Outlaw Bikers and Patched Street Gangs: The Nexus Between Violence and Shadow Economy

Author: Bradley, C


Published in National Security Journal, 15 May 2020


Outlaw bikers, patched street gangs and violence make good headlines and stimulate fierce rhetoric in politics, but does this reflect the nexus between gangs, violence and crime? This article analyses gang membership in Aotearoa New Zealand and the nexus between violence and the shadow economy. Patched gangs as a deviant sub-culture have a long history in Aotearoa New Zealand. Drawing on the cultural tenets of the outlaw bikers of North America, outlaw bikers and patched street gangs grew to such an extent that they now have a presence in most towns and cities in Aotearoa New Zealand. One of these tenets is violence and sets patched gangs outside the standard characteristics of hyper-masculine groups: violence also makes gangs well-placed to control areas of the shadow economy. This paper seeks to locate gangs in the cultural landscape of Aotearoa New Zealand and interrogate what attracts young men to these groups applying General Strain Theory. This paper also investigates the tenets of gang culture with a focus on violence and the role it plays in dominating aspects of the shadow economy. Future trends in the face of an increasingly international gang landscape will be considered while issues in obtaining accurate data on gangs will be discussed. It is the author’s contention that increased economic inequality will see gang membership rise with a move by some groups to position themselves to further control the drug trade through the threat or use of violence and the utilisation of transnational networks. The author also contends that some gangs will resist such moves towards organised criminal behaviour.

Keywords: Outlaw Bikers, Patched Street Gangs, Shadow Economics, Violence, Aotearoa New Zealand.

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