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News (Media Awareness Project) - Canada: The Facts Behind Biker Gangs
Title:Canada: The Facts Behind Biker Gangs
Published On:1998-04-18
Source:London Free Press (Canada)
Fetched On:2008-09-07 11:52:19
THE FACTS BEHIND BIKER GANGS

The slaying of two Outlaws motorcycle gang members outside a London strip
club April 7 has stirred debate on gangs and the large slice of the drug
subculture they control.

Yves Lavigne, a leading Canadian author on biker gangs, says police have
been too slow to stem the power and growth of the gangs and accuses police
of exaggerating the threat of the powerful and violent Hells Angels riding
into Ontario and starting a war.

Lavigne argues police need to spend more money and time on undercover work
to break the hold of the gangs and to stop the social decay spawned by
their crimes.

He said in an interview this week bikers weren't likely responsible for the
shooting of the bikers outside the Beef Baron on April 7 or the bombing of
T. J. Baxter's Tap & Grill last Saturday, hours after the bikers' funerals.

Police are searching for two men they say have no known biker connections
with the killings. They have also said they have found no evidence to
connect bikers with the bombing. Arrest warrants are out for brothers Paul
Gregory Lewis, 33, and Duane Philip Lewis, 28, on first-degree murder
charges.

Jeffrey Labrash, 32, acting head of the Outlaws in London, and fellow
Outlaw Jody Hart, 24, were gunned down in the strip club parking lot on
York Street.

Police said seven shots were fired from a single handgun and the shooting
came after an altercation inside the Beef Baron.

Five people were injured in the bombing at T. J. Baxter's. One man remains
in hospital, three women and another man have been released. Damage to the
bar has been estimated at $1 million. Police say it was lucky no one was
killed.

London police Sgt. John O'Flaherty dismisses Lavigne's charges police have
exaggerated the threat of the Hells Angels and that law enforcement has
been slow to act against biker gangs.

O'Flaherty said the threat of the Hells Angels "is very real. There was
relative peace among the gangs in Quebec up to recently. Then one side
decided they wanted a larger slice of the pie (drug turf). The same thing
could happen just as easily here.''

London police have dealt with motorcycle gangs based in the city "for more
than 25 years," he said. "First were the Queensmen and now the Outlaws
(sworn enemies of Hells Angels). It's an ongoing job.''

O'Flaherty said provincial and federal task forces are also being set up to
tackle the problem.

What about arguments that police should have moved faster against the
gangs? "You could say the same thing about the Mafia,'' he said.

Yves Lavigne, a leading Canadian author on motorcycle gangs, shares his
thoughts about their criminal activities and aims with Free Press reporter
John Hamilton.

Q.You've been recognized as a leading author and authority on biker gangs
and organized crime, what got you started and why?

A. Work as a reporter at the Globe and Mail from 1977 to 1987 investigating
organized crime was the start. A 1985 internal dispute between Hells Angels
in Quebec over drug money that ended with bikers' bodies wrapped in
sleeping bags and dumped in the St. Lawrence Seaway showed me clearly the
Hells Angels were no longer the brotherhood of motorcyclists they professed
to be.

Q. How do you define a biker gang?

A. They are organizations involved in criminal activities based largely on
the illegal drug market. There are many legitimate motorcycle clubs but the
so-called one per centers live outside society's rules, norms and values.

Q. How did they start and when?

A. After the Second World War when some returning veterans couldn't adapt
to suburbia. They bought up surplus war motorcycles which were readily
available and tore around the countryside enjoying life, drinking, fighting
and womanizing. In 1947, the first real public attention was attracted with
the takeover of the town of Hollister in California. The next year,
ironically on St. Patrick's Day, one of the gangs adopted the name Hells
Angels.

Q. Motorcycle gangs have been called rebels and outlaws challenging the
mainstream, how do you define them?

A. Criminals fronting as bikers and using the gang they call a club as a
legally legitimate way to frustrate and stall law enforcement through the
courts.

Q. How do they portray themselves?

A. Since the mid 1960s, with the aid of public relations firms, the Hells
Angels have tried to portray themselves as rough-and-tumble motorcyclists
misunderstood by society and maligned by law enforcement agencies.

Q. Have they any redeeming features?

A. Absolutely none. There are hundreds of legitimate clubs, motorcycle
organizations who do not commit crimes. All outlaw gangs have done is bring
the legitimate organizations into disrepute. They have given a bad name to
the sport of motorcycling by using it as a cover for criminal activities.

Q. They insist they are maligned by authorities, particularly police, who
portray them as evil for their own ends. Is there any validity to that
argument?

A. There's overwhelming evidence they are nothing but organized crime and a
threat to society.

Q. Biker gangs have been long established in the Montreal area. When and
how did they start spreading in Canada?

A. There have been outlaw bike gangs since the 1950s with approaches to
crime varied across country. In Quebec, they're murderous and violent. In
Ontario, they have agreed to share the territory and not to step on each
other's toes. They're smarter, not as greedy or monopolistic.

In 1977, two major gangs moved into Canada. The Outlaws first set up in
Ontario in 1977, with three friendly takeovers from Satan's Choice in
Ontario and one chapter in Quebec. Hells Angels moved into Quebec shortly
after that.

Q.Which is the most influential biker gang and how big are they?

A. The Hells Angels are the premier gang across the world, with chapters
from North America to South Africa, Europe and Brazil, to Australia.

Q.Why aren't they in Ontario? Haven't police forecast for years they expect
Hells Angels to move soon in an attempt to grab a share of the lucrative
drug and prostitution market?

A. Police chiefs have erroneously tried to gain public support since 1979
by predicting major biker wars in Ontario, prompted by an attempt by Hells
Angels to take over the drug market. Bikers don't fight conventional wars.
Their battles are guerrilla warfare and wars of attrition.

Q. Given that Hells Angels moved into Alberta last year, doesn't that place
them closer to a move into Ontario.

A. A front-page Globe and Mail newspaper story in March 1996 quoted
informed police sources as saying the Hells Angels were posed to move into
Ontario. Almost the same story ran in 1979. Doesn't that tell you something?

Q.What does it suggest to you?

A.Police are fostering public fear to fatten their budgets, expand their
forces.

Q.Isn't it likely Hells Angels want to move into Ontario and, if so, how
are they likely to try it?

A.They already have. Toronto would be the target for the drug turf. They've
tried to convince Satan's Choice to join them. They've tried to start wars
between gangs. The most likely way now would be to take over another gang,
probably the Para-Dice Riders where they have supporters and sympathizers.

Q. How likely is that to happen soon?

A. It's a slim chance. They won't share so they would have to eliminate the
other gangs, Satan's Choice, the Vagabonds, the Loaners, the Last Chance.
That's a formidable task.

Q. So doesn't that give weight to police concerns about all-out war?

A. Definitely not. Everybody has too much to lose.

Q. What are the top biker gangs in Ontario?

A. Satan's Choice, the Vagabonds and the Para-Dice Riders with the Outlaws
in fourth spot.

Q. The Outlaws have a chapter and headquarters in London, who are they?

A. They're the second most powerful biker gang in the world but they have
been badly hit by police actions in Ontario, particularly in Toronto where
many of them became police informers in the mid 1980s, and are weakened.
They're sworn enemies to Hells Angels.

Q. How do biker gangs like the Outlaws operate?

A. They're a formidable adversary, with well-orchestrated politics and
strategies. They're so well structured now, they don't commit many crimes,
they have associates well down the line to do things like sell drugs.
Essentially, they make and or produce the drugs. They're at worst the
middlemen.

Q. How important is the drug market in Southwestern Ontario?

A. Area biker gangs, including the Outlaws, cater to a market not big
enough to draw the attention of the Hells Angels.

Q. The Outlaws' forerunner in London was a chapter of Queensmen, who now
have a base in Chatham. How do they fit into the picture?

A. They are a small player among more than 800 motorcycle gangs in North
America, part of a huge criminal subculture.

Q. In St. Thomas, there's a group called the Annihilators. Who are they?

A. Same thing. They keep a low profile, making money on the drug trade. If
you have a motorcycle gang in town, you know you have a drug problem.

Q. Should the public be concerned about the Outlaws, who have kept a
relatively low profile and if so, why?

A. They are criminal gangs who prey on a community. No society should
tolerate criminal activity. If bikers make and produce drugs that get sold,
you have addicts, many of whom steal or resort to prostitution. Houses get
broken into, corner stores are robbed. The level of concern and fear in the
community increases and the quality of life decreases. People are too often
complacent. Violence shouldn't be accepted as a sign of the times. It's a
sign of decay.

Q. Londoners were startled by the recent double slayings of two Outlaws
outside the Beef Baron strip club and then a bomb exploding in T. J.
Baxter's Tap & Grill restaurant the same day as the bikers' funerals. You
said soon after you didn't think either was likely the work of bikers, why?

A. The Outlaws' deaths were likely a business killing not biker war, since
there's no war going on. If it had been internal, the bodies would have
been dumped somewhere privately to try not to draw attention. The last
thing bikers want is a public slaying. The bombing was too obvious to be
linked to the bikers. They don't want fingers pointed at them and this was
bound to happen.

Q.Are bikers likely to go to or tip police about culprits they suspect?

A.Never. They deem themselves to be living outside the law and one of their
most important but unwritten rules is you don't deal with cops. They take
their own actions. They call it taking care of business.

Q.So was the biker funeral and the bombing just a big coincidence or have
you another theory?

A.I have a tendency not to believe in coincidence but in this case I say it
probably was. It's also likely the bomber used the timing of the biker
funeral to try to deflect attention away from himself.

Copyright (c) 1998 The London Free Press a division of Sun Media Corporation.
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