At least eight different hate groups are active or headquartered in San Diego County, the lowest number in five years, according to the latest data from the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The non-profit works to combat hate and discrimination and tracks hate groups across the country. In their latest report, the year 2016 is being called “an unprecedented year of hate.”
According to the 2016 data, across the United States, the number of hate groups is on the rise and the organization cites the election of President Donald Trump and rhetoric during the campaign as partly responsible for the increase.
Local attorney, and SPLC Board Member, James McElroy told NBC 7 Investigates the number of hate groups that are active in the San Diego region varies from year to year.
“In Southern California, San Diego, we have had a long history of extremism,” he said.
McElroy has spent more than 25 years taking on civil rights cases in San Diego. According to the latest data from SPLC, there are at least eight hate groups active throughout San Diego County. The groups are operating in San Marcos, Vista, City of San Diego, Poway and Lemon Grove. The groups include an anti-LGBT group, an anti-Semitic group, and black separatist groups.
According to the SPLC, the latest data shows there is a total of 79 groups active in California. Eleven of those groups are active across the state but SPLC does not have information on specifically where the groups are based or if they are active in the San Diego region. Those groups include organized White Aryan and Neo-Nazi groups.
The SPLC report shows the number of anti-Muslim hate groups saw the greatest rise. Nationwide, there were 34 groups in 2015. That number is now up to 101. In the report, the SPLC points to the latest FBI statistics from 2015 that show hate crimes against Muslims increased by 67 percent.
Nationwide, the SPLC reports that hate groups rose from 892 organizations in 2015 to 917 last year.
Click here to read more about the nationwide SPLC data.
According to McElroy, there's been an increase in hate incidents in San Diego County, since the election of President Trump.
“From the anecdotal as well as some empirical evidence there has been quite an increase in hate incidents,” he said. “That includes hate crimes that are just characterized as harassment.”
NBC 7 Investigates reached out to the Trump administration for comment on the latest report from the SPLC but didn't receive a response. Wednesday, at a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Trump was asked about the rise of anti-Semitism and racism in the U.S.
The President didn't offer specifics but said, “We are going to do everything within our power to stop long-simmering racism and every other thing that's going on."
The increased activity of hate groups is something San Diego County Deputy District Attorney Oscar Garcia said he is seeing first hand.
“We have been receiving a lot more calls from police agencies, community-based organizations about hate incidents,” he said.
Garcia has headed up the San Diego County District Attorney’s hate crimes unit for 11 years. He said hate incidents and crimes are not just limited to the people affected.
“It causes the disruption among the community as far as the social fabric, of certain groups not trusting other groups.”