Canada - ~Members are not wearing their vests with the infamous deathhead patch out at public events as frequently as they once did~
Hells Angels in B.C. have reduced their public profile in reaction to police probes targeting them, as well as to protect themselves from rivals' attacks, the head of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit said Friday.
Chief Supt. Dan Malo said his agency's outlaw biker gang specialists have seen the shift in behaviour within the notorious biker gang.
Members are not wearing their vests with the infamous deathhead patch out at public events as frequently as they once did.
"We have seen that shift in behaviour with Hells Angels, where the public exposure and the ability to use their presence and the patch as leverage, is not as apparent now as it was a few years ago," Malo said.
"I think they have changed it for two reasons. One of them is because we did something about it. But the other part is that many of them believe on the street they are the next victim. So you wouldn't be as dumb as to go help that matter along by publicly displaying your gang emblems or ball caps or hoodies or jackets or patches."
The fear of rivals comes from a bloody gang conflict - involving some Hells Angels - that has played out on B.C. streets over the last two years.
Other B.C. gangs, like the United Nations and the Independent Soldiers, are also now downplaying their gang identity in public by no longer displaying emblazoned clothing, jewelry or even tattoos.
"You don't see the UN ring right now. The traditional other groups that we saw - the IS were starting to do all the hoodies and things - you don't see that on the street right now at all," Malo said. "They have all changed their behaviour."
Some of the Angels are steering clear of their clubhouses, three of which are tangled in court cases after the B.C. government filed applications to have them seized under civil forfeiture laws.
The East End chapter, targeted in the E-Pandora investigation using police agent Micheal Plante, is no longer holding its weekly "church" meetings at the clubhouse on East Georgia, Malo confirmed.
And the new West Point chapter, a breakaway from the White Rock charter, has also not established a routine meeting place or time for its required church meeting, Malo said.
He said chapters must hold weekly meetings to maintain the rules of the international Hells Angels, "but it isn't happening as formally as we once saw."
"I have been in the game long enough that I see that we have changed their behaviour. But the environment has changed it too," Malo said.
The Hells Angels still have nine chapters in B.C. with 97 full-patch members and 13 hangarounds and prospects who are working their way up the ranks.
But with continuing criminal cases, at least two of the chapters are at risk of falling below the minimum six-member requirement, Malo said.
"A number of the chapters in British Columbia now are near or just below the numbers required to sustain a charter," Malo said. "They have to go before the national executive to decide what happens."
Three of Kelowna's nine full-patch members are in jail awaiting trial in two separate criminal cases and a fourth member is also charged but on bail.
And West Point, which was started just last year, has only six members on the streets after prominent West Point Angel Larry Amero was arrested last year in a massive cocaine smuggling ring out of Quebec. He remains in jail in Montreal awaiting trial.
Malo said West Point was formed as "the future money-makers" of the Hells Angels "to try to bring back some of the credibility that they lost through projects like E-Pandora."
"The way you are going to do that is through organized crime," he said.
The Vancouver Sun has reached out to the Hells Angels twice over the last week to request comment about a series of stories on the historic E-Pandora investigation, as well as recent efforts by the director of civil forfeiture to seize clubhouses.
But Hells Angels western Canada spokesman Rick Ciarniello has not responded to interview requests.
The biker gang has not yet filed responses to civil forfeiture claims filed last November to seize both the East End and Kelowna clubhouses. A 2007 civil forfeiture claim against the Nanaimo clubhouse is scheduled to go to trial next October.
Disclaimer: The opinions in this article are solely those of the writer, and may not reflect the beliefs of anyone at the Biker News Network/Outlaw Biker World.
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