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Bikies aren't so bad, says South Australia's Police Commissioner Mal Hyde

(Mad dog Rann will love this...)


Bikie activities have been a target of the Rann Government. Source: The Advertiser

BIKIES have cultivated an image of committing more crime than they actually do, the Police Commissioner says.

In a new book, Mal Hyde says "there is a great deal of public concern that may not necessarily match the serious crime that they are committing".

His views are in stark contrast to those of South Australian Premier Mike Rann, who said in 2007 that bikies were as bad as "terrorists".

Mr Rann had said national laws were needed to stop them organising their activities.

"I have also indicated that in addition, the national counter-terrorism laws that have been appropriately modified and adopted could provide a nationally consistent approach to ban and control outlaw bikie gangs," he said of the now-stalled laws.

Mr Hyde said bikies presented two problems - the "serious" and "organised type" crime they committed, but also a "public face which most organised criminals don't have" which portrayed them as "above the law".

He made the comments in an interview with Monash University criminology professor David Baker, who devoted a chapter to Mr Hyde in his book Trends in Policing: Interviews with Police Leaders across the Globe, because of his reformist agenda and longevity as commissioner since 1997.

A spokesman for Mr Hyde told The Advertiser yesterday that he had been quoted correctly and he stood by the comments but denied they were a change in his position that bikie gangs were a "serious problem".

In the book, Mr Hyde says: "The challenge around the bikies is really two-fold. The first is that they commit serious crime and much of it is organised type crime, so you have to deal with that.

"There are other organised crime groups as well, but the bikies have a public face which most organised criminals don't have and which is about their persona: how they use violence, how they dress and how they behave and how they like to be above the law.

"The fact that there is serious concern about their behaviour is an issue in itself."

His views appeared to contradict the repeated comments of the State Government, which had devoted far more attention to "terrorist" bikies than any other crime group and passed laws banning them from associating with each other.

Parts of the legislation have been deemed unconstitutional in the High Court.

Critics of the laws have accused the State Government of exaggerating the bikie crime problem to promote its law and order credentials. Mr Hyde also says in the book South Australia is "under-represented" on bikie crime compared with other states.

"In terms of bikies we actually don't have a major problem here in the sense that it exceeds the problem in other states and territories," he says.

"When you count the number of bikies, South Australia only has about 6 per cent of the national figure and we have 8 per cent of the population of Australia, so we are actually under-represented in bikies."

Commissioner for the Victims of Crime Michael O'Connell was critical of the "rhetoric" used by some in the anti-bikie debate and said comments against bikies in the media did not match public concern.

"There is a perception that people are worried about bikies and the crime they are committing but when you ask people what they are worried about, bikies don't feature," he said.

"Surveys on fear of crime do not reveal broad public concern about organised crime. Some of the very public and violent incidents involving members of bikie gangs and others have fuelled fear of these people and drawn attention to their activities.

"That fear, however, might be a consequence of the general worry fostered by signs of disorder and social incivilities."

UnitingCare Wesley spokesman Mark Henley said he was encouraged by the tone of Mr Hyde's comments, which also included a statement that the growing divide between rich and poor was an increasing cause of crime.

"I think I agree with most of what the Commissioner has said (in the book chapter) and find it encouraging that he is saying some of these things, particularly the comments about the growing divide between rich and poor; stuff we've been saying for a while, but if the Commissioner says so, it's right," he said.

For local updates, visit The Advertiser.

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