Notorious biker gang opens new Hells Angels chapter in Lower Mainland

For the second time in five years, the Hells Angels are expanding their presence in B.C. by opening a new chapter.

The notorious biker gang recently celebrated the launch of its Hardside chapter with a party on St. Patrick’s Day, Postmedia News has learned.

And on the Hells Angels’ international website, a “welcome to the family” note was recently posted for B.C.’s newest chapter.

Hardside was formed after the Haney chapter split into two groups in February. But other Hells Angels from some of the gang’s other B.C. chapters have also “patched-over” to Hardside.

Sgt. Brenda Winpenny of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit said the CFSEU’s uniformed team first noticed the new Hardside patch while out working in the community.

“As far as we are concerned in terms of the intelligence we have gotten so far, it is a reconfiguration of members,” she said. “They have been subject to civil-forfeiture action and those types of things recently. They have come to the point where they are reconfiguring and rebranding.”

A long-running legal battle between the B.C. Director of Civil Forfeiture and three Hells Angels chapters over the ownership of their clubhouses is expected to go to trial in May.

Winpenny said there are now 121 Hells Angels members provincewide, which is up from about 100 just three years ago.

The expansion has happened despite increased enforcement by police in recent years. Two Kelowna Hells Angels were recently convicted in a major cocaine-conspiracy case. One of them, David Giles, will be sentenced Friday in B.C. Supreme Court.

Winpenny said the CFSEU is “working hard” gathering both intelligence and combating biker organized crime in B.C.

So far, police don’t know where in the Lower Mainland Hardside will be based or whether it will open its own clubhouse. The last new Hells Angels’ chapter, called West Point, opened in 2012 and was supposed to be based in Surrey. But when Surrey RCMP said they would crack down on any attempt by the Hells Angels to open a clubhouse in the city, the gang started meeting weekly at a Langley pub instead.

Hells Angels spokesman Rick Ciarniello didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Support sticker for new Hells Angels “Hardside” chapter

Hardside is the 10th Hells Angels chapter opened in B.C. since the biker gang moved into the province on July 25, 1983.

Retired Vancouver police biker cop Brad Stephen said that in his view, the latest split resulted from a differing approach to being a Hells Angel between old-timers and generally younger members.

The splinter group “needs to maintain their dominant overt presence in the underworld while more traditional, old-school Hells Angels are more resistant to that sort of an image or a presence in the community,” Stephen said.

It has happened before in B.C. In the mid-2000s, some younger members of the East End Vancouver chapter broke away to join the Nomads. And then in 2012, the Langley-based White Rock chapter splintered with younger members forming West Point.

In many cases, old-guard bikers don’t want to draw attention to themselves, while younger, more-active Hells Angels feel they have to be seen in public to compete with other B.C. gangs, he said.

“They still all want to be Hells Angels in the same sandbox. They just have a different take on … how the Hells Angels should be seen in the underworld.”

Stephen believes B.C. Hells Angels today are less territorial than they were 10 or 20 years ago. That’s why the new chapters don’t take a city’s name.

“Hells Angels have evolved from being territorial to being freelancers wherever the market takes them. And they have to progress and adapt to the ever-changing criminal market and how the police conduct their business as well,” he said. “The police have become more collaborative and now the Hells Angels have to adapt and go to where the market takes them.”

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Kim Bolan
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