Who's Tracking Potentially Dangerous Individuals?

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By Ashley Thompson

The Dale County hostage situation made Jimmy Lee Dykes enemy number one for many people. Neighbors described his behavior as odd and anti-social and some are wondering if maybe he should have been monitored by authorities.

Investigator John Lee of the Prattville Police Department says while his department does not watch specific groups, they will temporarily monitor certain individuals based on leads received.

"We do get tips from the public that gives us a reason to interview somebody and dig a little deeper, check into their history and see what they're up to," he says.

While law enforcement and watch-dog agencies are two separate entities, Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center says the two groups often work together to track down potentially dangerous people.

"We work quite a lot with law enforcement in the sense that we train law enforcement officers, police officers, sheriffs deputies, federal agents and so on," he explains.

Potok says the SPLC tracks particular groups from the radical right. But says they will not always follow up on every tip received from the public.

"People call us with tips of various kinds. We're not the police. We don't go around and spy on somebody because their neighbor doesn't like them or that kind of thing. It's not just any old kind of unpleasant person or person we don't like or somebody else doesn't like. We're looking at people who are politically a part of the extreme right," he says.

Both law enforcement and the SPLC want to control people who may be a threat to those around them.

"Depending on what we find or depending on what the information is that we get, it can be passed on to investigators pertaining to whatever it is their complaint is so they can check on it," says Lee.

"Our goal is to weaken and destroy the extreme right if that's possible," says Potok. "We're not suggesting remotely that people be thrown into prison because they have obnoxious views. That's obviously completely unconstitutional."

The Southern Poverty Law Center has been successful in weakening many alleged hate groups by suing them which in turn bankrupts them.

If you have information or tips on a potentially dangerous individual, you are encouraged to call your local police department.



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