Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC)

Hate Crimes

Hate crimes are based on bigotry, and are committed because of the intended victim's actual or perceived ancestry, color, creed, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability (including HIV status), or national original.

A hate crime can only be charged when a precedent crime is established -- i.e. battery, assault, aggravated assault, criminal damage to property (vandalism), criminal trespass, mob action, looting, disorderly conduct or harassment by telephone occurs -- and a specific hate motive is established.

What determines if a hate crime is bias motivated?

  • Language or symbols (e.g. swastikas painted on a synagogue)
  • Severity of attack
  • Previous incidents in same area or by same offender
  • Lack of provocation by victim
  • Absence of other motives (e.g. money)
  • Offender's membership in a hate group
  • Timing (i.e. religious holiday, world events, etc.)

If you have been a victim of a hate crime…

  • Contact the local police and file a police report
    • Tell the police why you feel that hatred was a motivating factor in the crime for the felony charges to be added
    • Provide as many details as possible
  • The Chicago Police Department’s Hate Crimes Unit publishes annual reports on hate crimes in the City of Chicago. Read more »
  • Contact the JCRC at (312) 357-4770. The JCRC will follow up on your behalf with both the local police and prosecutors to make sure your case is investigated and prosecuted properly under the hate crime statutes.
  • Contact the Illinois Attorney General’s Civil Rights Hotline at 1-877-581-3692.
  • Victim support services are available through the Chicago Commission on Human Relations.
    • Volunteers are available to accompany victims to court hearings, visit victims in their homes and provide referrals for other services.
    • Free assistance is available from the State's Attorney's office to prosecute hate crime offenders in criminal court
    • Pro bono (free) legal assistance is available from volunteer private attorneys to sue hate crime offenders in civil court for damages such as psychological and physical injuries, reimbursement of hospital and other medical or job loss expenses that may have incurred as a result of being crime victims.

Hate Crime Laws

Hate crime is a Class 4 felony. According to Illinois law, hate can be considered an aggravating factor and "accorded weight in favor of imposing a term of imprisonment or may be considered by the court as reason to impose a more severe sentence."

The Jewish community has long been in the forefront of national and state efforts to deter and counteract hate-motivated activity. In the course of the past two decades, some 40 states, including Illinois, have enacted hate crime laws in addition to federal initiatives to combat hate crimes.

On October 28th, 2009, President Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a monumental piece of legislation the JCRC has advocated on behalf of for over a decade. This bill greatly strengthens and expanded hate crime legislation in the United States, to include those crimes motivated by the victim's gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability. Additionally, it eliminated the prerequisite that the victim be engaged in a federally-protected activity – such as voting, attending school, or a public facility – in order to prosecute the perpetrator under hate crime laws. The bill also improves the means by which hate crimes are prosecuted, allowing federal officials to assist local law enforcement in dealing with hate crimes. 

Federal Laws:

Illinois Law:

Latest News:

ADL, Illinois state officials offer strategies for combating hate 

U.S. Anti-Semitic Incidents Spike 86 Percent So Far in 2017 After Surging Last Year, ADL Finds