Motorcycle clubs (MCs) exist all around the world, and while the majority is well intended, there is still a small percentage that is presenting deviant behavior. Europol recognizes this small percentage as Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMGs). Such gangs can be distinguished from the other clubs by wearing a patch with a 1% inside a diamond shape on their jackets. This patch symbolizes their membership as one of the “one-percenters” or “outlaws”. It should be noted that the term “one-percenter” is also used by other bikers to represent their commitment to “biking and brotherhood” which is a way of living rather than a hobby. Nevertheless, outlaw motorcycle gangs are considered threats to public safety because of their proneness to engage in extreme forms of violence, such as physical and psychological abuse used for intimidation purposes, and the use of firearms and explosive devices. This violence is used for obtaining control over club members and rival gangs among others.
OMGs can mostly be found in the North American Continent, Europe, and Australia, while less can be found in Asia, Africa, and South America. Out of the many that are active to this day, 4 maintained their dominance and are known as the “big four”. They are the Hells Angels MC, the Outlaws MC, the Bandidos MC, and the Pagans MC and they have all been proven to be involved in a wide variety of criminal activities. The most common are organized crime or ongoing enterprises such as drug and weapons trafficking, and countless planned and unpremeditated violent acts against rival gang members and others. The first three operate all around the globe, with Hells Angels gangs being active in 59 countries, Outlaws gangs in 13, and the Bandidos in 22. In contrast, the Pagans MC is operating only in the US around the East and West Coasts and in Puerto Rico. Such OMGs are difficult to prosecute for law enforcement agencies due to their nature of operating on an individual basis. Because of this, it can be argued that their affiliation with illegal activities is a rather isolated occurrence, rather than the work of a criminal organization. The Pagans MC
To start with the Pagans MC may seem a bit more out of place when compared with the other big three, but their relevance is big, nonetheless. Formed by Lou Dobkin in 1957 in Prince George's County, Maryland, United States, this motorcycle gang is the most secretive out of the four. For the longest time, they operated only in the US but have now started engaging in criminal activities in Puerto Rico as well. Their “Mother Club’s” location is always moving within the northeast region of the US, which makes it harder for them to be found. Still, not all members of this MC are affiliated with such activities, but most group members adopted the “1%er” patch as a reference to some 1965 newspaper articles that classified them as such. Even so, the ones engaging in criminal activities were usually reported as taking part in organized crime and violence of any sort toward members of or entire rival gangs. Their ties in organized crimes include some with the Italian Mafia and the Aryan Brotherhood, a white supremacist prison gang.
The Bandidos MC
The Bandidos MC operates in the US, Australia, Europe, and Asia. Their “Mother Chapter” (Mother Club) is in Houston and has been operating since 1966. Since 2006, their Asian, European, and Australian Chapters were left to operate on “their own path” and the American (North, Central, and South) Chapters no longer affiliate themselves with them. Their first European Chapter was in Marseille, France, after which others started emerging in countries such as the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Italy, Spain, Greece, Belgium, Estonia, Russia, and Eastern Europe among others. Their Asian Chapter in Abu Dhabi, EAU, is considered the first international motorcycle club to emerge in the Middle East in 2016. Before the Abu Dhabi Chapter emerged, the MC was represented in Asia by Chapters that were based in Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore.
The members of this MC must be male, and they should at least own a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The other motorcycles accepted include other American-made ones. The process starts with a screening process (to prevent law enforcement from entering) which is then followed by a “hang around”, “prospect”, and a “probation” stage respectively. Each club is hierarchically structured, and it is led by a president, followed by his vice-president, the sergeant-at-arms, the road captain, and the secretary (treasurer). Their philosophies are that all the members are brothers and a family, and to not fear the authority.
The Bandidos members that engage in criminal activities participate in drug distribution, drug transportation, and engagement in violent acts if necessary for the facilitation of payment, to increase their profits. Some present a threat to the security of the US military because many of their new members infiltrate within to exploit military installations, while others infiltrate inside law enforcement, government, and judicial agencies.
The Outlaws MC
Currently, the Outlaws MC or the American Outlaws Association (A.O.A.) has 416 chapters operating around the globe in countries such as the US, France, Russia, Australia, Ecuador, and Japan to name a few. The MC was founded in 1935 in Chicago. They distinguish themselves through their flexibility in chapter membership, as their members can move to other Outlaws MC chapters in the countries they operate in more frequently than members of the other three MCs.
Similar to the Bandidos MC, Outlaws MC members must have an American-made motorcycle (such as, again, the Harley-Davidson), but there are strict rules regarding engine displacements. Additionally, they should be viewed as white, male, heterosexual, and masculine in most personal areas by the society around them, and they should conform to the lifestyle of the club, but not to the “worldly values” of society. They are affiliated with many other MC groups, one of which is the Black Pistons MC, considered also to be one of the most dangerous OMGs. Even so, they are known to be at war with the Hells Angels, and because of their rivalry the phrase “ADIOS” was adopted by A.O.A. members, which stands for “Angels Die In Outlaw States”. These two big OMGs got involved in numerous violent conflicts. In comparison, intelligence indicated that the Outlaws supplied the Bandidos with cocaine for use and distribution in Florida, which indicates their association with one another.
The Hells Angel MC
The largest and most powerful motorcycle club in the world is the Hells Angels MC. Its “Mother Chapter” was in San Bernardino from its founding in 1948 by a group of returning WWII veterans, until it was moved to Oakland, California. This Chapter is known as the largest US chapter because of its number of members, and it remained relevant because of its former president Ralph “Sonny” Barger, respected by all Hells Angels members worldwide. It operates with chapters in 59 countries all around the world. They operate within most countries of the North and South American Continents, Europe, as well as several other countries in Asia, Africa, and Oceania. The countries which are still considered Prospect Countries are Bolivia, the Philippines, and Indonesia MCs.
Members of the Hells Angels are White, Hispanic, or Asian males which own and ride Harley Davidsons. They can join the club by being sponsored by a full member as a “hand around”, completing a probationary period, and wearing a jacket with a bottom rocker. They should always attend mandatory meetings (monthly “church”) and pay club dues and they should be welcomed through a unanimous vote of the chapter. The latter applies to all the big four OMGs. A few other facts about their members are the following:
Members who performed 5 years of good service can become “Nomads” and they can move to other sides of the country (They do not have to attend the mandatory church).
Members may bring in females, but they cannot join the club. They are usually considered the property of the whole club, but the members may bring in their partners which will hold weapons and drugs for the gang on bike runs.
Members are organized in a hierarchy.
The Hells Angels have regional officers chosen to represent several chapters from different regions at regional meetings. For example, in the US there are the East Coast and West Coast officers which meet in a quite democratic setting monthly. The members which take part in criminal activities engage in the production, transportation, and distribution of marijuana and methamphetamine. Others among them are also involved in transporting and distributing cocaine, heroin, LSD, ecstasy, hashish and diverted pharmaceuticals. Other criminal activities that some group members engage in include assault, extorsion, homicide, money laundering, and motorcycle theft.
Please note that this article was meant as a small introduction to the big four OMGs. These motorcycle clubs have been associated with deviant behavior and they have been correlated with a wide variety of crimes. It is hard for law enforcement agencies to deal with crime in the instances of such Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs because of the difficulty to assess the gang’s implications over the individual’s implications in such illicit behavior.