CHICAGO — Since President-elect Donald Trump's campaign launched, hate crime incidents have spiked nationally, according to data collected from the FBI and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Now, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart wants to help victims of these incidents fight back.
Dart announced Thursday the creation of a discrimination and hate crime hotline, which will be staffed by Sheriff's office employees who will direct victims of discrimination or hate crimes to law enforcement agencies that can help them.
“With the FBI reporting spikes in hate crimes nationwide, this will act as a proactive resource,” according to a statement from Dart. “Hate crimes should not be dismissed as a fleeting issue or only a problem outside of Cook County. Any act of discrimination or targeted intimidation within my jurisdiction will be met by the full extent of the law.”
The FBI reported a 67 percent spike in hate crimes against Muslims in the last year — the highest level since the days following 9/11 — and more recent incidents have been linked to Trump's rhetoric on the campaign trail.
The law center compiled reports of hate and discrimination incidents in the 10 days after the November election, and found nearly 900 reports. Incidents include black Americans being spat on, called the n-word, and their homes being vandalized with anti-black, pro-Trump messages.
Dart's hotline, which can be reached by calling (773) 674-HELP, will operate 24/7 and is open to anyone who feels they've been targeted "as a result of their religion, race, nationality and/or sexual orientation." If someone is in immediate danger, they should still call 911 instead, Dart said.
Though Dart's office can't arrest anyone for committing a hate crime outside the county's jurisdiction, hotline operators will refer callers to the appropriate police agencies or to legal help.
“The Chicago area has always drawn its greatest strength from the hard work and dedication of religious and immigrant groups. To protect the real strength of our community — diversity — we must stand up for these good people,” Dart said.
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