THE APPEARANCE of a Keystone State Skinheads fliers in the area and recent publicity surrounding the just-concluded murder trial of a self-identified skinhead has provoked anxiety and apprehension, as reports of hate activity tend to do.

So here's some information to put the skinhead phenomenon in context.

Racist skinhead groups and individuals have been involved in at least 83 criminal incidents over recent years, with the vast majority being hate crimes against Jews, African-Americans, Hispanics and other minorities. The U.S. has seen a significant and troubling resurgence of racist skinhead activity with an increase in the number of organized skinhead groups, as well as a rise in the number of unaffiliated racist skinheads.

There are 110 identified U.S. racist skinhead groups. The dominant groups in the Philadelphia area are the Keystone State Skinheads and the Eastern Hammerskins. Skinhead groups operate in small units called "crews." There are seven identified crews in Pennsylvania with a total membership of about 70.

Racist skinheads can be recognized by, of course, their shaved heads, army surplus or generic work boots, button badges or sewn-on fabric patches with text or images related to their group name. They usually sport tattoos, often including specific images like spiderwebs and brass knuckles.

They share a penchant for violence and hatred of targeted groups. These groups include blacks, Jews, Muslims and gays.

Skinheads will easily erupt and seek violent confrontation with non-whites. They believe that all ethnic groups, except the "Aryan race," are detrimental to society, and claim that they defend the white race, white family and white children. They blame minorities for economic hardship, moral decline and all of society's ills.

Local examples of the destructive and violent behavior of skinheads include:

* The beating of an ex-Keystone State member who refused to return his "colors" (jacket emblems worn by members).

* The vandalizing of a Vietnam memorial in the city led by an Eastern Hammerskins member.

* The beating of a black man with stone and pieces of pavement by three KSS members in Scranton.

* The stabbing of two men by two KSS members during a violent bar fight in New Stanton.

* The murder of two homeless men by KSS members from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area.

Racist skinheads, through their literature distributions and criminal behaviors, unsettle, intimidate and alarm.

Citizens need to do their part and report skinhead activity to law enforcement and public and private groups that monitor, expose and challenge them. We must all remain vigilant and see to it that their influence is minimized and their criminality is punished. *

Barry Morrison is regional director of the Anti-Defamation League.