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Bikie insiders say new-age gang members are using Facebook and Instagram to hook the vulnerable.
And some marketing experts say it may not necessarily be dangerous.
Glitter Strip outlaw gang members vagrantly flaunt their colours, dress in expensive watches and shoes, and pose with girls online.
“They are always after new blood and they use social media to show off the Hollywood look,” one source said.
“These guys put up pictures of themselves on Facebook showing their affiliation to a club.
“These images are kind of like marketing. They say: ‘This is what you could be’. They get hundreds of likes from young people who are friends with them or have older brothers in the gang. They see this and they want to be part of the culture and that’s how they get new recruits.”
Police sources say there has been a change from the old-school motivation to join a gang.
“They used to join for the brotherhood and you had the bike. Now kids do it because they think it’s cool because they saw it on social media,” a source said.
Bond University Criminologist Terry Goldsworthy said the “reach and power” of social media was logical way for organised crime gangs to spread their message and recruit.
“Like any business, you have to market it and social media is a very good way to attract people to your product,” he said.
“Bikies use social media to show off and they portray the lifestyle of fast cars and fast women.
“The days of the bushy, bearded unkempt biker are over. Now it’s about the image, the way they present. They still have tattoos but they make an effort to keep themselves looking good and that is why some of them start getting charged with steroid offences. It’s all about the image.”
Marketing the bikie lifestyle on social media may not necessarily be dangerous, said Bond University marketing expert adjunct professor Stephen Holden.
“Lots of people use social media to do marketing so why the hell wouldn’t bikies?
“(Social media sites are) used by good people and bad people. They’re even used in the marketing of cocaine and drugs.
“Posting pictures of themselves ... advertising ... communicating their world and their products means if someone is looking from that then yes, it is a terrific outlet. If I want to be a bikie, I can look it up on the internet and see what they are doing on the Gold Coast.
“People might say it is dangerous or it’s exposing kids to ideas that we don’t want to expose them to, but pornography is still one of the top sellers on the internet and its presence online didn’t create it.
“People will always go looking for what they
want. If people want to follow a bikie gang they will do it. If it’s illegal,
that’s another story.”
So, is it illegal?
Acting Detective Inspector at the Gold Coast Major and Organised Crime Squad Stephen Tiernan said it could be if people of interest are caught “consorting” online.
“We have been aware of it (bikies using social media) for a while. It goes right the way back to when the Finks were using MySpace and they’ve had a presence (online) ever since,” he said.
“ ... Obviously the social media (outlets) operate out of the US and we have procedures in place for gaining access to relevant material.
“If we became aware of posts where they were consorting and they were together and wearing paraphernalia that is now illegal in Queensland, and we could identify through landmarks ... that’s something we look at very seriously.”
Consorting laws were introduced by the Palaszczuk Government this year to replace hard-line VLAD anti-association laws.
The anti-consorting legislation prohibits “recognised offenders” from associating with certain people.
“If someone is deemed to be a person of interest, they cannot be in a public place with certain people,” criminal lawyer and former detective Adam Magill said.
“A person of interest is usually not someone
with no (criminal) history but they can’t be (charged with) consorting if they
haven’t been served by police with a piece of paper with the photos of people
they can’t associate with.”
New-age recruiting methods come as police and legal sources say the Bandidos outlaw motorcycle gang have eased their recruiting policy to increase members on the Coast.
“The Bandidos are the easiest club to get into. That’s because they’re lacking numbers,” one source said.
“They lost a number of their members during
the (Broadbeach) bikie brawl (in 2013) and others left the Coast. They have
their largest grouping on the Gold Coast. Because they are looking for members
and it’s so fast paced you don’t really have to do much to get patched up.”
“They recruit a lot of the kids. Most are low-lifes who are already involved in illegal (expletive).”
In days gone by all outlaw motorcycle gangs would go through strict and lengthy initiations before prospective club members could join.
Hannay Lawyers boss Chris Hannay said new recruits would begin by cleaning the club house or running drugs.
“Then the tasks would get harder and harder, they would have to flog people, collect money or engage in violent-type offending until they could prove they were good enough,” he said.
Many new recruits previously came from feeder
gangs or family associations.
Bikie sources say the process previously took up to two years with wannabe bikies starting as “hang arounds” before moving into a probation period for about 18 months.
“Then someone would have to vouch for you to become a nominee. It really took about two years to become a full patched member,” the source said.
Many say the Glitter Strip bikie scene has hit rock bottom after the VLAD law drove gangs interstate.
The Rebels and the Mongols are believed to still have a large presence on the Coast, with several feeder clubs providing members from the southern Gold Coast and Logan areas.
Sources say the bikie gangs with the most members behind bars traditionally have the strongest hold on the outside.
The fact alleged Glitter Strip Mongols bikies Ben Mortimer and Wade Yates-Taui are currently on remand in separate Brisbane jails awaiting sentence after pleading guilty to the manslaughter of Gold Coast man Max Waller supports these claims.
“They have good solid members and they just don’t give a (expletive). They have a range of homes they operate out of. They don’t have a central club house,” one source said about the Gold Coast Mongols.
“The Comancheros don’t play games in Sydney and they’ve also recently come up here. When they get down they don’t (expletive) around. They are into serious violence and by that I mean death.
“In the US, the Hells Angels are considered a really heavy gang but here, they are plastic gangsters. They recruit from street crews like Red Devils but the Coast is well renowned for being one of the weakest chapters for the club and the most embarrassing.”
Over the border, the
Bandidos and Lone Wolves gangs brawled outside Seagulls Club
at Tweed Heads on the night of the second State of Origin
match in July.
Several men were charged with affray and soon after, NSW gang squads including Strike Force Raptor and Public Order Riot Squad raided the homes of several bikies in the Tweed area.
One month earlier, alleged bikie associate Ace Hall was dumped outside the Tweed Heads hospital with a gunshot wound to the stomach.
He later died and was believed to have been a bikie club associate and local debt enforcer.