'Slick, organized' Hells Angels little risk to public, says Calgary crime expert
Hundreds of Hells Angels and a growing number of support clubs are partying in Calgary this weekend
Big, white event tents are pitched next to porta-potties and trailers in front of a Hells Angels clubhouse east of Calgary. It's a scene closer to a well-organized country wedding than an outlaw biker gang meetup.
More than 500 bikers from across the country are in Calgary this weekend to celebrate 20 years in the city for the Hells Angels.
"They're very, very good at public relations," said Kelly Sundberg, associate professor at Mount Royal University's department of economics, justice and policy studies.
"And very good at publicly keeping their nose clean, for the most part. When they roll into a city or into a town and have one of their rallies, they keep it pretty under control and they aren't a burden to the community," he added.
"Although they're very visible, they keep their criminal activity very discreet," said Sundberg. "I don't see them as a threat to the public, per se."
But Sundberg says it's not just the Hells Angels in town this weekend.
He says there are now way more smaller supporting motorcycle clubs, with different names and patches, but approved by and working with and for the Hells Angels.
"In Alberta we've seen growth, lots of supporter clubs that have sprung up over the years," Sundberg said.
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"In Alberta, specifically, there are now several dozen motorcycle organizations in this province. We do see them much more involved in the criminal activity but they are still separate. That speaks to the sophistication and organization of the Hells Angels," he said.
Other gangs from further afield are increasingly targeting turf in Canada, from places like Australia, Europe and the United States, according to Sundberg. But he says the Hells Angels will be a feature in Canada for the foreseeable future.
"I think the Hells Angels will be around for a very long time, and that's because of their sophistication. That's how they are able to flourish and grow at a global scale, because they are so sophisticated, good at public relations and they're disciplined."
Last week, police charged five men with assault relating to an annual Hells Angels event held at Kenosee Lake, Sask., over the May long weekend.
Calgary Police say biker gangs hold events across the country, and that incidents are rare. They say they'll be monitoring this weekend's event closely.