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PHOENIX (CBS5) -
According to a new report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, conspiracy-minded anti-government 'patriot' groups have reached an all-time high in 2012.
"In 2008, there were a mere 149 of these organizations," said the report's author, Mark Potok.
"In 2012, we counted 1,360 of them. That works out to be more than an 800 percent increase in four years," he continued.
Potok says anger over the economy and the Obama administration's gun control proposal may be factors behind the explosive growth of such groups. Although Potok says the patriot groups are not necessarily hate groups, he warns there should still be concern over the rise.
"What we worry about is violence, (including) criminal violence and terrorism," said Potok.
"Clearly the vast majority of people in these groups will never blow up a federal building or shoot anyone or commit a major crime," he stated.
However, Bill Straus, the Arizona regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, said in our state, he is worried about those rare few that can cause a huge amount of hurt.
"The hate that builds in an individual who sits all day at a computer getting angrier and angrier at what he doesn't have (is concerning). The one person in the year 2013 is capable of doing more damage and violence than armies (were) able to do 100 years ago," explained Straus.
Though the SPLC says Arizona has 18 patriot groups and counting, Straus says the actual number of such groups is not as important as making sure those groups lose their appeal, especially to a younger generation.
"We try to teach kids that being different than someone else is an opportunity not a problem. It's going to be a continuing battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil," said Straus.
To read the full report from the SPLC, click here.
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