Police presence boosted as Hells Angels roll into Lethbridge to open new chapter

Click to play video: 'Police presence boosted as Hells Angels roll into Lethbridge to open new chapter'
Police presence boosted as Hells Angels roll into Lethbridge to open new chapter
Lethbridge Police Service is advising the public of a highly visible Hells Angels presence at local events this upcoming weekend, as hundreds of members and supporters of the outlaw gang will be in the southern Alberta city celebrating the grand opening of its new chapter. Jordan Prentice reports.

Police from across Canada will be descending upon Lethbridge this weekend as members of the Hells Angels and supporters of the motorcycle gang roll into the southern Alberta city.

“We’re anticipating anywhere from 200 to 300 members,” said acting insp. Pete Christos, who is in charge of the criminal investigations division at the Lethbridge Police Service.

Members of a new Hells Angels chapter in Lethbridge, their support clubs and others are holding a grand opening party and are anticipated to ride during various events over the weekend.

“It just means that they’re looking to establish themselves within our city,” Christos said. “Clubhouses have been identified throughout the city, throughout this country for a long time. For here, we’re prepared to deal with this as it evolves.”

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To Hell and Back: Former Hells Angels member Joe Calendino’s chilling story of loss and redemption

The Hells Angels is the world’s largest outlaw motorcycle gang and has several junior support clubs below it. Peter Edwards, organized crime reporter with the Toronto Star and an author of several books on organized crime, likens it to the NHL having the American Hockey League and the East Coast Hockey League.

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The organization’s well-known criminal history ranges from white-collar crime like fraud, counterfeiting, money laundering, contraband smuggling, extortion, and illegal gambling to more serious offences like drug trafficking, assault and murder.

Police said the gang uses its interest in motorcycles as a cover for illegal activities. The Hells Angels is widely known to utilize support clubs and associate clubs to distance themselves from criminal acts they’re engaged in.

Christos said investigators have been aware of the Hells Angels’ intentions in Lethbridge for some time now and police are prepared. He did not share where the new clubhouse is located.

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Lethbridge police said the gang presence is expected to be highly visible and officers will be assessing any potential threats to public safety on a case-by-case basis.

To that end, officers from the RCMP, ALERT Integrated Gang Enforcement Team, Calgary Police Service, Edmonton Police Service, Medicine Hat Police Service, Taber Police Service, Camrose Police Service and other Canadian police agencies are heading to Lethbridge.

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LPS said the agencies have joined in a coordinated response and will be visible throughout the city to monitor outlaw motorcycle gang members and their activities.

In addition, Section 69.1(1) of the Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Act, enables the exclusion and removal of gang members from licensed establishments such as bars and some restaurants. Police said they will “monitor potential attendance at applicable locations.”

“It has been well documented that many outlaw motorcycle gang members, their friends and associates, are involved in criminal activity,” Christos said. “We will be working with our policing partners to monitor their presence, deter illegal activity and maintain public safety through an overt police presence.”

It is expected that a large number of Hells Angels and their supporters will arrive in the city on July 12. The public is asked to be aware of the significant increase in motorcycle traffic and share the road safely.

Christos said it’s believed most will leave after holding their celebration, and the public is advised to leave the visitors alone and not engage with them at all.

“We do have an operational plan in place where we’re going to be monitoring these individuals and their activities so we are well-prepared for this.”

Earlier in the spring, the Hells Angels set up a new clubhouse just outside the city limits of Peterborough, Ont.

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Hells Angels-linked clubhouse opens in Peterborough

The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club was founded in 1948 in California. The group has around 6,000 members across 467 charters in 59 countries.

In more recent years, the Hells Angels have aimed to keep a low profile since the deadly biker wars over narcotic trafficking in the 1990s, according to Criminologist and former Bloc Québécois MP Maria Mourani.

The fights led to the deaths of more than 160 people between 1994 and 2002, including nine bystanders, according to experts.

The biker gang now prefers to negotiate instead of turning to violence to settle scores, Mourani said, as it’s bad for business.

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— With files from Michelle Butterfield, Greg Davis and Robert Lothian, Global News


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