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

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

sufficient data is available. Restrictions from government agencies can be problematic for researchers in this space to create a clear picture of outlaw bikers and patched street gangs.


Violence allows patched gangs and gang members to engage in, or take over, certain areas of the shadow economy. However, there are some questions about whether this nexus between gangs and crime is the same for all groups classified as patched gangs. There needs to be better access to government data on the nexus between patched gangs and crime and a more thorough analysis of court documents as seen in Europe and Australia. Further research can stimulate discussion to identify the nuances of patched gangs and where they sit within the shadow economy. Rising numbers in gang membership and the growing gap in social and economic inequality is arguably an environment that creates both push and pull factors in the decision-making processes of young men from the working class to join patched gangs. Given the current uncertainties around the economic stability in the face of COVID-19, there needs to be a better long-term strategy in engaging outlaw bikers and patched street gangs and the role they play in their communities. While the growing numbers of patched members in prison suggests a link between gangs and crime, other government departments can provide data that can help measure such assertions from government and some commentators that all gangs are organised criminal groups, a label most outlaw bikers and patched gangs refute. While the Department of Corrections has provided data on the numbers of patched members in prison, a deeper analysis needs to be conducted to determine which groups are being imprisoned, while further a survey of court documents may also add more information about what crimes patched gang members are being imprisoned for. As it stands, outlaw bikers and patched street gang members and their role in the shadow economy is nuanced and there are too many variables to make a confident statement on the extent to which these groups are organised criminal organisations. While violence is and will be a central tenet of these sub-cultural groups in Aotearoa New Zealand, more research will increase the awareness of the nexus between outlaw bikers, patched street gangs and crime.