Police are watching for signs that motorcycle gangs are trying to expand or gain more control of drug trafficking in New Brunswick.
An investigator who runs the RCMP's organized crime task force on P.E.I. said his unit is concerned about violence stemming from the re-emergence of Hells Angels in the Maritimes.
"You're competing over turf," Cpl. Andy Cook said, referring to the gangs competing over territory.
"There's no way to get around that. That's exactly what's happening."
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Police rely on informants and watch for signs of tension between gangs at public events.
One red flag is when members have "fake bro hugs" in front of police but avoid interacting with each other for the rest of an event, Cook said.
Last year, police were monitoring a New Brunswick meeting of several biker clubs when the Black Pistons — a group affiliated with the Outlaws motorcycle club — showed up, creating what Cook described as "a tense situation."
The Outlaws and Hells Angels are "bitter rivals" in the United States and both have a presence in New Brunswick, he said.
"The intimidation from the Hells Angels groups ... it was evident in the parking lot," he said.
"There were stare downs. There was video taping of the Black Pistons members as they left."
Police tight-lipped about homicide
While investigators say they're watching for signs of violence and tension, they aren't saying whether the recent homicide of a former Bacchus motorcycle club member is connected to motorcycle gang activity.
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Ronald Gerald Richard's body was discovered on July 23 on a rural property in Hardwood Ridge, near Minto.
So far, police only said that Richard's homicide wasn't random.
Staff Sgt. James Bates, a spokesman with New Brunswick RCMP's federal serious and organized crime section, declined to comment on Richard's death.
Richard was described in court three years ago as a member of Bacchus.
But he also posted pictures of himself on Facebook wearing Angels merchandise.
Biker gang scene in New Brunswick
Hells Angels began strengthening their presence in New Brunswick in the fall of 2016, planting six members in the province, according to Cook.
They established a Nomads chapter, made up of long-standing, elite Hells Angels members. The organization is called Nomads because they don't have their own clubhouse, unlike traditional chapters.
New Brunswick also has a chapter of the Gate Keepers — described by Cook as a "farm team" for Hells Angels — in Fredericton.
The Black Pistons, affiliated with the rival Outlaws, also lists a Fredericton chapter on their website.
And then there's Bacchus, a club that traditionally tried to get along with everyone else, said Cook.
"I guess they'd be the Switzerland of motorcycle clubs," he said.
There's a pecking order when it comes to motorcycle gangs, Cook explained, and the Hells Angels sit firmly on the top, setting rules that other clubs must follow.
Police were worried about violence between Bacchus and Hells Angels clubs in 2014, after Bacchus set up a chapter in Ontario and put the province name on a "bottom rocker" jacket patch.
"I guess they'd be the Switzerland of motorcycle clubs." - RCMP Cpl. Andy Cook
Only Hells Angels members have traditionally worn a province name on a patch as a sign that they control the provinces, Cook said.
"My understanding is that Hells Angels weren't very happy because previous to that, Bacchus was only in provinces where there were no Hells Angels clubs," he said.
The Bacchus chapter later ditched the provincial patch and adopted a Canada patch instead.
Hells Angels not interested in 'biker war'
The Maritimes are attractive to the Hells Angels because its marine ports can form a crucial link in a national drug pipeline, according to Stephen Schneider, an associate professor of criminology at St. Mary's University in Halifax.
"The threat is they're going to start exporting synthetic drugs like fentanyl or meth produced in Canada," said Schneider, the author of Iced: The Story of Organized Crime in Canada.
'Hells Angels are certainly not interested in getting into any kind of biker war like we saw in Quebec in the '90s.' - Stephen Schneider, associate professor of criminology
He suspects the Hells Angels are trying to get along with Bacchus so they can recruit their members, with an end goal of "patching over" or taking over the club.
But he doesn't think the gang wants to do so "aggressively or violently."
Instead, he described the relationship as one of "courtship."
"Hells Angels are certainly not interested in getting into any kind of biker war like we saw in Quebec in the '90s," Schneider said.
"They would like a peaceful patch over."