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Cops keep eyes on outlaw gangs

February 3, 2010

Cops keep eyes on outlaw gangs

STURGIS – Outlaw motorcycle gangs might claim to be good ol’ boys who like to ride bikes, but law enforcement officers say that by definition, outlaw gang members are involved in crime. Kevin Thom, director of the Attorney General’s Division of Criminal Investigation, said that he considers outlaw gangs to be organized crime.

To keep track of gang activity, DCI completes a report at the end of the Sturgis motorcycle rally tallying all contacts officers have with gang members and gathering intelligence information. Officers note who is enrolled in which gang and what roles individuals have within the gangs.

The information is then put into a report a few inches thick and shared with 35 states and five foreign countries that have an interest in the information, Thom said.

The information gathered this year will be used by DCI to prepare officers for the next year’s rally, Thom said. DCI puts together a Law Enforcement Safety Bulletin, a handbook of outlaw gangs’ identifiers and terminology, a timeline of violent motorcycle gang involvement in South Dakota from 1981 to the present, and acts of violence nationally in the current year.

The crimes traditionally committed by outlaw gangs during the rally are drug possession and distribution, motorcycle theft and assault, according to Pat West, director of the Rapid City DCI office. In general, gang members don’t commit random attacks against others. “If you mind your own business, everything will be fine,” West said. “If you pick a fight, you’ll get one.”

Anyone picking a fight with one gang member might get more of a fight than he can handle, West said, because other gang members will join in. “Every one of them is loyal to those colors and that group,” West said.

Law officers have been concerned in the past that gang violence would erupt at the rally because of disputes between gangs in other parts of the country. In April 2002, a shootout between the Hells Angels and the Mongols in Laughlin, Nev., left three dead and 12 hospitalized. In February the same year, a fight between Hells Angels and Pagans in Plainview, N.Y., killed one and injured 10, according to the Associated Press.

Authorities here were alert for signs of problems at the 2002 rally, but none occurred, Thom said.

“Rivalries (between gangs) ebb and flow,” West said.

Motorcycle thefts are big business for outlaw gangs, and professional thieves work motorcycle rallies, Thom said. Law enforcement officers work to prevent thefts and recover stolen bikes, and representatives of the National Insurance Crime Bureau come here to try to identify stolen motorcycles and parts.

Locally, the Bandidos is the only outlaw gang with official chapters, two in the Black Hills and one East River. Hells Angels owns 120 acres north of Sturgis, and the Sons of Silence have a 10-acre campground seven miles north of Sturgis, Thom said.

A Rapid City Bandido, Christopher Horlock, 44, turned himself in June 21 in Houston after being indicted with 25 other people in Seattle, the AP reported. Horlock, a national regional secretary for the Bandidos, was wanted on charges of conspiracy to tamper with a witness.

Horlock’s indictment and arrest was part of an offensive launched by federal agents and police against the Bandidos after a two-year investigation, according to the AP. Authorities served arrest and search warrants in Washington, Montana and South Dakota.

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