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GANG BUSTERS: Police defend Hunter bikie raids

THE region’s top cop has vowed to continue the ‘‘relentless’’ crackdown on bikie gangs, defending police tactics of ripping down at least five Hunter clubhouses in the past six months.

Northern region commander Assistant Commissioner Jeff Loy has also put  associates of the region’s bikie gangs on notice, warning them his officers will continue to target the ‘‘pro-criminal’’ organisations.

Local police, together with the specialist bikie gang squad Strike Force Raptor, have closed down and ripped apart bikie clubhouses at Morisset, Boolaroo, Tea Gardens, Newcastle and Woy Woy since November.

The operation has been  so swift and devastating that it appears to have intimidated at least one other chapter to shut its headquarter doors itself  – before police arrived to do it for them.

The campaign has resulted in northern region police arresting 112 people and charging them with 228 offences in the past six months.

Police have identified a sparingly used piece of legislation, introduced in 1943, to shut down illegal liquor trading dens and pull all equipment out.

‘‘Joe Blow can’t just go down the road and open up a bar without having some significant regulation,’’ Mr Loy said.

‘‘Everything we are doing is lawful. We are police, we act within the law.

‘‘We have no issue with people who want to be bikers and enjoy that freedom of riding motorcycles.

‘‘But once you put that 1per cent tag on, well you have declared you are part of an outlaw motorcycle gang which are criminal gangs.’’

Mr Loy acknowledged it would be impossible to get rid of the bikie culture – or bikies – entirely.

But  police would be ‘‘relentless in our attack on these pro-criminal gangs so that the community has confidence that police have control of their local communities’’.

‘‘We will not sit by and blindly allow outlaw motorcycle gangs to conduct their business without us ensuring that we  do all we can to interrupt their criminal business,’’ he said.

The Hunter crackdown began in November when police pulled down the Rebels clubhouse at Morisset.

The Life and Death gang’s chapter headquarters at Boolaroo was next, before police stormed the Comancheros at Tea Gardens.

When a general duties police car did a patrol of the Bandidos clubhouse at Salamander Bay the day after the Tea Gardens raid, they were confronted by members dismantling their own clubhouse.

‘‘We have had a number of incidents where club members and even members in the hierarchies have actually handed back their costumes and said enough is enough,’’ Mr Loy said.

‘‘They understand we are going to be relentless and you do add that element that they probably realise that in their stage in life they don’t need the police targeting them.’’

Most gangs still have a presence across their patches of the Hunter, including the Gladiators with a stronghold in Maitland.

One of the most significant assaults on bikie headquarters was the Strike Force Raptor raid on the Rebels clubhouse on King Street in Newcastle in February.

It was a location police considered demonstrated a degree of bikie arrogance.

Most clubhouses are tucked away in industrial areas.

‘‘The Rebels clubhouse in Newcastle was significant because it was right in the middle of King Street in relation to the CBD, which is a major metropolis and economical area for NSW,’’ Mr Loy said.