State’s Attorney Alvarez Stepping Up Efforts to Address Hate Crimes

State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez has formed a new Hate Crimes Advisory and Prosecutions Council in an effort to raise awareness and improve response to the issue of Hate Crimes in communities throughout Cook County.

A chief focus of the council will be on creating and maintaining proactive partnerships with communities typically targeted by Hate Crimes in an effort to raise awareness and engagement. Alvarez said the time is right to step up these efforts particularly as a result of international events involving acts of terrorism and the widespread use of social media and the potential for threats or intimidation on the internet.

“Our goal is to reinvigorate our efforts, not only in prosecuting hate crimes when we become aware of them, but also in bringing together important voices to develop a community-based plan that works to raise awareness about hate crimes and also strives to prevent them,” Alvarez said.

The newly formed council includes representation from community organizations, government and law enforcement at the state and local level.  Alvarez said she will ask the council to develop an actionable plan that will serve to raise public awareness of hate crimes, address barriers to hate crimes and develop effective law enforcement and community responses.

Alvarez also announced that she has appointed Bennett E. Kaplan to serve as Chairman of the Council.  Currently the Managing Director of Axium Consulting in Chicago, Kaplan formerly served as both an Assistant U.S. Attorney as well as a Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney.

Kaplan has long been committed to the prosecution of hate crimes and has served on the State’s Attorney’s previous Hate Crimes Prosecution Council as well as the Illinois Governor’s Commission on Discrimination and Hate Crimes.

“I am very grateful to State’s Attorney Alvarez for this important appointment,” Kaplan said.  “At a time when there is ever-present and growing concern locally about Hate Crimes and against the backdrop of increased violent Hate Crimes in Europe, States Attorney Alvarez should be strongly commended on her leadership in re-constituting the Hate Crimes Prosecution Council.“

According to Alvarez, one of the greatest challenges that prosecutors face in the charging and prosecution of Hate Crimes is one of knowledge and understanding on the part of the public as well as victims.  Hate Crimes often go unreported because victims fear public humiliation or retaliation if they come forward.  A chief focus of the council will also be on creating and maintaining partnerships with communities typically targeted by Hate Crimes.

“It is important to remember that any time a crime motivated by hatred or bias is committed, it has a ripple effect upon an entire community.  Hate Crimes cause fear, anger, and confusion among our most vulnerable populations and those feelings of fear and intimidation sometimes prevent members of a particular community from enjoying the rights and liberties that everyone deserves.”

Members of the new council include Roey Gilad, Consul General of Israel; Joshua Rose, President of the NAACP’s Chicago South Side Branch; Itedal Shalabi, of Arab American Family Services; Emily Sweet, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, Rev. Helen Sinclair, of the Rainbow Push Coalition and Lonnie Nasatir, Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League.

The council also includes representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI and the Chicago Police Department as well as governmental representation from the Mayor’s Commission on Human Relations and the Cook County Department of Homeland Security. The LGBT and Hate Crimes specialists from both the State’s Attorney’s Office and the Chicago Police Department are also designated members of the new council.