Saturday, August 16, 2008

Up To 800 Members Of The Bandidos Motorcycle Club Expected In Moab, Utah From August 22-25

Updated post from August 23rd HERE; no problems so far.

The Bandidos Motorcycle Club will be visiting Moab, Utah from August 22-25 for their annual business meeting and Sheriff Jim Nyland said he expects club members to be on their best behavior. Nyland and Moab City Police Chief Mike Navarre have made preparations to ensure the public safety. The club will be camping on private property near Moab, according to Nyland. Story originally published July 10th, 2008 in the Moab Times; now picked up on August 16th by the Salt Lake Tribune and KSL Channel 5. Updated August 20th KSL story HERE.

Additional sources of information on the Bandidos include Wikipedia and the Bandidos MC website, although the North America portal of their website is currently not working.

According to latest estimates, anywhere from 500-800 club members are expected. Local law enforcement is being augmented from other parts of Utah, although the Bandidos customarily bring their own security personnel to such gatherings in order to keep track of members and make sure no one bothers them. The Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice approved a special $55,000 appropriation to help pay overtime, lodging and per-diem expenses for the outside cops who will assist the 14-person Moab Police Department during the event.

Law enforcement officials don't expect trouble. Although the Bandidos made headlines in 2007 when four of their members were beaten and stabbed in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, the perpetrators were members of a rival Hell’s Angels motorcycle club, involving a possible dispute over territory and drugs. When no rivals show up, there generally are no problems. When the Bandidos held their business meeting on U.S. Forest Service land in Coconino County, Arizona (Flagstaff) last year, the Coconino Sheriff’s office indicated no major disruptions or problems. However, 140 officers from 26 separate law enforcement agencies were on hand as insurance.

During the club’s annual business meeting members make plans and policy for the next year. The meeting takes place each year following the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota, which draws thousands of motorcyclists each year.

Navarre said business people ask him if they should be armed or take special precautions when they take their nightly deposits to the bank. “No,” is his answer. “The club does not indulge in threats to the public.” But, he added, anyone going to the bank who feels the need can call the police department and an escort will be provided.

What Navarre says is true. Bikers, even the "outlaw" variety, normally don't start trouble with "civilians". However, they can be possessive of their bikes and their women. Treat them the same way you'd want to be treated and you'll get on with them just fine in most cases. As a matter of fact, they can be capable of civic-mindedness; in 2004, the northern Utah chapter of the club hosted a benefit ride and dinners with proceeds donated to a local shelter for abused women and children.

The Bandidos have about 2,500 members in 13 countries, according to federal estimates. Small groups can be found in Utah, particularly in Tooele County, said Bruce Champagne, president of the Utah Gang Investigators Association. "They would have you believe they're clubs, but they're not. They're involved in criminal enterprise," said Champagne, noting the gang can be incredibly violent. "They've been actively recruiting, and their presence has grown in Utah over the last few years," he said.

The Bandidos, along with other similar prominent groups such as the Hell's Angels, the Sons of Silence, the Mongols, the Outlaws and the Pagans, are considered "outlaw bikers" or "one-percenters" (the latter reflecting their own characterization of themselves as "one percent" of the motorcycle community). Edward Winterhalder, who was once a key leader within the club, wrote a book entitled "Out In Bad Standings", which chronicles his life inside the club. According to Amazon, the book is currently out of stock, but more copies are expected. Here's a four-minute YouTube video featuring Winterhalder being interviewed on Bravo TV:

I can guarantee you that if a chapter of the Bandidos or a similar club would plant roots in the Glendale section of Salt Lake, Hispanic gang activity would drop to virtually nothing within 30 days.