Hate groups pose problem for law enforcement - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Hate groups pose problem for law enforcement

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Still a lot of unanswered questions in Wednesday night's Charleston, South Carolina shooting, the biggest one being the gunman's motive. Investigators haven't determined whether the accused shooter, Dylann Roof, acted alone or as part of a hate group.

And you might be surprised to know just how many of those groups exist not only around the country, but right here in the Magnolia State.

There are more than 780 hate groups nationwide, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Mississippi has 22 of those within its borders, with four in the metro.

"It doesn't surprise me, because hate is everywhere," one woman said.

Investigating them isn't just difficult for law enforcement agencies, though; it's also unconstitutional.

"We don't investigate groups. We investigate individuals," said FBI Jackson Special Agent in Charge Don Alway. "Some of the challenges we have: hate in and of itself isn't illegal." 

The question now becomes: how do you prevent something like the church shooting from happening again, even in Mississippi?

"People that live in Jackson, I think that we really need to get together and take it down together," said Jackson resident Shanice Gray. "We all come together and work something out, we'll be able to get it done." 

Gray said she's a big believer in neighborhood watch programs that rely on the idea of reporting suspicious activity to local law enforcement.

Alway said that strategy can be applied here as well.

"Communication's key," said Alway. "Groups that are based in hate have the right to form and have that opinion. They don't have the right to commit crimes based upon that hate." 

Over the last six years, the Southern Poverty Law Center says there have been at least 12 hate incidents or hate group activities in Mississippi. The most recent one took place in February 2014 on the Ole Miss campus in Oxford.

Law enforcement said Graeme Phillip Harris placed a noose around the neck of the university's statue of James Meredith, the first African-American to enroll at the university.

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