Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs (OMCs)
During the last decades, Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs (OMCs) have become a concern for crime prevention and law enforcement agencies. The general perception of OMCs is ambiguous. They are seen either as highly structured criminal organizations whose members use their motorcycle clubs for conducting sophisticated criminal enterprises or as clubs built around the camaraderie of freedom-seeking bikers.
Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs (OMCs), or Outlaw Motorcycle gangs (OMGs) as law enforcement agencies tend to call them, are a subculture rooted in the immediate post-World War II era. The term denotes a subculture comprising organizations that bring together and organize motorcycle riders into clubs with a distinctive and recognizable value system, set of principles, symbols, and paraphernalia embracing a certain law-breaking character
Among OMCs, the big four organizations that stand out are Hells Angels, Bandidos, Outlaws, and Pagans. These are the largest both in terms of international expansion and membership. The big four and other transnational OMCspose serious concerns to law enforcement agencies around the world. The US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) describes OMCs as a "serious national domestic threat" and the European Union’s law enforcement agency Europol has developed a project called Monitor to prevent and combat the criminal activities of OMCs in Europe since they consider OMCs to be an emerging organized crime threat to European internal security.
The FBI’s National Gang Intelligence Center (NGIC) which is comprised of representatives from US law enforcement agencies combating organized crime and gangs describes OMCs as highly structured criminal organizations whose members engage in criminal activities such as violent crime, weapons trafficking, and drug trafficking, and whose members use their motorcycle clubs as conduits for criminal enterprises.
Most of the OMCs have similar organizational rules and structures, usually with elected officers for designated roles such as President, Vice president, Treasurer, Road Captain, and Sergeant-at-Arms. The post-war re-established camaraderie also explains the militaristic organizational design of OMCs, with officers, sergeants-at-arms and other symbols and paraphernalia which uphold the subculture of OMCs. And this gateway from social malaise may also explain the commonality between OMCs and religious sects.
The members of these organizations tout the outlaw lifestyle as an image: in this view, each member and chapter is voluntarily organized and locally self-ruled, with a high level of democratic decision-making, with members living beyond the law as freedom-loving chivalrous rebels. In other words, they do not represent themselves as criminal enterprises or gangs.
Only “full-patch” members may display the club logo. Full-patch members are fiendishly protective of the exclusivity of their insignia, and clubs hold copyright on their logos and other major symbols. The "1%" logo encased in a diamond-shaped patch is worn on the front or back of the biker’s colors.
Patches and tattoos reflect the sect-like symbolism of a gang’s subculture and can provide information about a gang member’s social history, such as past incarcerations, drug use, and allegiance to the gang. Central to the attire of outlaw bikers is the sleeveless and collarless jacket that identifies the specific club to which a biker belongs. These jackets, referred to as “colors,” are made from leather or denim. The patches, or "rockers," that indicate full membership to an OMC are embroidered on a biker’s colors and are regarded with great reverence by members and club affiliates.
The back of a biker’s colors typically has a top rocker, which bears the club’s name; a center patch, which bears the club’s logo; and a bottom rocker, which indicates the location of the chapter of the club to which the biker belongs. A biker’s colors are integral to his identity as a member of the club.
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