Canada - Halifax's criminal landscape shifted over the weekend as eight members of the former East Coast Riders Motorcycle Club formed a new chapter of the Hells Angels-affiliated, New Brunswick-based Bacchus.
"These guys are going hardcore," Cpl. Stephen MacQueen of the Halifax RCMP/regional police integrated intelligence unit said Monday.
"This group is making a stand to other organized crime groups to say we are here and this is our territory and don't try to take it."
He called Bacchus an organized crime group that now has about 50 members. They've been around for about 30 years and had two chapters in New Brunswick (in the Moncton and Saint John areas), but held ceremonies in Moncton this weekend to welcome the new Nova Scotia chapter plus one in the St. Stephen area.
"I believe that they'll be (named) Bacchus Nova Scotia, with a Halifax chapter."
The East Coast Riders likely destroyed their old insignias as part of the ceremony.
"They burn their old patches, so that club is no longer in existence and no one can wear those patches anymore."
Cpl. MacQueen said the changeover signifies a few major points: that club members are identifying themselves as a criminal organization and that Nova Scotia is their territory. One significant change will see the bikers wearing patches that have Nova Scotia written on the bottom rocker; which states that this province is their territory.
He didn't attend the ceremony, but Cpl. MacQueen said police had checkpoints arranged outside and saw who was coming and going. They noticed bikers from five provinces, but no Hells Angels.
He said the East Coast Riders have acted as eyes and ears for the Hells Angels since they officially closed their Halifax chapter in 2003. The Antigonish group the Highlanders do the same thing, he said.
However, the situation started to change several months ago when some other biker groups visited the area, Cpl. MacQueen said.
"Over the last few months there has been sightings of Rock Machine, sightings of Outlaws in Atlantic Canada, which has probably spurred the East Coast Riders to make a decision of where they were going to stand on the issue."
Cpl. MacQueen said the appearance of the rival bikers – who plainly displayed their patches – in local bars was a sign they were interested in the area and those visits demanded some type of response.
"Rival groups coming here wearing their colours in bars is a show of a lack of respect for the Hells Angels."
Before this weekend's changeover, the bikers would have just reported the presence of the rivals to the Hells Angels, but now they'll be expected to do more, Cpl. MacQueen said.
"If nobody bothers them I don't think there will be a problem," he said.
"Where the problem exists is if a rival group decides to come here. Then the Bacchus Nova Scotia have a responsibility to step up and confront that and try to deter it."
"I think they are almost holding the territory for the Hells Angels."
Bacchus Nova Scotia will answer to its mother chapter in the Moncton area, he said.
The Highlanders and Bacchus Nova Scotia will likely get along fine, Cpl. MacQueen said, but they'll differ because Bacchus will be expected to protect territory.
Cpl. MacQueen said the East Coast Riders formed in 2001 and likely started as a club for motorcycle enthusiasts. When the Hells Angels left the local scene, the East Coast Riders changed their patch to look more like a motorcycle club and were later seen in the company of Hells Angels.
He didn't know if the move means that the Angels will try to resurrect a Halifax chapter. He said they are known to favour expansion, but might not want to change the local scene without strong support from Bacchus.
Citizens shouldn't fear an outbreak of violence because of these developments, Cpl. MacQueen said. He noted that the police helped wipe out the Hells Angels when they were here previously.
Cpl. MacQueen didn't know where Bacchus will set up their Halifax-area home. The East Coast Rider's old digs in Waverley were badly damaged in a fire and are now up for sale.
Cpl. MacQueen wouldn't name any of the members of Bacchus or the East Coast Riders.
Attempts to contact anyone from the East Coast Riders/Bacchus were not successful.
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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