Revival of biker gang threatens safety of NJ residents, report warns
New Jersey needs to create a law enforcement entity specifically devoted to monitoring and cracking down on outlaw motorcycle gangs, and all cops in the state should be required to undergo training on these gangs, according to a report released Wednesday by an independent state agency that examines organized crime.
Culminating years of investigative work, the report from the State Commission of Investigation said these and other recommendations should be implemented in response to the rapid expansion of the "Pagans Outlaw Motorcycle Gang" in New Jersey.
With the expansion, members of the motorcycle club have become more combative with rivals, as well as anyone the gang believes is a threat or has shown it disrespect — including innocent residents of New Jersey, the report finds.
Random patrons in bars, and drivers on the road, have been the victims of intimidation and assaults by Pagans, according to the report.
"This newfound level of aggression has led to drive-by shootings, savage beat downs of adversaries and unprovoked physical assaults on members of the public across New Jersey," the report states.
Under new leadership on the national level, the Pagans set a goal to become the dominant outlaw biker gang on the East Coast, according to the report. To achieve this goal, the motorcycle club removed obstacles to membership and relaxed traditions related to the recruitment process.
"We saw a huge surge in membership in New Jersey," SCI Director of Communications Kathy Riley told New Jersey 101.5. "When we first began looking at this issue three or four years ago, there were only 10 chapters in New Jersey. By the time we finished this investigation, there were 17."
"According to law enforcement estimates, there are approximately 200 Pagans statewide but the Commission found the number of members in New Jersey is probably far greater. Once mostly based in South Jersey, the outlaw motorcycle gang has pushed as far north as Bergen County and into territories traditionally dominated by its longtime nemesis, the Hells Angels, as part of a strategy by its national leadership to establish dominance along the entire East Coast of the United States."
Along with documented acts of violence, the report notes, Pagans remain involved in criminal activity such as the extortion of legitimate businesses, muscle-for-hire debt collection schemes, the illegal possession of weapons, and the distribution of methamphetamine.
The growing problem was the focus of a hearing at the Statehouse in October, for which three suspected high-ranking New Jersey-based Pagans were subpoenaed to testify. All three invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when questioned by SCI counsel. The only testimony provided was the following:
“All I will say is that it is not the policy of this club for anybody to engage in any criminal activity.”
In its report, the Commission recommended the Office of the Attorney General "create and oversee a working group comprised of law enforcement professionals ... devoted to identifying, investigating and prosecuting criminal activity perpetrated by outlaw motorcycle gangs."
SCI also suggested that all law enforcement personnel be required to undergo training on outlaw motorcycle gangs, and that police officers receive additional training to strengthen intelligence gathering and the documentation of potentially linked activity.
Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.