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Police 'confused' on bikie associates

THE boss of elite bikie squad Taskforce Hydra Garry Watts went on the attack yesterday, claiming bikie associates had "very, very tenuous links" to outlaw gangs.

Detective Inspector Watts spoke exclusively to a local Gold Coast radio station as part of a media campaign designed to reassure Gold Coasters, and insisted just because an associate was involved "it doesn't mean it has anything to do with outlaw motorcycle gangs whatsoever".

"I know that there has been some media speculation about outlaw motorcycle gang involvement in serious criminal offences committed here on the Gold Coast," he said.

"I just want to point out that a bikie associate is not an OMCG member.

"That person may have very, very tenuous links with an outlaw motorcycle gang, yet they are referred to as an associate and suddenly it becomes a big bikie issue.

"That is certainly not the case at all. A bikie associate is not a member and really I think it's very irresponsible to link those people with an outlaw motorcycle gang."

Taskforce Hydra held a similar press conference in April last year claiming bikie violence was not out of control on the Gold Coast. The next day, a woman shopper was shot during a confrontation between two rival gang members at Robina Town Centre.

Mr Watts conceded there had been a number of incidents in recent times and said there "were always tensions in OMCG groups operating in a similar geographical area".

Mr Watts' stance placed him at loggerheads with South East Region Assistant Commissioner Graham Rynders, who relied on arrest rates of associates to boost figures designed to prove police were tough on bikies.

In a press release on June 12, Mr Rynders revealed bikie associates were responsible for almost two-thirds of bikie-related arrests.

"OMCG associates contribute to the majority of offenders charged at 56 per cent," Mr Rynders said.

"Associates are not fully patched members of outlaw motorcycle gangs.

"Their actions, activities and connections to OMCG members continue to be monitored and recorded by police as intelligence which forms a basis for OMCG enforcement action.

"In comparison, approximately one-third of the 402 offenders charged are fully patched OMCG members."

Former Gold Coast detective and criminologist Dr Terry Goldsworthy said it was clear police were confused over the definition of associate.

"On the one hand Taskforce Hydra says associates are not directly linked to bikie gangs and on the other, Gold Coast police are using associate arrests to boost their figures," Dr Goldsworthy said.

"Well, which is it?

"You can't have it both ways."

"These clubs are constantly recruiting," said Dr Goldsworthy.

"That's how it works."

Prominent criminal lawyer Bill Potts said the Hydra boss was playing a "game of semantics".

"Police invented the term OMCG - it's not how the gangs refer to themselves - and they also created the term associate," Mr Potts said.

"They have attempted to convince the public the bikies must be declared criminal organisations, now they say associates are not linked.


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