Unsolved hate crimes in Chicago surge, City Council votes to change reporting system

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Tom Jones WLS logo
Thursday, December 14, 2023
Unsolved Chicago hate crimes surge, reporting system change enacted
The ABC7 I-Team has obtained jarring Chicago police data reflecting hundreds of hate crime investigations in the city.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The ABC7 I-Team has obtained jarring Chicago police data reflecting hundreds of hate crime investigations in Chicago.

While hate crime complaints are surging in the city this year, an I-Team analysis of Chicago Police Department data shows that the vast majority of these cases go unsolved.

That disturbing trend is evident as Chicago's City Council on Wednesday decided to change the way people call for help to report a hate crime.

The number of reported hate-crimes in Chicago this year through the end of October has already surpassed the total number of reports in 2022; with 256 reported hate crimes as of Oct. 31, compared to 206 for the full year of 2022.

But since 2015, Chicago Police Department data obtained through a public records request show of the 856 hate crime investigations, 72% or 620 investigations are classified as "suspended," due to police finding no actionable evidence.

Only 23%, or 194, of all hate crime investigations since 2015 have been solved or closed, usually with arrests.

ABC7 police affairs consultant, one-time CPD commander and former suburban police chief Bill Kushner, told the I-Team "understaffing" for the department is just one aspect for why the percentage of cases solved is so low.

"Ideally, as a police administrator, as a citizen, you'd want to see the clearance rate to be more like 83%," Kushner said. "But in reality, you need witnesses. You need hard, physical evidence to get these crimes cleared. And that's not the case in these matters."

Kushner is highly critical of a city council ordinance that passed on Wednesday without opposition, making the city's non-emergency phone line 311 the official phone bank for hate crime calls.

According to the "Chi vs Hate" ordinance, 311 will be the "standardized intake system for members of the public to report hate crimes and hate incidents."

50th Ward Ald. Debra Silverstein, the ordinance's sponsor, told the I-Team the changes approved Wednesday also defines "hate incidents" or actions that targets an individual or group, but does not rise to the level of a crime.

"We have seen that hate incidents are precursors to crimes, and we wanted to add that definition in the ordinance," Silverstein said. "The 311 app would be the easiest way for people to report crimes. There are 100 different languages on 311, and you can ask for a police response or a civilian response."

After the ordinance passed with no opposition, Silverstein told the I-Team there are ongoing meetings with the Office of Emergency Management and Communications and 311, and the intent of the ordinance is for more serious hate calls to still go to 911.

Chicago is not the first city to move hate crime reports to a non-emergency system.

Los Angeles also went to a similar plan a couple of years ago. In New York, hate crime calls still go to 911.

Kushner fears the rates of hate crimes solved in Chicago will decline even more with 311 as the official phone bank for these types of calls.

"What they did with this new ordinance is they just reinvented the wheel. Unfortunately, this wheel they reinvented has a flat tire on it," Kushner said. "311 should be relegated to taking complaints of potholes and burned out streetlights. And that's it. Crime calls should all go to 911."