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SA Police chief Grant Stevens announces crackdown over bikie gang involvement in tattoo industry

A POLICE crackdown on bikies and their associates operating tattoo parlours has pushed organised crime figures into a new industry — tattoo removal.

Police Commissioner Grant Stevens has confirmed that officers have launched the first prosecution under laws which took effect mid-last year.

They ban outlaw motorcycle gang members and associates — including their partners or family members — from operating tattoo parlours in South Australia.

Police have also issued seven fines, Mr Stevens revealed, but details of the amount or the breaches involved have not been outlined.

SA Police Licensing and Enforcement Branch officers have conducted 44 audits of tattoo parlours and Serious and Organised Crime Branch officers have been involved in 20 inspections.

They provided expert advice on the involvement of bikie gangs in some businesses.

Mr Stevens told a parliamentary committee that police were observing a “retreat” by bikie gang members from the tattoo industry — “on the face of it”.

Police Commissioner Grant Stevens

However, he added that, “anecdotally”, officers were seeing those organised crime elements moving into tattoo removal instead.

Assistant Commissioner Scott Duval, who also appeared before the committee, added: “It’s actually not a joke. I guess, for them, it’s a business opportunity.”

“Where there’s a gap (in a market) I guess they’ll exploit the gap,” he said.

“That’s the difficulty, being able to close that gap before it can be exploited.”

Mr Duval noted outlaw motorcycle gangs also viewed e-cigarette or vaporiser businesses as “an opportunity”.

In a letter to a separate parliamentary committee, Mr Stevens wrote that four police staff “have worked almost exclusively” on general tattoo notifications since the Tattoo Industry Control Act took effect on July 1 last year.

He said Licensing Enforcement Branch officers had received 582 tattoo-related notifications from the Consumer and Business Services Department over the year to July, 2017.

“There is reliable evidence to suggest that some individuals are stepping away from their affiliation with an outlaw motorcycle gang because their priority is to the tattoo industry,” Mr Stevens told the committee.

“We are closely monitoring those to see whether it is actually a genuine separation from the group or whether it is simply a thin veil to be seen to be compliant (with the law).”

Opposition police spokesman Stephan Knoll said stopping organised crime elements would take “continual vigilance” and policing “must evolve as criminal methods do”.