Sunday, July 23, 2017 This Week's Paper

Hells Angels open clubhouse in Dome District

The Washington Chapter of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club has opened a clubhouse in a building on East 'G' Street near Freighthouse Square in the Dome District. Tacoma Police Department (TPD) is keeping a close eye on this development.

TPD Assistant Chief Bob Sheehan gave an update on the situation during the May 13 meeting of Tacoma City Council's Public Safety, Human Services and Education Committee.

"This is extremely concerning for us. This is not a good thing," Sheehan said. "We are going to get on top of it and keep them from getting a foothold here."

TPD officials learned members planned to move in on May 1. Sheehan said a group of Hells Angels rode from Seattle to Tacoma that day.

That same day about 150 members of the Outsiders Motorcycle Club were spotted riding together on North 21st Street.

Lieutenant Bart Hayes told council members that no particular motorcycle group is claiming Tacoma as its turf. The Outsiders have operated a clubhouse on Hilltop for several years, he noted. Other groups that are known to be active in the Tacoma area are the Bandidos and Outlaws.

Sheehan said Pierce County Sheriff's Department has been monitoring motorcycle groups in the county for some time. "It is not something that we cannot handle."

He said the Outsiders have been in town for a while and generally keep a low profile.

Most motorcycle groups are territorial by nature, he noted. Asked what makes criminal biker gangs different from street gangs is that the biker gangs are better organized and better financed.

The Hells Angels were founded in San Bernardino, Calif. in 1948. Other chapters formed around the state. The first outside California was established in 1961 in New Zealand. Chapters were eventually formed across the United States.

Both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Criminal Intelligence Service Canada classify the Hells Angels as a criminal enterprise. Members assert they are motorcycle enthusiasts drawn together for rides and social events.