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Area police ready for Hells Angels' rally week in Rockford

Hells Angels MC

BY: Chris Green

Illinois - ROCKFORD - When are Hells Angels rallies uneventful? Rockford police believe it's when there is a strong presence of uniforms. They expect that will be the case when the motorcycle club rumbles into town July 28 through Aug. 3 for its 2013 USA Run, which is expected to draw 500 to 1,000 bikers.

From here, they'll travel to Sturgis, S.D., home of one of the largest annual motorcycle rallies in the world. Illinois State Police, Winnebago County and other area law enforcement personnel have been talking with Rockford for weeks to prepare for the gathering of a group classified by the Justice Department as an outlaw gang long entrenched in a culture of drugs and weapons trafficking, extortion, money laundering, theft and violent crime.

"The public is definitely going to see an influx of motorcycles and motorcycle gang members, and they are going to see an influx of law enforcement personnel, too," Rockford Lt. Marc Welsh said.

USA Run will be at Lyran Park, a secluded Kishwaukee riverfront camp site south of Chicago Rockford International Airport. Many Hells Angels will camp overnight, but many have booked rooms at several hotels near East State Street and Interstate 90. They'll be visible at shopping and dining spots in Rockford, Cherry Valley and Belvidere. Welsh has studied the action plans of police agencies in each city where Hells Angels have rallied since 1996. "I kind of took the good, the bad and the ugly from all of them and formulated our plan," he said.

The 2009 Run in Carlton County, Minn., saw only speeding tickets, minor traffic violations and one DUI arrest. In an act of bravado the next year in Gunnison County, Colo., 20 Hells Angels spread across west- and eastbound lanes of traffic before officers stopped the group and found a New York chapter vice president carrying a gun in his waistband. Richard E. West was indicted for being a felon in possession of a firearm. In 1996 in Steamboat, Colo., a shooting occurred at a hotel occupied by Hells Angels.

Club members barred police from investigating for several hours while other members removed evidence from the site. Welsh doesn't know why Winnebago County was chosen for this year's USA Run, although Rockford is home to a Hells Angels chapter. The private clubhouse at 1109 Rock St. is surrounded by a chain-link fence. A member entering the club last week declined to comment.

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