Bikies: Please raid us, so we can look tough too
Members of the Mongols Motorcycle Club ride into Boulder City, Nevada, US. Photo: AP
The bikie boss was furious when he learned 650 police had conducted 59 simultaneous raids on Hells Angels targets around the state. So much so he wanted crisis talks with senior Echo gang taskforce detectives.
"What are you doing, you're making us look bad," he said. Surprisingly the bikie was not from the Angels but from a rival gang jealous at all the attention.
"You are making them look tough. You need to raid us," he declared.
One bikie boss asked police to fake a confrontation on a road run so he would look tough in the eyes of his members.
There is the irony. The more the police and the media look at the bikies, the more popular they become.
One US federal expert told the conference, "Sons of Anarchy (bikie television series) has killed us. Everyone wants to be a biker."
In Victoria one bikie said the police activity was "giving clubs a golden lustre".
While the bosses want to avoid police attention so they can concentrate on drugs, guns and standover work, the higher profile has made the gangs popular with a certain demographic looking for thrills and a sense of belonging.
Detective Senior Sergeant Wayne Cheesman said the gang office holders claim they are flooded with inquiries from young men drawn by the headlines of bikie activities. At present there are 26 clubs with 62 club houses and 1300 patched members but the numbers are growing with new groups from overseas looking to expand into Australia.
The reason is strictly economic. We are prepared to pay big money for illegal drugs and we use truckloads of them.
Last week's Australian conference on outlaw bikies gangs showed a clear divide between the bosses and the ordinary members in the groups.
According to Detective Senior Sergeant Cheesman for the leaders, "It is all about the money".
This is big business. The bosses hold their strategy meetings overseas – in Indonesia and Thailand to avoid police attention – plan to set up chapters in rural ports and in country towns on main highways and have developed international money laundering connections and drug partners in Mexico, Canada and Asia.
For the followers it is about status, identity and sense of belonging. One US expert said bikies from the bigger gangs could travel around the world and be welcomed at affiliated chapters. "They are asked, do you want girls, guns, drugs?"
But in return they must give unquestioned loyalty. If they are told to attack rivals they must do so no matter the consequences.
The conference was shown a series of riots, bashings, stabbings and shootings involving the Hells Angels and Mongols caught on CCTV at Nevada casinos.
Every section of the gaming floors are covered by the cameras and so the fighting bikies knew that if they weren't killed, they would be identified and caught. "These guys just don't care," said Las Vegas bikie expert Detective John Woosnam.
A disturbing development is the recruitment of serving and former military personnel who have returned from war zones.
One US expert told the conference some in the military missed the "brotherhood" and looked to bikie groups to replace that close bond.
One ex-soldier became a bikie enforcer in country Victoria and helped control a $100,000 a week rural Ice syndicate. "He was able to terrify the whole town," the conference was told.
But while many of the bikies join for a sense of direction not all of them know where they want to go.
During one gang road run police waited patiently at a road block to pull them over only to realise they had got themselves hopelessly lost according to one senior policeman at the conference. "We debated it for a while and then went and showed them how to get back on the highway."