R-E-S-P-E-C-T: What outlaw motorcycle gangs seek
STATELINE —Tri County Gang Unit members told law enforcement and other officials that even though outlaw biker gangs have been stymied, they continue to evolve. Nate Brehm and Ron Miller, both of the Tri County Gang Unit, spoke Friday about outlaw biker gangs in Northern Nevada at the fifth annual Northern Nevada Gang Symposium. Biker gangs consider themselves to be the “one percenters,” Brehm said. The term refers to a magazine article in the 1940s which stated that 99 percent of bikers were peaceful, law-abiding citizens. When the Hells Angels formed, their motto was clear: “We are the one percent.”The gang unit members said the Vagos motorcycle gang has been transitioning in Nevada. The gang is moving toward leather vests and away from denim vests, Miller said. Almost all other outlaw motorcycle gangs wear leather vests. Miller also said the Vagos, considered the outlaw motorcycle gang to watch by the Department of Public Safety, has a fluctuating membership rate.In 2009, the Vagos started to get more aggressive because they had been watching television shows about outlaw motorcycle gangs, such as the Sons of Anarchy.Miller said the Vagos would go to bars and try to force them to pay a 5 percent tax and kick out certain patrons. This behavior, along with other factors, resulted in the Vagos getting “booted out of Carson City,” Miller said.When it comes to the biker gangs, it is all about power, on both a group-to-group level and on a personal level. A confederation of “motorcycle clubs” exists for each area and is dominated by the strongest biker gang.Support clubs, affiliated with their stronger counter-parts, act as the henchmen for the three major clubs, the Hells Angels, the Vagos and the Mongols.To get into a biker gang, there is a process. First, there is the hang-around phase when a person does incredible amounts of grunt work.“Any kind of detail you can think of, that’s the stuff you can expect,” from cleaning up vomit to running to the store to buy beer, Brehm said.The next phase is the prospecting phase. A prospect becomes more heavily involved with the gang and more heavily involved with the illegal activities. If a full member tells a prospect to do something, the prospect must do it, from running drugs to committing assaults, Brehm said.“They’re expected to up their game” from the hang-arounds phase, he said. The prospects are expected to carry both the guns and the drugs for other club members.The prospecting phase can last from as little as a few months to a matter of years. Once a prospect turns into a member, he is “patched in,” meaning he can wear the full gang regalia and is a full member of the gang.One of the most important things to an outlaw motorcycle gang or its members is respect.“Everything that they stand for is respect,” Brehm said. Treating them like human beings can make all the difference, he said.