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

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

for joining the brotherhood of patched membership.39 For Aotearoa New Zealand, usually although not always, the cultural milieu of gang membership has a familial or whanau-based element.40

All patched gangs in Aotearoa New Zealand are made up of chapters or clubs based on a regional location within a town or city. These chapters are small, tight units that tend to be of a certain size which is important for small group cohesion in fighting other groups.41 Such local and territorial imperatives shape the gang map of Aotearoa New Zealand and this has an impact on the shadow economy if different groups compete for markets in the same area. The defence of territory does however, go beyond the control of markets and such territorial competition pre-dates patched gang involvement in crime.42 Fighting is linked to territorial defence and often paramilitary in nature and structure,43 and the patch is central to the ideals of combat cohesion and violence. Violence is the most significant tenet when considering the potential for some gang members to participate in the shadow economy. Violence is both the means and expression of power.

Violence and the Shadow

The nexus between gang membership and crime took significant steps towards more organised orientations in the 1970s when convicted gang members were placed in correctional facilities that housed serious criminals.44 Any scan of the public or government discussion on gangs shows that violence, or the threat of it, makes good media fodder and even better political rhetoric.45 However, beyond such rhetoric it is the threat of violence and the combat cohesion seen in gangs that has very real currency in the shadow world. Those who are not in the sphere of gang activity need not worry too much about this violence.46 However, those who move within the orbit of gang activity and the shadow economy do need to carefully navigate this space. It is in the shadow economy where the potential to reinforce territorial markets with violence occurs, and the difference in gangs and chapters will rise. The use, or threat of violence means that gangs which are organised in para-military hierarchies, can move easily in the world of illicit business – the shadow economy. Territorial competition could explain the rise in reported or observed inter-gang tensions that are being uploaded onto social media sites.47 Such behaviour has historically remained hidden from the general public.

The utility of controlling markets in the shadow economy means that financial benefits can be considerable. It has been observed that bikers love a monopoly and while discussing this control in the context of the criminal business world a monopoly over violence can also be applied to some degree.48 One of the main characteristics of state power is the monopoly of the threat or use of force.49 Gangs, with their para-military structure and experience in territorial defence and inter-gang conflict, are well placed to monopolise the threat or use of force within the shadow economy and