Author: Bradley, C
Published in National Security Journal, 15 May 2020
Patched gangs are a global phenomenon and there are numerous definitions that cover larger areas of the globe including Canada, Australia and the United Nations (Europol, 2012:1; the National Crime Agency-UK; the Federal Criminal Police Office, BKA-Germany).1 Gilbert however provides two useful definitions: he states that a gang is ‘a structured group (of five or more people) that maintain an exclusive, membership marked by common identifiers and formal rules that supersede the rules of state.2
Of interest to this article is Gilbert’s second definition of a criminal gang – ‘a structured group (of five or more people) that maintain an exclusive membership marked by common identifiers and formal rules that supersede the rules of state, and an organisational focus on profit through crime’.3 In the second definition we can see the nexus between gang membership and the focus on crime. These two definitions are useful when determining where a gang sits on the organised crime/gang continuum, concepts we will return to below. Section 98a of the New Zealand Crimes Act 1961 outlines a set of criteria that legally classifies a criminal organisation; these include any group that has 3 or more people, with objectives of either committing serious violence or making money from offences punishable by 4 or more years in jail, as well as knowledge that the gang fits into the above criteria, participation in the gang, and knowledge that their participation contribute to the gang’s criminal activity or is reckless to that effect. Both of Gilbert’s definitions, and the classifications set out by the Crimes Act, help us locate gangs in the criminal or shadow milieu. But we need to be cautious in making general statements about such a nexus, as in reality any link will be nuanced.
Patched gangs have often been linked to organised crime. Some media, politicians and law enforcement assert that all gangs and gang members are linked to crime and the shadow economy. This is a view most gangs refute. Added to the confusion around