Local law enforcement on alert of hate groups in the Tampa Bay area after Charlottesville

Posted at 6:14 PM, Aug 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-15 05:18:39-04

After violence erupted in Virginia this past weekend, law enforcement in Tampa Bay say they're on alert.

"I think any law enforcement agency right now is watching social media, seeing what's going on in their community because they want to see if there's going to be copycats, sympathizers," Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said.

It's no mystery there are active hate groups in Tampa Bay. The Southern Poverty Law Center lists 7 active hate groups in the region; the KKK in Hudson, Neo-Nazis in Brandon, White Nationalists in Lakewood Ranch, Anti-Muslims in Venice and Black Separatist groups in Tampa and St. Pete.

Just last week, two confirmed members of the Aryan Brotherhood were arrested in the Griffin Park neighborhood in New Port Richey. In that same neighborhood in 2006, a Neo-Nazi killed a teenager.

Members of a group called the Atomwaffen were discovered in Tampa Palms earlier this year.

Also earlier this year, KKK flyers were distributed in a Hudson neighborhood.

The Southern Poverty Law Center says hate groups are on the rise across the country. In 2016, it reports there were 917. While that's more than 2014 or 2015, it's lower than the peak of 1018 in 2011.

"We're watching them the same as we always have, however, like any law enforcement agency right now, you're watching to see what's going on through communication. What's going on on social media. What's going on through their accounts. Are they chirping more. Are they talking. Are people saying, 'Hey let's start a movement,'" Sheriff Nocco said.

Click here to see the map that tracks active hate groups in other counties or states.