Suburbs, Illinois bucking national hate crime trends

  • Reported hate crimes, and especially hate crimes against Muslims, are on the rise across the nation, according to new figures released by the FBI. The good news is that the suburbs are bucking the trend.

    Reported hate crimes, and especially hate crimes against Muslims, are on the rise across the nation, according to new figures released by the FBI. The good news is that the suburbs are bucking the trend. Daily Herald File Photo, 2008

 

The FBI released some disturbing data last week about the rise in hate crimes reported in the country, and particularly the sharp increase in hate crimes against Muslims.

According to the report, 5,850 hate crimes were reported last year, up nearly 7 percent from 5,479 in 2014. Of those, 257 were against Muslims, a 67 percent hike from 2014.

Illinois, and the suburbs in particular, are bucking the trend. Hate crime reports in the state fell from 109 in 2014 to 90 last year. There were 105 reported in 2013.

In the communities the Daily Herald covers, 11 hate crimes were reported in 2015, down from the 16 reported the previous 12 months.

Where they're occurring

No one suburb had more than a single reported hate crime in 2015. That wasn't the case in 2014, when Aurora saw four of the 16 in the Daily Herald suburbs.

Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman said in an email there can be an ebb and flow to crime patterns that cannot be explained, and the fact Illinois is seeing hate crime reports decline while they're up nationwide is "a head-scratcher."

Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman
Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman
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"With hate crimes, I believe the community sets the tone for the behaviors that are tolerated. I have to believe (and it's just a belief) that the zero-tolerance message we send out about hatred and intolerance is causal for there being such low incidents," she said.

Ziman said she hesitates to celebrate too quickly because many hate crimes go unreported.

Addison, Grayslake and Schaumburg also took reports of hate crimes in 2014 and 2015. St. Charles had two in 2013 and none in the past two years.

Of the 11 suburban hate crimes reported last year, seven were motivated by race or ethnicity. Two others were motivated by religion, while one was based on sexual orientation and another on gender identity.

Facebook fake

Emotions ran high in the days after the election of Donald Trump as president. And that may have been a factor in a Facebook post that led Elgin police on an investigation that turned out to be a big waste of valuable resources.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Because, as it turns out, the post simply wasn't true.

A crime analyst for the department who routinely monitors social media spotted a post on an Elgin-related Facebook site from a woman claiming she saw Trump supporters beating a Latino resident, hurling racial epithets and telling the victim to "go back to Mexico."

Elgin police spent at least eight hours trying to verify the allegations, Cmdr. Allen Young told us.

Finally, the woman who made the post admitted she hadn't actually seen such an incident but claimed she heard about it from friends or her children. She wouldn't let police talk to the kids, Young said.

Chief Jeff Swoboda was none too happy about it and let loose on the department's Facebook page.

"Elgin PD has now wasted the time of multiple officers and detectives as they investigated 'facts' surrounding the post," Swoboda wrote. "Please remember -- sometimes people have their own agendas for publishing extremes and misinformation. We see it daily and we trust that the community will not buy into exaggerated claims of how 'bad' Elgin is."

One more year

Arlington Heights attorney and former McHenry County Board member Robert Bless has had a fourth year added on to the suspension of his law license by the Illinois Supreme Court.
Arlington Heights attorney and former McHenry County Board member Robert Bless has had a fourth year added on to the suspension of his law license by the Illinois Supreme Court.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

More bad news for Arlington Heights attorney and former McHenry County Board member Bob Bless. The Illinois Supreme Court this week tacked a fourth year onto an earlier three-year suspension of Bless' law license.

The court found Bless continued to work as an attorney and county board member from 2008 to 2010, while he was collecting disability pay for an injury he suffered while employed as a Cook County sheriff's deputy.

Last March, the Supreme Court suspended Bless' license for three years after determining he had an improper intimate relationship with a young widow he was representing in a wrongful-death lawsuit stemming from her husband's death in a workplace accident. Bless, according to the court's findings, also borrowed $200,000 from her -- which he used to help fund his McHenry County Board campaign and buy a BMW convertible -- and encouraged her to lie about their relationship at her deposition in the wrongful-death case.

Lifetime of achievement

Lake County Sheriff's Deputy Robert Skrypek this month received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Chicago Crime Commission.
Lake County Sheriff's Deputy Robert Skrypek this month received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Chicago Crime Commission. - Courtesy of Lake County Sheriff's Office

In his 21 years with the Lake County sheriff's office, Deputy Robert Skrypek has just about done it all -- court security, patrol, investigations, warrants, cyber crimes, tactical response and, now, field training officer.

If that sounds to you like a lifetime of achievement, you'd be right. And the Chicago Crime Commission agrees.

The commission this month gave Skrypek its annual Lifetime of Service for work that's ranged from tracking down deadbeat parents and child pornographers to apprehending violent offenders and saving citizens' lives.

Skrypek accepted the award the same night this month the commission honored colleague Deputy Craig Sommerville and the department police dog Diesel with its Paws of Distinction Award.

"I couldn't be more proud of how Deputy Skrypek, Deputy Sommerville, and Canine Diesel represent the Lake County sheriff's office," Sheriff Mark Curran said.

Patience, please

If you have to deal with the Kane County circuit court clerks next week, be kind and be patient. They will be wrapping up conversion to a new case-management system, replacing a much-maligned 16-year-old system. New case information generated next week won't be available on the clerk's website until after Dec. 5.

• Got a tip? Have a question? Email Charles Keeshan and Susan Sarkauskas at copsandcrime@dailyherald.com, or call our tip line at (847) 427-4483.

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