Could research become the newest weapon in the fight against outlaw motorcycle gangs?

Anthony Morgan, Christopher Dowling and Isabella Voce

Australian Institute of Criminology

Evidence-based policing largely has its origins in targeting, testing and tracking responses to volume crimes. But law enforcement, both at the commonwealth and state and territory level, are increasingly focused on serious and organised crime groups. Recent attention has been directed at outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMCGs) and the threat they pose to public safety. No longer are they regarded as motorcycle enthusiasts at the fringes of society; rather, modern OMCGs have become synonymous with Australian organised crime.  But applied Australian research to understand offending by OMCGs, or the most effective ways to respond, is in its relative infancy.

This situation is starting to improve. The Australian Institute of Criminology has, as part of its new Serious and Organised Crime Research Lab, embarked on an ambitious research agenda to help inform the work of our law enforcement partners. This paper will use the results of the analysis of national data on the criminal histories of almost 5,700 OMCG members, nearly 500 chapters and 39 gangs to illustrate the potential value of research to law enforcement policy and practice. These data were used to examine the prevalence, characteristics and concentration of offending at the individual, chapter and group level. This study provides the first national measure of OMCG involvement in violent offending and ongoing criminal enterprises, particularly the supply of drugs and firearms, as well as individual and group-level risk factors for offending. This is an important first stage in the development of an evidence-base to help prevent and disrupt serious and organised criminal activity by OMCGs.


Anthony Morgan is the Research Manager for the Australian Institute of Criminology’s Serious and Organised Crime Research Laboratory (SOCR-Lab), working closely with law enforcement and academia on research to understand and find ways to disrupt organised crime. His own research focuses on the criminal careers of organised crime offenders and outlaw motorcycle gangs. He has published extensively in the area of policing, including policing responses to domestic violence, police investigations and use of technology, police partnerships and crime analysis to inform policing.

Australia & New Zealand Society of Evidence Based Policing

The Australia & New Zealand Society of Evidence Based Policing (ANZSEBP) was formed in April 2013 in Brisbane, Australia. The ANZSEBP is a police practitioner-led Society. The mission of the ANZSEBP is to develop, disseminate and advocate for police to use scientific research (“the evidence”) to guide best practice in all aspects of policing. The ANZSEBP Chairperson serves on the Executive Board of the British Society of Evidence Based Policing, ensuring that the ANZSEBP works cooperatively with an international group of police to advance evidence based policing.

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