By Alex DeMetrick

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Hate crimes and hate groups increased during 2017, according to two new surveys. The Southern Poverty Law Center tracked 954 active hate groups, a 4-percent jump, and 19 of those organizations were connected to people in Maryland.

RELATED: Hate Groups Are On The Rise In Md., Following Nationwide Trend, SPLC Says

“They have been emboldened for various reasons to step out of the shadows,” says Howard Libit, the executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council. “To be more aggressive, and unfortunately, that’s encouraged others to act out.”

The Anti-Defamation League counted 1,986 incidents of anti-Semitism, a 57-percent increase — the most in 30 years. The incidents ranged from harassment to vandalism to outright assaults.

Maryland legislators are currently debating toughening hate crime laws, especially when it comes to threats. According to Libit, “you can only charge someone with a hate crime if it’s actually committed or attempted, but not if someone has a threat to commit a crime.”

Libit also says there’s a lot more incidents of anti-Semitism and hate activity that go unreported.

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