Canada - ~Rival groups expanding~
Support clubs under the influence of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang are popping up across Alberta in response to expansion by rival outlaw biker groups.
Local law enforcement agencies are often tight-lipped about naming specific gangs, but multiple police sources said Warlocks Motorcycle Club, Loners MC and Outlaws MC have established a presence in the province - particularly in areas outside the major cities.
The response by the Hells Angels, who have chapters in Edmonton, Red Deer and two in Calgary, has been to set up clubs to check the influence of their rivals.
"All these support clubs are a way to up the numbers, have a presence and control ... an area where they HAs aren't," said Cpl. Jerion Hildebrand, an RCMP biker investigator.
Although violence can often result when notoriously territorial biker gangs cross paths, one senior investigator said police haven't seen any signs tensions are set to boil over anytime soon.
"Still, it's something for us to be vigilant about," said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Outlaws, in particular, have a decades-old rivalry with the Hells Angels responsible for killings and violent clashes in the U.S., U.K. and Germany.
So far, the Outlaws have a "limited presence" in the Calgary area, sources said.
The Hells Angels, Outlaws and Bandidos have chapters around the world that have helped turned them into powerful organizations linked to rackets like drug production and trafficking.
Although major motorcycle gangs like the Hells Angels and Outlaws deny being criminal organizations, they thrive on creating a fearsome image - referring to themselves "one percenters" who exist outside the law.
Outlaw gangs wear a small "1%" patch in addition to the traditional three-part patch that bears the gang's name, insignia and chapter location.
The Hells Angels had been virtually unchallenged in Alberta since arriving in 1997, when local gangs such as the Grim Reapers and Rebels agreed to retire their colours and adopt the winged death's head of the HAs.
Earlier incursions by other Hells Angels rivals - including the Bandidos - didn't take root, but police said the latest wave has been more persistent.
Outlaw biker gangs are notoriously secretive organizations that rigorously vet prospective members, especially to prevent infiltration by the police.
One way biker gangs can quickly bolster their numbers without compromising the parent organization is by establishing a network of support clubs that answer to them.
"The huge growth in support clubs has completely corresponded with the movement into Alberta of other one-percent clubs," Hildebrand said.
Support clubs can provide the parent gang added reach and influence, while at the same time helping insulate them from scrutiny or prosecution by authorities.
"The support clubs are not privy to everything," said Hildebrand.
Police identified the Malicious Crew as an HA support club operating in central Alberta last week, after charging two men associated to the group with attempted murder in connection with a shooting in Sylvan Lake.
The RCMP said the crime was motivated by a personal beef, rather than biker business.
Law enforcement sources said the Malicious Crew is sponsored by the Hells Angels' "Nomads" chapter in Red Deer, whose members aren't restricted to any particular territory.
The network of support clubs extends to different corners of the province, with the Syndicate in Fort McMurray and the Demon Soldiers in the Grande Prairie area.
The Hells Angels' main Calgary chapter, meanwhile, oversees another recent arrival on the local scene: Unforgiven MC.
As many as 30 Unforgiven members were seen riding with the Hells Angels through several Calgary-area communities in a show of numbers last month, one biker investigator said.
The Forest Lawn-based Chain Breakers also have close ties to the Hells Angels - though the self-described "riding club" has previously denied it and eschews the "1%" patch.
Alex Caine, a one-time police infiltrator and author of three books on outlaw motorcycle gangs, predicted in his most recent book that the Outlaws could use Alberta as a staging ground to challenge the Hells Angels in neighbouring B.C.
"The Outlaws are pushing and pushing and pushing," Caine said in an interview.
The involvement of support clubs has the potential to make the situation more volatile, said Caine.
Many members of the parent clubs are older, made good money and have little interest in risking their safety or freedom by becoming personally involved in any turf war, he said.
However, support club members tend to be younger, less disciplined and eager to earn a place in the parent organization.
"They're cannon fodder," Caine said.