Are Hate Groups Thriving in New Jersey? [AUDIO]
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), New Jersey has the 5th highest number of hate groups in the nation.
The state's top law enforcement official questions that claim, but acknowledges such groups are active in the Garden State.
"We do know that there are hate groups," says acting State Attorney General John Hoffman. "Whether we are among the states that are most active, it's difficult to say."
According to Hoffman it is possible there are flaws in the way the SPLC gathers its data, but he says recent cases provide all the proof needed to show hate groups are active in New Jersey. He cites the Aryan Terror Brigade case in 2013 where two members were sentenced to prison after being convicted of a bias attack in Sayreville, N.J.
"It would be very convenient for us if we could just draw a map and accurately depict exactly where these groups would arise," says Hoffman. "It is true that we tend to see them more in the rural areas than in the urban areas, but that's not an exact science."
Raising awareness about hate groups is vital according to Hoffman. New Jersey has a bias crime tip line (1-800-277-BIAS).
"We have both investigators and prosecutors dedicated to investigating and prosecuting hate crimes and hate groups and bias crimes," explains Hoffman. "Even if there was one hate group in New Jersey that would be one too many and we try to be vigilant about every one of these groups that we identify."