now browsing by month
Daytona Police Watching “Biker Gangs”
Police watching motorcycle gangs in Daytona for Bike Week
Updated Mar 14, 2018 at 7:42 PM
DAYTONA BEACH — More motorcycle gangs are in town for Bike Week but the Volusia County sheriff said police will come down on them “like white on rice” if they break the law.
Sheriff Mike Chitwood said he has seen an increase in motorcycle gangs coming to Bike Week in Daytona Beach. To prevent gang violence, the Sheriff’s Office has taken a proactive approach and shifted the focus of its motorcycle theft task force that operated during the event for years. The team now monitors local, national and international motorcycle gangs.
“I would say that it seemed when I first got here in 2006, it was high, and then we hit a period where there was a lull, there was a period where we knocked their club house out of Daytona Beach,” Chitwood said.
In August 2007, Daytona Beach police and FBI raided and busted up the Outlaws motorcycle gang’s clubhouse on Beach Street. The Outlaws gang tried making a comeback but Daytona Beach police and code enforcement has made it difficult for them to set up house in other locations in the city.
“But now from what I see it looks like we are starting to see a proliferation of that. We are starting to see other motorcycle gangs come in, Hells Angels, the Mongols, there is a Puerto Rican motorcycle gang we are seeing coming in here, so in my opinion I think we are starting to see it come back on the rise.”
The FBI has the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club and Mongols listed as two of the largest Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs in the United States. The others are the Pagans, Vagos, Sons of Silence, Outlaws and Bandidos.
Daytona Beach police Chief Craig Capri has seen the increase, too.
“Daytona is a national run for most motorcycle clubs during Bike Week,” Capri said. “Meaning that most motorcycle clubs require their members to be here.”
Daytona Beach police detectives have met with several of the gangs and laid down the rules of the city to them, Capri said.
“Our number one goal is public safety,” Capri said. “We’ve met with them and told them they can have their fun but we’ve let them know that if they cause problems, we’ll be on them. They’ve been receptive to our rules.”
Volusia County sheriff’s Capt. Brian Henderson said the motorcycle theft task force had long worked to recover motorcycles stolen from other parts of the country assembled from parts, which were found at Daytona’s Bike Week event. Recovering motorcycles is still done but the group’s concern now is preventing gang violence.
“We have a concentrated group of people that are out there for Bike Week monitoring the criminal street gangs and doing covert operations,” Henderson said.
The Sheriff’s Office team keeping a close eye on motorcycle gangs has studied the criminal history of the gangs in other parts of the United States, which includes fighting over territory, said Lt. Kurt Schoeps, who heads up domestic security for the Sheriff’s Office.
Several violent incidents involving motorcycle gangs in Florida makes it a priority for law enforcement to watch them, Chitwood said.
In April 2017 an Outlaws motorcycle gang member was stabbed to death at the Crooks Den on Orange
Avenue in Daytona Beach. Police are still looking for the killer. The next month a member of the Kingsmen Motorcycle Club was shot to death in Leesburg by Outlaws members over gang colors.
Then, in December 2017 the president of the Cross Bayou chapter of the Outlaws was shot and killed as he sat in his vehicle at a traffic light by members of the 69ers Puerto Rican motorcycle gang in Pasco County.
And in Seminole County, a bomb placed on a 69ers car exploded without injuring the gang member, but he was shot and killed anyway, Chitwood said.
“This is not just a Florida issue, it’s a nationwide issue to where we have one club fighting with another club over jurisdiction,” Schoeps said. “And like the sheriff said, we want to make sure that doesn’t come here to Volusia County. But they (gangs) are in Volusia County this Bike Week.”
Nationally, there have also been violent encounters of rival gang members like the incident in Waco, Texas, in May 2015. Authorities said an argument in a bathroom and a parking space at a restaurant ended with nine people dead and a parking lot littered with shell casings, puddles of blood, bulletriddled cars and abandoned motorcycles.
The incident involved the Bandidos motorcycle gang, according to the Department of Justice.
Schoeps said motorcycle gangs partake in criminal activity, including drug trafficking, from which criminal street gangs make their money.
“Motorcycle gangs are domestic terrorists,” Chitwood said.
The sheriff said when the leadership of gangs such as the Oultaws, Hells Angels and the Mongols, go to federal prison, it’s for racketeering, child porn, human trafficking, murder and other violent crimes.
“So that’s what these motorcycle gangs represent,” Chitwood said. “So it’s important for us to know what’s coming into our county to do everything humanly possible to prevent any type of violence from occurring.”
There is no law that says its illegal to be a gang member but authorities will not stand for anyone breaking the law, Schoeps said.
“They know they are being looked at,” Schoeps said. “They know that they are being followed by law enforcement.”
The motorcycle gangs in Daytona Beach wear their colors, some as a symbol of pride or intimidation, Schoeps said.
“When they are out wearing their colors, they are doing their ride but they know we are watching them,” Schoeps said.
Chitwood said part of ensuring safety the cooperation of bar owners to not allow colors in their businesses. Most motorcycle gang violence is know to happen over colors, the sheriff said.
Ultimately, the Sheriff’s Office partners with federal, state and municipal authorities to try to do the best job to abate any violence, Chitwood said.
“When you look around the nation at these biker rallies and you see the shootouts that occur, we can’t have a shootout on Main Street. We can’t have a shootout at Destination Daytona, that’s not going to happen,” Chitwood said. “And if it happens, you know, we are going to come down like white on rice on top of them.”