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Be careful who you ride with

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

Motorcycling is a popular past time in Colorado. During warmer months it is common to see motorcyclists enjoying the scenic Colorado countryside.

According to MotorCycleRoads.com there are 173,120 registered motorcycles in the state, it is ranked No. 2 in number of “motorcycle” roads and 15th in motorcycles per person.

The popularity of motorcycles extends to military members in the region as well. The Air Force Office of Special Investigations, 8th Field Investigative Squadron, wants military motorcycle riders to be aware of who they ride with and know outlaw motorcycle gangs target service members for recruitment.

“They want to recruit anyone who can be of use,” said Special Agent Taylor Pearce, AFOSI 8th FIS. “They want to exploit the skills of the military.”

He said outlaw gangs are glamorized in movies and TV shows like “Sons of Anarchy,” but those portrayals are not accurate representations. Not all motorcycle clubs are outlaw gangs, also known as “one percenters,” by the American Motorcycle Association in 1947, who said 99 percent of motorcyclists are law abiding people and one percent are outlaws.

Colorado is home to many motorcycle events, such as the annual Salute to American Veterans Rally in Cripple Creek and local events like the Tejon Street Bike Fest throughout the warmer months. These events are places where outlaw clubs actively recruit new members, Pearce said.

“I suggest that people be aware of their surroundings,” he said. “They may come off as friendly and it may seem like a cool thing (to join a motorcycle gang), but in the end it’s an outlaw group. I’m not saying don’t go to events, but make sure you are aware of who might be there.”

Motorcycle gangs have actively recruited military members in the Colorado Springs area for several years now, said Sgt. Tim Stanke, Colorado Springs Police Department public information officer, and they do it in a number of ways.

He said some groups have booths at events while others have members who look for unaffiliated riders to recruit. A lot of times groups host parties for interested people and recruit that way, building relationships over time.

The only active outlaw gang in Colorado Springs is the Sons of Silence, said Stanke. There are some rumblings in the rumor mill about the Hell’s Angels gang recruiting to form a chapter in the area, which is something law enforcement will monitor because the two groups are rivals.

Stanke mentioned there are support groups active in the area. Support groups like Silent Warriors, made up of many active duty military personnel, can be seen supporting Sons of Silence events by directing traffic and other activities. While he said these groups are not outlaw gangs, the “one percent” clubs often use them to carry out illegal activity on their behalf.

Outlaw motorcycle gangs may appeal to military members. An OSI briefing held at Peterson Air Force Base pointed out comradery, brotherhood, structure and rank as things that may appeal to military members. For the gangs, access to weapons, explosives and people trained in those areas are appealing for recruitment. People in the military also have reliable income, tactical skills, dedication to a cause and clean records so they can purchase firearms for outlaw gangs.

Both Pearce and Stanke said they are not discouraging anyone from riding or gathering with other motorcycle enthusiasts. They only want to make people aware of the problems that might come from their association with outlaw motorcycle gangs.

In recent years only a few service members were associated with local motorcycle gangs who committed violent acts. However, being associated with such groups and knowledge of criminal activity can cause problems for service members. Commanders are responsible for enforcing policy and taking appropriate action against military members participating in criminal organizations and illegal activities.

To report any threats or for more information, please contact AFOSI 8th FIS at 719-556-4347.



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