Active Hate Groups Named In Our Area

FORT SMITH (KFSM)-In our viewing area, you'll find 16 hate groups in Arkansas and six more in Oklahoma, all from a list released by The Southern Poverty Law Center.

But, what does that mean? At what point is an organization considered a hate group?

"They're not a hate group until they advocate hatred and hostility and things like that to a specific demographic and that's something we have to be very careful about," Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck, Sebastian County said. "It's the fine line of when do they cross the line of believing what they believe in and promoting that violence toward a specific group."

The SPLC's annual list of hate groups isn't new. In fact, many law enforcement agencies have referenced it before. The list is compiled from citizen and police reporter along with the groups' public activities among other things. Law enforcement checks that information and use it to monitor these groups.

"It's about really ensuring that the information we're receiving is accurate, of course, and if there's any type of historical actions by any type of group due to violence," Sheriff Hollenbeck said. "We're going to put them at the top of the list of people we should be aware of."

While only some of the groups are violent, many are known for their extreme behavior and displays of hatred.

"It's the mentality of some of these groups," Sgt. Daniel Grubbs, Fort Smith Police Department said. "They're taking certain aspects of beliefs, but they're taking it to an absolute extreme beyond what a normal citizen would believe."

Now, our local agencies are working to educate the public about the hate groups and ensure the safety of the community.

"When it comes to those type of racial hate groups, we want to do what we can with our community to teach non-hate," Sgt. Grubbs said. "That comes at a very young age. Hate is taught, so we engage ourselves with the schools and the Boys and Girls Clubs to form these relationships to where we're not trying to mirror what's happening around our nation."

The Fort Smith Police Department offers a specific block in the police academy to focus on these types of hate groups, their beliefs and how officer should handle contact with them.

5NEWS reached out to some of the groups on the list, but they either didn't answer or didn't return our calls.

To view the full list and map of active hate groups in the United States, visit the Southern Poverty Law Center's website.

For the SPLC's explanation as to why the groups made the list, click here.