Preventing Hate Crimes
What is a hate crime?
A hate crime is a crime against a person, group, or property motivated by the victim’s real or perceived protected social group. The law protects against many classes of hate crimes. Hate Crimes can include:
- Verbal Intimidation or Threats
- Hate Mail (including email)
- Property Damage
- Trespassing and Stalking
- Physical assaults and threats
- Attacks with weapons
Hate crime or hate incident?
It is important to know the difference between a hate crime and a hate incident. A hate incident is an action or behavior motivated by hate but legally protected by the First Amendment right to freedom of expression. Examples of hate incidents include:
- Distributing hate material in public places
- Displaying hate material on your own property
The U.S. Constitution allows hate speech as long as it does not interfere with the civil rights of others. If a hate incident starts to threaten a person or property, it may become a hate crime.
What to do if you witness a hate crime
Report the crime to the police department. If hate crimes are not reported, the hate crimes may continue.
How to spot a hate crime
Here are signs of a possible hate crime:
- The criminal chose the victim or property because they belonged to a protected group, like a certain religion or gender.
- The criminal made written or verbal comments showing a prejudice.
- The crime happened on a date that is important for the victim’s protected group.
- There is a lot of organized hate activity in the area.
What you and your community can do
- Speak out against hate and intolerance
- Have community rallies to support victims
- Offer support and help to victims
- Ask public officials to speak out against hate crimes
- Establish a hate crime network that includes law enforcement, local government, schools, religious organizations and community organizations. Ask them to respond to hate crimes immediately when they happen and to promote prevention and awareness.
If you are a hate crime victim, you should:
- Contact the police department right away!
- Get medical attention (if you need it).
- Write down the exact words that were said.
- Make notes about any other facts so you don’t forget them. Save all evidence (e.g., graffiti, egg shells, writing on victim’s vehicle). If safe, wait until law enforcement arrives and takes photos.
- Get names, addresses, phone numbers, and emails of other victims and witnesses.
- Try to get a description from any eyewitnesses of the criminal or the vehicle.
- Contact a community organization in your area that responds to hate crimes.
Illinois Attorney General - Civil Rights
Preventing Hate Crimes in your Community | HATECRIMES | Department of Justice