee unanimously endorsed the measure Friday afternoon.

“This is a really important ordinance,” Silverstein said. “It is important for Chicago to be a leader on this.”

Instead of just tracking crimes motivated by hate, the measure requires the Chicago Police Department and the Commission on Human Relations to track all “non-criminal hostile expression or action that maybe motivated by bias against another person’s actual or perceived identity or status, including” race, color, sex, gender identity, age, religion, disability, national origin, ancestry or sexual orientation, according to the measure.

That would include people praising Hitler or ripping up gay pride flags, Silverstein said.

Antisemitic incidents across the country quadrupled after Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7. On Oct. 16, Wadea al-Fayoume, a 6-year-old Palestinian American boy, was stabbed to death in Plainfield. His family’s landlord has been charged with murder and a hate crime in connection with Wadea’s death.

If the measure is approved, CPD must publish data in an online database that is updated at least once per month and include details about each incident, including where it happened, who was targeted and why, and whether anyone was arrested or charged in connection with the incident.

The commission would also have to publish an annual report.

The measure would also require CPD to train officers every two years to respond to what the measure calls “hate incidents.”

The city’s 311 nonemergency response system, which takes complaints from Chicagoans via phone, its website and an app, will be updated to allow people to log reports of hate incidents and ask city officials to take action.

The goal is for leaders of the commission to analyze that data and by Jan. 1, 2025, craft new ways of ensuring the city is comprehensively addressing both hate crimes and incidents motivated by hate that make Chicagoans feel unsafe and threatened.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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