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Bonds of Brotherhood: The Origin and Growth of Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs

NCJ Number
Gazette Volume: 64 Issue: 3 Dated: 2002 Pages: 4-5
Heather Hamilton
Date Published
2 pages
After reviewing the history of outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMGs), with attention to Canada, this article discusses their criminal activities and modus operandi, the chapter structure, colors, patches and tatoos, and clubhouses.
Outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMGs) first appeared in the United States in the late 1940's as returning soldiers with few job opportunities formed motorcycle clubs to regain bonds of brotherhood. The first Hells Angels chapter emerged in 1948. In the 1980's the Hells Angels required that new club chapters have permanent members with expertise in profitable criminal activities. Currently, the Hells Angels have 217 chapters in 27 countries with approximately 3,000 members, and they continue to expand. In Canada, OMGs first appeared in Ontario and Quebec in the early 1950's. Throughout the 1980's and 1990's, the Hells Angels continually expanded their chapters and membership. Currently, there are 26 OMGs in the country, with the Hells Angels being the most powerful and tightly structured. Across the country, OMGs, particularly the Hells Angles, are involved in money laundering, intimidation, assaults, attempted murder, murder, fraud, theft, counterfeiting, loan-sharking, extortion, prostitution, escort agencies, strip clubs, the possession and trafficking of illegal weapons, stolen goods, contraband, and illicit alcohol and cigarettes. A chapter operates in a given city or region and maintains independence over internal discipline and criminal activities of the chapter in its region. Wearing colors that bear the insignia of the gang is the culmination of the biker's training period. A fortified clubhouse equipped with a sophisticated security system serves as a chapter's meeting place. Patches and tattoos show members' status within the organization.