How Qld police are helping bikies escape gang life
Bikies will be incentivised to ditch their colours by getting help to get a real job, counselling and drug rehabilitation in a bid by police to further dismantle outlaw motorcycle gangs in Queensland.
The program's launch today comes after 50 Queensland ex-bikies described how those who left or were kicked out of clubs were threatened, intimidated, bashed and financially crippled - with some too afraid of being killed to leave on their own.
Police hope the valuable insights can be used to further dismantle criminal networks.
At the same time, the government is battling a youth crime crisis and police have come under fire in coronial inquests for failing to act on domestic violence risk factors in cases involving violent men.
Researchers from the Australian Institute of Criminology were told rules around leaving varied between clubs and even individual chapters, but some would be signing their own death warrant if they did dare leave.
"Some chapters are more vicious, some won't give a f--- and others will," one ex-bikie said.
"If you went into the club in (location) and left on the Monday, you'd be dead on the Tuesday."
However, new police figures show more than 500 bikies have quit since police began a crackdown on membership in 2014.
The joint police and corrective services "exit program" will refer outlaw motorcycle gang members to programs that will help them address drug, alcohol and mental health issues, get a job or study, and reach out to family members if they tear up their colours.
The program coincides with the release of revealing videos starring former gang members, including infamous former Hells Angels enforcer Ben 'Notorious' Geppert and his mother Lisa, who talk about the lasting consequences of joining a gang.
Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said the program tried to address the multitude of factors that were keeping people in these gangs, even when they didn't want to stay.
"What the research tells us is more than half of those interviewed joined an outlaw motorcycle gang following a significant life event or crisis, seeking camaraderie, but were instead met with a life of violence and crime and felt like there was no way out," she said.
Police Minister Mark Ryan said police had shown great innovation.
"It is an opportunity for gang members to change the course of their life and their families," he said.
One former member told researchers he had been threatened with violence "heaps of times" after leaving his club while one of his friends was hassled.
"(They) beat him and pulled a gun on him while his daughter was in the car and that broke my heart," he said.
Motorcycles were often forfeited and ex-members' businesses targeted, leading to financial losses up to $250,000.
Common charges for outstanding dues or exit fees were $5000 to $10,000.
Other bikies talked about the massive time demands of being in a gang and the crippling effects on relationships, finances and mental health.
"I was the worst dad ever, kills me to say it because the relationship I had with my dad, I wanted to be the best dad under the sun and I wasn't," one bikie said.
Another said: "With the drug use, the infidelity, I turned into a bit of a monster. The trust goes, you lose family and friends, honest friends, they don't want much to do with you when you're a bikie."
Originally published as How Qld police are helping bikies escape gang life