Party’s over for bikies as cops enforce party boat ban
First they lost their clubhouses, then they were banned from pubs. Now, outlaw motorcycle gangs have lost their last remaining safe haven - party boats.
Fed up with bikies congregating on party cruises, police have embraced a novel legal strategy to stop them hiring pleasure craft ahead of the summer boating season.
Boat owners who suspect bikies of making a booking can contact police for background checks. If these suspicions are confirmed, the booking can be cancelled or the bikies can be forcibly removed by officers.
"The party boats don't want bikies on their boats," said Detective Chief Inspector Darren Beeche, team leader at Strike Force Raptor, the unit responsible for disrupting gang activity across the state.
"We've closed down nearly every clubhouse - almost 60 in NSW.
"They can't go to licensed premises so they're looking for areas to congregate, to collude, to promote their internal workings."
The bans go further than previous injunctions, applying regardless of whether a bikie is wearing their gang colours, and in some cases extend to restaurants and bottle shops.
Australian Hotels Association director of liquor and policy John Green said the measures were applauded by business owners and did not breach anti-discrimination guidelines.
"If they're in a venue as a group, then they're probably there to intimidate people or conduct other criminal activity. And if another outlaw motorcycle gang comes into the venue it's primarily to start a conflict with gang members in the area," he said.
Boats have long been regarded as a reliable way for gang members to escape scrutiny. The Comanchero once held their Christmas party aboard a cruise ship on Sydney Harbour, inviting family members and associates along.
The Hells Angels attempted to hold their 2016 Annual General Meeting on the Murray River but were stymied by Raptor officers.
"It's an issue we're addressing," Det Chf Insp Beeche said.
"It's not too much fun to be a bikie anymore."
For some, these restrictions have been overwhelming. A recent operation in Campbelltown ended with a large number of Rebels walking into a police station to sign statutory declarations that they had renounced their gang membership. Det Chf Insp Beeche said: "They couldn't go anywhere for a beer."
In Camden, once a Rebels' stronghold, it is rare to see Harley Davidsons parked along the street, according to restaurateur and president of the Camden Liquor Accord Steve Wisby. He said.
"These people just aren't coming around anymore - it's like they've all gone into hibernation to figure out their next step."