Nova Scotia RCMP are worried about possible increased friction between rival motorcycle gangs with the opening of a new Outlaws Motorcycle Club prospective chapter in the Halifax region — an area the Hells Angels consider their territory.
"The Hells Angels may see this expansion of the Outlaws as a competitive move and also disrespectful," said Det. Const. Jeff Temblett, an intelligence officer with the RCMP's criminal intelligence service.
"It could lead to violence," he said. "Where they're in their backyard now there may be more opportunity for confrontation."
The two motorcycle gangs have been enemies for years.
Up until now the two groups have mostly been able to avoid each other, with the Outlaws set up in Cape Breton. That changed in February when the Outlaws opened a prospective chapter in Lake Echo, in the Halifax Regional Municipality.
"With a new club starting up in Halifax, police believe the rivalry could escalate between the Hells Angels and the Outlaws. The Outlaws in Cape Breton remained generally out of sight to the Hells Angels," said Tremblett.
The Hells Angels haven't had an official chapter in Nova Scotia since 2001, when their Halifax chapter was shut down by police. But their power base in the province has remained largely intact through their 10 support clubs.
Support clubs are small groups that have aligned themselves with a larger, more powerful biker gang. These clubs copy the structure of the gang they've partnered with and follow the dominant club's orders.
Support club members can be used to assist in criminal activities and protect the dominant club from prosecution, said Tremblett. The clubs also act as a recruiting ground for potential new members and help funnel money to the dominant club through the sale of merchandise like shirts and hats emblazoned with the gang's logos.
In Nova Scotia, the Red Devils and several other groups are support clubs for the Hells Angels, while the Black Pistons support the Outlaws Motorcycle Club.
It's not clear why the Outlaws have chosen to expand into Halifax where the Red Devils are situated.
"Right now it's unclear if the expansion is to gain more control over the illicit drug trade in Nova Scotia," said Tremblett.
Generally, each gang wants better control of Nova Scotia's ports to more easily move illegal drugs like cocaine, meth and illegal marijuana. They also want to establish networks to move drugs from province to province.
The Hells Angels and the Outlaws have been rivals across North America for years, and have even faced off in Nova Scotia before, but so far haven't come to blows.
In 2019, things became tense between the two groups at a motorcycle show at Halifax's Exhibition Park. Hells Angels supporters and members of the Black Pistons had heated words when they came across each other.
It was much the same in 2018, at the Wharf Rat Rally in Digby, N.S., when the groups got into a fiery verbal exchange on the community's main street.
There are 14 active outlaw motorcycle gangs in Nova Scotia right now, according to Tremblett:
• Outlaws MC - Cape Breton
• Outlaws MC - Halifax
• Black Pistons MC - Cape Breton (Outlaws Support Club)
• Highlanders MC - Cape Breton (Hells Angels Support Club)
• Highlanders MC - Antigonish County (Hells Angels Support Club)
• Highlanders MC - Pictou County (Hells Angels Support Club)
• Katt Sass MC - New Glasgow (Hells Angels Support Club)
• Red Devils MC - Halifax (Hells Angels Support Club)
• Darksiders MC - Dartmouth (Hells Angels Support Club)
• Sedition MC - Fall River (Hells Angels Support Club)
• Sedition MC - Yarmouth (Hells Angels Support Club)
• Bacchus MC - Sambro
• Niners MC - McGraths Cove (Hells Angels Support Club)
• 103 Riders - South Shore (Hells Angels Support Club)
Tremblett said it's very difficult to shut these clubs down.
"Police need to prove there are laws being broken within the clubhouse. There's lease agreements, rights of the persons inside, so for the police it's not an easy task to simply go in there and shut it down."
Oftentimes, police will need to partner with municipal agencies to determine if clubs are abiding by a community's bylaws, and if they're not, then the clubs can be closed down, said Tremblett.
He said people need to remember that most motorcycle riding clubs are made up of law-abiding citizens, and only about one per cent of clubs are actually outlaw motorcycle gangs.
Clubhouses run by gangs are usually easy to spot because they have lots of video surveillance, they often have painted windows, and usually sport the gang's logo.
Anyone with concerns about outlaw motorcycle gangs in their area can contact their local police, municipal or city councilors, and the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods group for advice, said Tremblett.
"Don't believe the narrative that often goes around that ... your outlaw motorcycle gangs are just good old boys that like to hang out and party and do good for the community. That's not the case," said Tremblett. "They want the public to see them as community-spirited men, and they want people involved in organized crime to fear them."
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