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July 28, 2011
Evolving ... police are looking into new methods to target "new-age" bikies. Photo: Jason South
POLICE will push for national, uniform laws to prosecute outlaw motorcycle gangs and for ''fusion'' centres to investigate them following the proliferation of tech-savvy ''new age'' bikies.
After a two-day conference in Parramatta, involving police squad commanders from throughout the country and New Zealand plus the FBI, Australian police will move to establish one-stop shops in each state for sharing information about gangs from tax and customs authorities.
''Everyone faces the same problems with these individuals and the themes are similar right across Australia,'' the NSW gangs squad commander, Superintendent Arthur Katsogiannis, said.
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Bikie gangs involved in illicit activities were rapidly expanding, and jumping state borders to avoid prosecution under different sets of regional laws.
''These organisations are recruiting at a very, very fast rate and, if I can use the analogy, they are basically building franchises, not only nationally but internationally,'' he said. ''The traditional bikie has significantly changed over the last 10 years. The old beer-drinking, motorcycle-riding bikie is no longer there. We have the new-aged bikie, or the 'Nike Bikie'; they are advanced with their technology.''
Laws targeting bikies did not exist in Australia until 2000. Most have come in the last six years.
Australia's attorneys-general agreed in-principle to nationalise the approach to bikie gangs in 2009, a month after Anthony Zervas was bludgeoned to death during a brawl between the Comanchero and Hells Angels at Sydney Airport. But, following last month's High Court decision to uphold a Hells Angels challenge to NSW bikie laws and a partly successful Finks challenge to South Australian laws last November, police want inconsistencies ironed out and action by each government.
''We are sharing our information and intelligence … but we need to have a more formal approach,'' Superintendent Katsogiannis said. ''We are asking for the support of our respective governments to assist us with [a] legislative framework so we can address the issue of [bikie gangs].''
In the US, there is controversy surrounding terrorism-inspired ''fusion'' centres over their potential to violate civil liberties.
The one-stop shops in each police jurisdiction in Australia would combine resources of the Tax Office, Customs, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and state and federal police.
''[They] would combine all the various jurisdictions and agencies in one room and, at the push of a button, access information without any barriers,'' Superintendent Katsogiannis said. ''The red tape will be cut so we can get access to that information.
Fusion centres were created last year within the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) to track down organised crime figures through financial records.