Illinois lawmakers meet to discuss hate crimes

(The Center Square) – The Illinois Public Safety and Violence Prevention task force met Thursday to share information and discuss strategies for preventing hate crimes throughout the state.

A hate crime is a prejudice-motivated crime that occurs when a perpetrator targets a victim because of their membership in a social or racial demographic.

The task force met with many advocacy groups who shared statistics on what was happening in Illinois. The goal of the hearing was to better inform the public of offenses, as many have gone unreported over the years.

State Rep. LaShawn Ford. D-Chicago, said the meeting comes after many of those groups requested help from the state.

“This is brought to you because many groups asked Chair Hurley and me to hold a hearing on hate crimes happening in Illinois,” Ford said.

Statistics show that a crime against another person based on their race is the most common hate crime in the country, with religion and sexual orientation being the other main factors.

Julie Justicz serves as chief strategy officer for the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. She explained that many of these crimes go unreported to the FBI.

“What happens when filing is that 86% of local law enforcement agencies reported incidents of zero hate crimes,” Justicz said. “Only about 14% of LEA’s reported about 73,000 hate crimes in 2019.”

State Rep. Patrick Windhorst, R-Metropolis, a member of the task force, told The Center Square that the state needs to address past policies and reforms and increase the penalties on offenders if they hope to stop hate crimes.

“I believe if we are determined to deter these types of crimes, we need to make sure there are significant consequences for those who engage in this type of activity,” Windhorst said.

Windhorst said that the SAFE-T Act and eliminating cash bail will not help the issues.

“With the SAFE-T Act and the Pre Trial Fairness Act, it appears to me that the offense of hate crime is not a detainable offense through trial,” Windhorst said. “If an individual is arrested for a hate crime, they will be released within 48 hours.”

The SAFE-T Act abolishes cash bail starting in January, reforms police training, certification, and use-of-force standards, expands detainee rights, and requires body cameras in all departments by 2025.

“The legislature has a wide variety of responsibilities, so it isn’t surprising there is a task force for this subject,” state Rep. Mike Marron, R-Fithian, told The Center Square. “As with any task force in the state of Illinois, the better question is will the body meet regularly … I would be in favor of a task force that meets regularly to study the coming negative impacts of the end of cash bail and make recommendations to stop the drug trafficking and violent crimes plaguing our communities. I won’t hold my breath.”

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