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explosion in bikie groups, with 24 rival gangs owning 56 clubhouses and having more than 4000 members across the state.

Monday, 23 May 2011

VICTORIA Police has launched a dedicated taskforce to investigate outlaw bikie gangs in a radical change of policy.

The Sunday Herald Sun is today revealing there has been an explosion in bikie groups, with 24 rival gangs owning 56 clubhouses and having more than 4000 members across the state.

Echo Taskforce has been formed to target bikie crimes, disrupt criminal activity by the groups and stamp out intimidation of the public.

Authorities have linked bikies to nightclubs, prostitution and trucking as well as a litany of crimes including murder.

And Victoria Police has now pledged: "We are going to be policing them very hard . . . we are not going to take their lawlessness."

The taskforce will be spearheaded by detective Acting Insp Chris Murray - one of the senior investigators in Operation Pendennis, which foiled a terror attack by plotters in Melbourne.

The names of the gangs that have infiltrated Victoria and where each of the 56 chapters is based is listed today.

It shows bikies have spread their tentacles across the suburbs and regions.

But Victoria Police is determined bikies will not win the war and has launched the special bikie-busting strike force.

"Echo Taskforce was formed because Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMCG) are a top priority for Victoria Police," Acting Insp Murray said.

"It's a result of what we have seen interstate -- recent activity involving OMCG wars, feuds, homicides and the fact these groups have chapters, in most cases, in every state and overseas.

"We have refocused our efforts on OMCGs to make sure all things are looked at -- everything from major crimes to road policing issues.

"We are going to be policing them very hard.

"The days of blocking intersections, running of red lights . . . are over -- we are not going to take their lawlessness.

"We are going to be a lot more proactive."

Bikie gangs have pushed their way into nightclub ownership, club security, drug trafficking, strippers and prostitution.

"Some members are involved in criminal activity including serious assaults, murder, drug trafficking and organised criminal activity," Acting Insp Murray said.

"We are certainly looking at the licensing industry, brothel and transport industry, especially the interstate trucking companies -- who are behind them and what they are bringing down.

"They are certainly involved in drug activity. Nightclubs are a big concern -- ownership and security on the doors.

"There are a lot of illegal firearms out there, which OMCGs have traditionally been involved in. Blackmail, extortion and standover activity is also something we are looking very hard at."

Acting Insp Murray, who spent six years in the joint counter-terrorism team, said he hoped to build ties with OMCGs, so they could prevent crimes.

"We do not say every bikie is involved in crime," he said.

And he said the plan was already paying dividends.

"With the info we have been getting, we are painting a picture of what is happening here and overseas, who's doing what, who's trying to fill what space, what groups are taking over groups and what groups are working with who," he said.

"OMCGs want to fly under the radar. They don't want our attention.

"They are not going to advertise the fact members are involved in drug dealing, drug importation, serious assaults, murder, if they are silent partners in nightclubs, licensing venues, brothels - it's not something they want us to know.

"But it's our job to find out that information . . . and act on it."

Acting Insp Murray urged law-abiding bikies to anonymously report information to Crime Stoppers.

"Counter-terrorism has been my mainstay for the past six years or so and this job is very similar in lots of ways -- the groups are . . . very secretive," he said.

"Where we want to be is not waiting for things to occur, not waiting for feuds to begin, not waiting for gang warfare, not waiting for them to proliferate guns and weapons.

"Bikie gangs in Victoria need to know we are on the front foot and we are keeping an eye on them."

He said Echo Taskforce was previously an umbrella operation tackling gang crime.

"Its predecessor looked at gangs in general. Now it's been totally rebadged. We have kept the name, but it's now purely OMCG-focused."

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