Chicago sees surge in hate crime reports

Reports of hate crimes are surging in Chicago, particularly crimes targeting Jews and Blacks, a top mayoral aide disclosed Thursday, amid fears it will only get worse as the 2024 presidential election gets closer.

Nancy Andrade, chair of Chicago’s Commission on Human Relations, released the statistics while testifying at City Council budget hearings.

Through Oct. 18, 77 hate crimes had been reported to the commission, a 71% increase from the 45 reported to the commission through the same period last year.

The most frequent targets were Jews (18). Black people were the target 16 times, while in 12 cases white people reported being targeted. After that the reported targets were members of the LGBTQ community (8, not including one crime specifically noted as anti-lesbian); Asian (5); biracial (5); Arab (3); Catholic (1).


Those numbers reflect only hate crimes reported to the commission; the Chicago Police Department received reports of 120 hate crimes during the same period.

Retiring Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) asked Andrade whether "any common thread" links some incidents to allow the commission, the City Council or both to better address it.

Andrade said she was "definitely open to working more strongly" with Council members to raise awareness about the surge.

"We try to address this by working with the actual communities, canvassing the community, trying to generate awareness that it’s wrong. … Sometimes folks will actually pay attention. Sometimes it dies down [then] it continues. But I think it’s definitely an opportunity for us to, together, work on, perhaps, building something stronger with more visibility to address this," Andrade said.

"It’s something that’s not going away. Agreed. The climate is one where those tensions could be rising higher," she said.

Osterman said his "strong belief" is that the ethnic, racial, religious and political tensions that trigger hate crimes "aren’t going away" any time soon. In fact, he said he fears they will only get worse as immigrants continue to arrive in Chicago — about 3,500 since late August.

Over the years, there has been "a very bad thing that happens, hate-related, discrimination-related" in Chicago, but it "feels like it’s an isolated situation," the alderperson said.

"It feels like, and your numbers show it … that these are becoming more and more frequent. Probably, it parallels … hate crimes that are going on around the country," Osterman said.

"I hate to say [it], but I think we should look to be a little more proactive and try to find ways to have some of these dialogues within communities preemptively in the new year or at the end of this year to try to really get ahead of this as much as possible," he said.

Osterman urged Andrade to take advantage of "strong advocates who could be spokesmen" for their respective communities in the City Council.

He specifically mentioned Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th), an Orthodox Jew, and Ald. Nicole Lee (11th), the Council’s first Chinese American.

"I fear deeply the tension escalating after this year as we get closer to the presidential election. … It gives me great fear — and I don’t use that word a lot," Osterman said.

"We need to do this in a way that we’ve never had to do it, at least in my recent lifetime. … The mental health aspects of COVID have caused people to, I’ll use the words ‘act out,’ in ways that seem to be kind of spiraling out of control. People [who] are not in a good mental frame of mind can sometimes commit some of the crimes that end up with your organization."

Andrade replied: "We will definitely be working together. I can assure you that."

Yet another bit of alarming news came from Rich Guidice, executive director of the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

Guidice revealed that the jobs of 79 of the 621 911 center call-takers are vacant — in part because so many were hired when the center opened in 1995 and have now reached retirement age.

"We should all be very concerned about the staff shortages on the floor at the 911 center," said Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th).