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Archive for the ‘Mongols’ Category

gang_threatAs a biker, I know there is a difference between the true image of brothers in the wind and public perceptions.  This becomes acute when it’s time to work on serious issues like association rights, enhanced “affiliation” penalties, noise mandates, ordinances to eliminate rallies and deal with 1%’ers. 

Unfortunately, it seems when legislators deal with serious motorcycle issues they do so with little knowledge, act as  experts and spray paint so called fixes on everyone.  And at least one community is to blame — the media — for often failing to report unbiased information regarding motorcycle “clubs” or gangs.   More often than not the reporting tends to lean towards the sensational.  Bloggers are guilty too.

So, before I get a bunch of email stating how the term Motorcycle “gangs” indicates my bias or how they are misunderstood and are really a bunch of biker dads who love leather…let’s review the 2009 National Gang Threat Assessment (PDF) which was recently released.  While much of the report is skewed toward “street gangs” (examples: Bloods, Crips, Latin Kings, Ñeta, MS 13, Sureños 13 etc.,) there is a lot of information about outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMG) (examples: Bandidos, Hells Angels, Mongols, Outlaws, Sons of Silence, etc.) all working to control retail-level distribution of cocaine, meth, heroin, and marijuana.  The OMG designation is from the document and I’m using it to be consistent with the report.

The report conservatively estimates more than 1 MILLION gang members belong to more than 20,000 gangs.  There are between 280 and 520 Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMG) that range in size from a single chapter to hundreds of chapters worldwide. Estimates indicate that more than 20,000 OMG members reside in the U.S.  If I did the math correct, OMG membership represent about 2% of the overall gang membership and about 3% of the total number of gangs.  Not an alarming number in of itself, but somehow attracts a disproportionate share of media publicity.  A few factoids from the report:

  1. Outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMG) pose a growing threat to law enforcement and public safety. Especially pronounced along the U.S.- Canada and U.S. – Mexico border. They frequently associate with criminal organizations to facilitate drug smuggling into the U.S.
  2. Criminal gangs are responsible for as much as 80% of ALL crime in many communities.
  3. National-level OMG criminal activity poses a serious national domestic threat. National level OMGs are a considerable concern to law enforcement because they are highly structured organizations with memberships ranging into the thousands, maintaining strong associations with transnational Drug Transport Organizations (DTOs) and other criminal organizations.
  4. In the U.S. 109 regional-level OMGs have been identified by gang investigators; most support one of the national-level OMGs. Several regional-level OMGs maintain independent associations with transnational DTOs and other criminal organizations.
  5. For the first time provides insight into the size and role of gangs in the military

The report goes on to highlight how the criminal organizations — like technology — seem to move fast, adopt and never stay the course with tactics.  They are most busy and seldom wait on the sidelines missing out on “revenue” or allow themselves to become marginalized.  They use cell phone voice/text messaging capabilities to conduct transactions and prearrange meetings.  They use multiple cell phones or prepaid phones which are frequently discarded after conducting operations.  Internet-based methods are being adopted and the use of social networking sites, encrypted e-mail, IP telephones, and Twitter message sites are common.  The use of social media sites such as MySpace, YouTube, and Facebook to post well-produced, self-promoting music/videos of the “gang” lifestyle.  Pre-teens are down loading propaganda ring-tones and images which glorify gangs!  There has also been an increased effort by gang members to actively “spar” on internet message boards to protect their virtual spaces as well as use internet profiling techniques to recruit.

My grip after looking over the report is the fact it doesn’t attempt to address:

  1. Gang intelligence improvements that work and help reduce incidents.
  2. Gang suppression techniques which are working and the role of the community.
  3. Legal considerations on enforcement issues and use of gang-specific legislation.
  4. Cost of anti-gang resources and return on investment – no performance measurement of the organization?

So, do you think this report will help or hurt motorcycle enthusiasts?  Do you think it will accelerate legislation to address enhanced “affiliation” penalties in the northwest?   Should we wait for the Homeland Security advisory system to monitor and report on the ongoing threat levels of the nations criminal gangs?  If so it would be set at HIGH (Orange). 

Photo courtesy of National Gang Intelligence Center.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog
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queen_bookI won’t attempt to make sweeping comments about another outlaw motorcycle “club” undercover “tell-all” novel.  There are so many styles and flavors these days and when a reader interacts with a book they are not only served a story, but often feel connected to the writer.

The Under and Alone novel is different because of movie rights, but more on that in a minute.

The back story is the novel is based on the real life of William Queen, a motorcycle enthusiast who successfully penetrated the San Fernando Valley chapter of the Mongols Motorcycle “club” using an identity of “Billy St. John.”  After becoming a fully “patched” member, he eventually rose to the level of chapter Vice-President and treasurer where he had access to the clubs activity of which some was criminal.  In the book, Queen details how, after 28 months in the club he began to battle the conflicts both within the club and within himself as the isolation of the work made him feel the Mongols were his family.

What makes the story compelling is that Queen spent twenty years as a Special Agent with the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).  He was a Vietnam War veteran serving with the U.S. Army Special Forces and was awarded the Silver Star during his 1971 tour of duty. After his military service, he devoted his entire career to law enforcement.  Early operations involved infiltrating the Aryan Nation and the Ku Klux Klan organizations.

William Queen

William Queen

Despite his nickname, “Billy the Slow-Brain”, he was successful in gathering evidence resulting in a series of raids in May 2000 by almost 700 LEO’s in four states.  His efforts led to the arrest and conviction of 54 club members.  Queen was awarded the Federal Bar Association’s Medal of Honor for his successful involvement with the Mongols.  After the club member trials, Queen retired from the ATF, and then wrote the book while in the witness protection program.

Here’s where it gets interesting.  In 2003, while the book was still only a draft, film rights were sold for $1M to Icon Productions, the Hollywood production company owned by Mel Gibson.  The book became a bestseller upon its release in 2005, and the movie adaptation, will have Gibson himself playing Queen.  The movie is scheduled for release by Warner Bros in 2010.  This would be the first project that Gibson takes the lead role in, since the 2003 movie Signs.  Gibson will not direct the movie, instead Gregor Jordan (Ned Kelly) and Antoine Fuqua (Shooter, Training Day) have been hired to direct.  The book is being adapted by Ned Zeman and Daniel Barnz.

Consumer spending drives demand. The profitability of individual companies depends on creativity, marketing, and distribution of quality movie content and time will tell if this subject matter is something the public wants to consume. Gibson has been a lightning rod for controversy of late, but this role could bring him back into the mainstream vernacular like the Vietnam War drama We Were Soldiers and Payback did.  Who knows.

Photo courtesy William Queen/Random House.

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money_tankI like attending motorcycle rallies, but pretending everything is just wonderful in the “land-of-rally” is akin to an ostrich head in the sand. 

For decades municipalities have viewed motorcycle rallies as revenue generating opportunities.   They pass along all or much of the costs to the commercial entities as possible.  I’ve been to several rallies during the past year and the economic challenges have brought out fewer attendees and a lot more controversy.  New math has always confused me, but the demand any price and they will come day is over!

If you dissected expenses one could logically debate the single largest cost is law enforcement/security.  Be it extreme planning for any and all worst case scenario’s, DOJ command centers or simply aggressive personnel staffing to obtain overtime compensation….it’s become a nonsensical argument for the future.  There are fundamental economic principles at play here.   I don’t know if you noticed, but these events are being promoted more-and-more as a “shop till you drop” flea market rather than a motorcycle rally.

Under the public records request the Hollister Free Lance Press obtained the 2008 Hollister Motorcycle Rally costsSurprise!  The law enforcement expenses added up to a whopping $359,000 – an ever increasing number.  In the article, editor Kollin Kosmicki provides great comparisons with other major rallies:

  1. The City of Sturgis, which attracts about 700,000 visitors over 10 days, budgets approx $300,000 – per Sturgis Police Chief Jim Bush.
  2. Laconia Motorcycle Week has about 350,000 people over 10 days, and the city spends about $140,000 on law enforcement – per Police Chief Michael Moyer.
  3. Daytona Beach, which hosts two rallies bringing in a total of around 600,000 visitors, spent about $170,000 in total this year on security for the two events — according to a city hall spokeswoman.

Hollister spends much more for security on a 3-day event (attracts fewer than 93,000 visitors) compared to any other city!  To be fair and the list would be long, the State of California mandates the use of California officers, there is a larger street gang presence and I’m not trying to underscore the ongoing confrontation between the Hells Angels and Mongols.

But there are fundamental economic principles at play and how does this end…a city in bankruptcy?  I’m not trying to second guess the strategy of Hollister Police Chief Jeff Miller, but there has to be a way to reduce the continually inflated cost of law enforcement at these events.  Biker rallies always attract a small percentage of individuals who are there to specifically commit crimes.

What happens when they hold a motorcycle rally and no one comes?

Photo courtesy Flickr

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pondeadvt2002_pg6One of the cool things about the internet is discovering a taste of world knowledge while sitting on the peripheral edge.  Often when doing research for blog posts it feels like a mini-journey to me.  For every step forward, I take two to the side or three back before compiling a broad range of information.

Part of my post-election withdrawal therapy has been background research on the only Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club (HAMC) member (Robert G. McClure) to be convicted of four murders in the State of Oregon.  McClure was found guilty of execution-style killings in the small Seventh-day Adventist community of Gaston, Oregon and sentenced to four consecutive life prison terms.  More about this in a future post, but one of the side paths this took me on was across the Pacific to the Australian Crime Commission.  They deemed ‘biker gangs’ a significant criminal threat to their nation.   As a result, the Australian Government is moving forward to ban the wearing of “colors” nationwide (similar to actions taken last month in CA. with the Mongols MC arrests) and they’re introducing laws to take legal action which allows them to confiscate ‘motorcycle club’ assets, including the club brand (“patches”), motorcycles and property.  It’s an interesting tactic for governments to seize trademarked name/brands and property, but I’ll save the far reaching laws with broad definitions and the suspension of habeas corpus rant for another day.

Humble Pie Concert

Humble Pie Concert

It was during my Australian surfing I ran across this little nugget buried in a video clip.  First off, and I’m dating myself here, the musical performance is one of the greats –  Humble Pie (Steve Marriott) – and the song is called “Big Train” or maybe its “Big Train Stops at Memphis.”  The beginning of the video has a member of the HAMC (“Mother”) who shouts to the audience… “One more song and they ain’t going home at all.” Somehow you believe him!

The Australian music festival at Ponde was famous in its own right, but certainly not on the same scale as the Altamont Speedway Festival which headlined the Rolling Stones.  This video was recorded off an Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) late night TV music show called “Rock Arena” back in 1983.  The show was cancelled in 1989.  Others in the video were keyboard player Goldy McJohn, a former member of Steppenwolf, the Bass player was Jim Leverton and the drummer (unseen) was Fallon Williams.  Another one of my “favs” is Led Zeppelin’s song “Whole Lotta Love” which is said to be a direct take off of Marriott’s version of the classic song “You Need Lovin’“. Give it a listen and you’ll see what I mean…

mannum_australia1The Ponde Music Festival ran for 23 years (1979 to 2002) in Mannum, 50 miles from Adelaide Australia, and was hosted by the HAMC.  I find it curious that over the last year there has been a dramatic increase in arrests and negative publicity coming out of Australia on issues with, in Aussie words, “bikie” gangs.  I’m intrigued how “club” attitudes have migrated from supporting a public musical festival to turf wars, firebombs, shootings and combative LE exchanges?  Internet searches reveal little about the perceptions of the festival in the past which started out as a gathering for bike enthusiasts, but expanded over the years into a full-blown top talent multi-day music festival.

 

Video courtesy YouTube, Newspaper photo courtesy of Advertiser Newspapers Pty. Ltd.

All Rights Reserved © 2008 Northwest Harley Blog

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The story of Chicken Little is an allegory about alarmists, which concludes with an admission about ill-founded apocalyptic predictions.

Thinking about how “The Sky is Falling“…on my return ride from Street Vibrations yesterday…I couldn’t help but wonder if the speculation, rumors, concerns, worry and numerous citizen calls created an apocalyptic “environment” for the rally? 

SWAT

SWAT

I was in Virginia City during “Street V” and I’ve never witnessed (in the U.S.) so many submachine guns, stun grenades and specialized fire arms attached to so many SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics) members… all of them willingly ready to perform dangerous operations.  They were there to prevent another motorcycle rally from going sideways or prevent a terrorist attack by stud-n-leather clad motorcycle riders! 

Talk about taking apocalyptic prevention measures… turns out that Virginia City pulled out all the stops (and city budget $$ too!) to have these specialized paramilitary tactical units “lurking” in doorways and engage any potential armed criminal or take down with steel reinforced boots any dangerous biker who ate one too many $5 combo hot dogs and beer.

Supposedly the apocalyptic predictions started just a few days before the Street Vibrations.  Rumors started about biker “club” tensions or retaliation as a result of the San Francisco’s HAMC chapter president, Mark ‘Papa’ Guardado who was shot outside a bar earlier this month. He was a high-profile figure in the motorcycle club.  A rival Mongols “club” member,  Christopher Ablett is a suspect in the case.  Since the funeral there has been a pipe bomb explosion in San Jose aimed at members of the Mongols.

Phone calls flooded the Nevada police lines with residents stating their concerns of biker violence spilling over into Reno, Sparks, Carson City and Virginia City.  As a result the law enforcement agencies beefed up and planned for the worst of the worst.  I didn’t see it, but it’s likely snipers with high-powered rifles and night vision optics were watching my every hot dog bite and beer burp?

Virginia City Police

Virginia City Police

There are so many analogies between motorcycle events and that of Chicken Little.  The first is that all the doom and gloom are unnecessarily alarming.  Second, they expose the inability of the average (non-motorcycle riding) citizen and their motorcycle hating followers to process relevant information and synthesize rational, appropriate interpretations.  The majority of people and motorcycles at Street Vibrations are recreational riders and this was overkill to the power of TEN.  An incredible show of AGGRESSION or police force which did NOT correctly interpret the situation or was supported by the facts. 

Yes, there was a large “Red and White” presence at Street Vibrations.  I saw a number of Vagos, Henchmen as well as many other “clubs”.  Many of the clubs have a no colors rule and were not highly visible, but you could easily tell if a group were part of some “gathering”.  I did not see Mongols.

I believe that law enforcement were tricked and fell for “the sky is falling” trap!  It’s another example of how the Outlaw Motorcycle “Clubs” behavior helps set the overall “tone” for many motorcycle events and the police agencies worked in cooperation to miss-interpret.

To be fair, the Sheriff reported that on Saturday there was at one point about 11,000 bikers in Virginia City and they arrested 6 people.  One for domestic violence, 2 for DUI, and the remainder for disturbing the peace and indecent exposure. 

Yeah, the sky is falling…

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Following up on my previous Laughlin River Run post

You may recall that forty-two members of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (HAMC) were indicted on federal racketeering and firearms charges from the confrontation between Hells Angels and Mongols members at Harrah’s Casino in Laughlin, NV, on April 27, 2002.  The gun battle left three people dead and a total of nine guns and sixty-five knives were recovered at the scene.

After six years Frederick Donahue of Rodeo, Ca. who vanished after indictments were handed down turned himself in and appeared last Friday in a Las Vegas court.   His trial is scheduled for Sept. 8th.  Donahue was not released from custody as the judge felt he was a potential danger to the community and a flight risk.

Jorrg Maykopf of Germany remains the only fugitive.

UPDATED: November 21, 2008 – Frederick Donahue pleaded guilty to violent crime in aid of racketeering and is expected to be sentenced to no more than 5 years in prison.

UPDATED: March 10, 2009 — Las Vegas Review Journal reports the last of the Hells Angels who faced federal charges in the 2002 Laughlin River Run casino shootout was sentenced.  Frederick Donahue (34) was a fugitive for five years before surrendering in Las Vegas in July 2008.  He is the seventh Hells Angels member sentenced in the fatal Harrah’s casino shootout during the motorcycle rally and will serve 30 months in federal prison.

Photo courtesy of Mylife of Crime blog.

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