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

Author: Bradley, C
Published in National Security Journal, 15 May 2020

Perhaps moves by this group has been driven by a social need lacking in the current system that has added to the factors drawing young men into the gangs. What is clear when history is considered is that past moves by law enforcement and politicians to tackle the issues of gangs has failed to have any lasting effect. Legal responses to recruitment and attempts by local bodies such as the Whanganui District Council to prohibit wearing gang insignia in September 2009 and more recently, have come to very little.76 Such moves were resisted by the Hells Angels MC on 30 July 2010 and other than further anti-patch wearing legislation such as in Government buildings and hospitals,77 nothing has changed. Indeed, gang numbers, be they outlaw bikers or patched street gangs, have steadily increased and become more noticeable.78

In late 2019, the Leader of the opposition National Party, Simon Bridges, made a speech about developing a special police unit similar to the Australian Taskforce Raptor.79 There already exists several specialist units within NZ Police force that are heavily armed and who can respond to heightened situations. Bridges “Taskforce Raptor” would be like using a sledgehammer to crack a ball-bearing, a futile and ineffective activity for all involved. Existing liaisons between local police and the outlaw biker and patched street gang communities have a longer history of success in dealing with the complexities of these sub-cultural groups.80 Bridges approach could seriously jeopardise these long-standing relationships that, from a policing viewpoint show some understanding of the nuances of gang/community dynamics. As stated above, history has shown that governments who have tried to tackle outlaw bikers or patched street gangs through legislation and law enforcement strategies have had little impact on patched membership and tends to affect the communities, families and children associated with gang members instead. Such targeting can also result in the criminalisation of whole communities and goes against the basic principles of community crime prevention of providing opportunities to re-socialise offenders and fostering healthy communities and peer group activities.81

With the shifting landscape seen in the arrival of Australian-based outlaw bikers,82 there is an urgency to understand the current situation and what that means for the nexus between outlaw bikers, patched street gangs and crime. Warnings have come from crime prevention measures in the Netherlands by labelling all 3-piece patched outlaw bikers as organised crime groups is problematic.83 Using Barkers conservative/radical continuum can be useful in measuring outlaw biker and patched street gang participation in the shadow economy in Aotearoa New Zealand, but there needs to be reliable data and analysis to support such measuring and to fully appreciate this environment to develop meaningful and lasting approaches to the nexus between patched gangs and crime. If Aotearoa New Zealand is serious about dealing with the gang issue and the nexus between outlaw bikers, patched street gangs and crime then there needs to be greater access to government data on these sub-cultural groups to fully assess the role they play in crime in Aotearoa New Zealand. Barker’s continuum is a useful tool when