CHICAGO (CBS) — The Cook County Sheriff has started a hotline that people can call to report what they perceive as hate crimes or incidents in which race, gender or religion is used to discriminate.

Sheriff Tom Dart said hate crimes have been on the rise in recent years, and some people have been emboldened even more in recent weeks.

“It’s been much more intensified in the last couple weeks, and unfortunately all the statistics are showing that,” he said.

The sheriff said different groups representing Muslims, the LGBTQ community, and others he works with asked him to act.

National Louis University education professor Seema Imam, a Muslim, stood with Dart as he announced the new hotline, saying she’s representing all minorities.

“The climate of hate and the fear that has been planted in our country has come to a saddened point, beyond belief. We’ve lost something very important; and that’s compassion and caring for human beings,” she said.

Dart said nobody should live in fear.

“There is a lot of fear out there now,” the sheriff said.

The hotline number is 773-674-HELP. Its live 24-hours a day.

“What we are attempting to do is not solve all the problems, but we want people to know they do not need to live in fear; that if they are in fear, because of their race, because of their religion, because of their orientation, anything, that they have a place to go to. They can call this number. We will work with them. We will connect them with local law enforcement agencies,” Dart said.