Arab American group calling for an end of 'Suspicious Activity Report' practice

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ByWill Jones via WLS logo
Saturday, July 2, 2022
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An Arab American group in Chicago is calling on law enforcement agencies to stop a practice that encourages people to report suspicious behavior to police.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- An Arab American group in Chicago is calling on law enforcement agencies to stop a practice that encourages people to report suspicious behavior to police.

The Arab American Action Network released a new study they said shows their community is being unfairly targeted by Suspicious Activity Reports or SARs.

It was created as a tool for law enforcement agencies across the country following September 11t to identify threats.

"In this report we not only explain the problem, but we offer solutions," said Hatem Abudayyeh, Arab American Action Network Executive Director.

In partnership with the Policing in Chicago Research Group at UIC, they looked into more than 200 Suspicious Activity Reports

created by the Illinois State Police and the Chicago Police Department between 2016 and 2020.

And they found that more than half of the reports that included markers of racial identity, listed the suspects as Middle Eastern, Muslim or "olive skinned," and even more were identified as people of color.

"Our findings show clearly what we have known for so long that local and state and federal law enforcement is engaged in targeted racial profiling against the Arab and Muslim communities in the Chicagoland area," said Muhammad Sankari, Arab American Action Network Lead Organizer.

The report also found some people were targeted for everyday activities, including for talking with their school counselor or even taking pictures downtown.

"People submitted SARs after observing people of color, especially people identified as Arab American or Muslims, taking photographs of churches, trains, fire stations, state capitol, the Art Institute," said Sangi Ravichandran, who is part of the Policing in Chicago Research Group.

The Illinois State Police says it only accepts suspicious activity reports from law enforcement and vetted public safety partners only.

The Chicago Police Department hasn't responded yet to ABC7's request for comment.

The FBI's Chicago office released a statement saying in part "As the primary federal agency responsible for investigating civil rights, the FBI is dedicated to working hand-in-hand with local, state, and federal law enforcement partners to investigate and prevent civil rights offenses."