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Plan to pass Chicago hate incidents ordinance picks up steam

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(The Center Square) – Chicago Ald. Debra Silverstein’s plan to rein in rising hate crime incidents is being described as a policy that could mean lower overall crime numbers for the city as a whole.

“We are in full support of this resolution,” American Jewish Committee Regional Director Sarah van Loon told The Center Square. “One of the things that we consistently hear from our partners in law enforcement is that hate crimes don’t happen in a vacuum. They often start with a series of hate incidents that don’t yet rise to the level of a crime. It’s so important that law enforcement and city services have the ability to track these incidents and see if there is a pattern.”

As the only Jewish member of the Chicago City Council, Silverstein’s plan would require Chicago police to track “hate incidents” and the Commission on Human Relations to monitor all “non-criminal hostile expression” as action that may be motivated by prejudice.

“We work really close with Ald. Silverstein as she works to help improve the lives of all citizens in Chicago, and certainly in her ward,” added Van Loon, stressing that the legislation applies to all citizens and not just those in the Jewish community. “Since she knows that AJC is on the front lines of the fight against hate crimes she reached out to us to offer the resolution and see if she could count on our support … We think this is a really smart resolution.”

With more than three decades having passed since the city’s hate crime ordinance was last updated, the City Council’s Public Safety Commission has also quickly thrown its support behind the measure.

Saying that such crime often hurts some of the city’s most vulnerable and marginalized, van Loon said she is hoping to see even more individuals and groups come out in support of it.

“This can be such a positive blow for good for our city and can help with some of the issues of crime that we’re seeing, help demonstrate patterns and help guide law enforcement into the areas that they need to be paying attention to,” she said. “I would think combating crime through understanding the rise of crimes that may turn into a hate crime is a really powerful place to begin.”

Van Loon said she thinks hate crimes are on the rise everywhere at least partly stemming from increased levels of raised political polarization and the constant flow of toxic language coming from all corners.

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