Hate crimes rose 17 percent nationally last year, according to an annual report just published by the FBI. The spike was even higher for anti-Semitic hate crimes, which increased 37 percent in 2017.
Just days before the annual report, swastika stickers were posted on light poles and street signs around New Mountain View Community Center, near 9th Street and Grovers Avenue.
"It just blows your mind when you know how close it is to you," said Jacob, who lives nearby.
The guy who snapped the photo of the swastika slapped on a pole told ABC15 he took down six of them.
He also said similar flyers were posted in the area six months ago.
"It's about letting people know that they have a presence. Let others know that they are recruiting," said Carlos Galindo-Elvira, Regional Director of the Arizona Anti-Defamation League.
Galindo-Elvira said the racist group responsible for this incident is not new to the Valley.
"This Neo-Nazi group has already made their presence known in Arizona. They did it last October when they unfurled their flag on the Arizona State University pedestrian bridge," he said.
In Phoenix last year, the Jewish community saw a 35 percent increase in hate crimes. They were the fourth-most attacked group.
While ABC15 was reporting the story in north Phoenix, someone stuck a racist "Whites Unite” flyer on our news vehicle, which also included the swastika.
“We are basically a metro area where people want to move, and it’s going to bring people that think like that. So I don’t think it is going to stop. It’s just going to keep getting worse,” said Oscar, a parent who lives in the area.
In most cases, flyers are considered a hate incident, not a crime.
In a statement, a Phoenix police spokesperson told ABC15, “Unfortunately, no matter how offensive one might consider it, it only becomes a hate crime when someone is targeted and threatened. One of the greatest rights we have in our country is freedom of speech, whether we agree with it or not, no matter how repulsive we might find what was is said or expressed. A Nazi symbol, in and of itself, is not a hate crime.”
The Anti-Defamation League and police are still hoping to find those responsible.
“It is incumbent on all of us to be vigilant. If you see something, say something,” said Galindo-Elvira.
If what happened in Pittsburgh is any indication, where eleven people were shot and killed inside a Jewish house of worship, hate does not always end with just stickers on light poles.
“I am concerned about any hate group gaining a foothold in any part of our state. We know what the ramifications can be when hate builds,” said Galindo-Elvira.