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Concerted efforts to tame motorcycle gangs Indonesian

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The recent spate of violence involving Navy personnel and motorcycle gangs that resulted in the death of a sailor and a civilian are just the tip of the iceberg of a street crime phenomenon that the police have failed to address.

According to the recent Indonesian Police Watch (IPW) report, almost 200 people have been killed in acts of violence involving motorcycle gangs in the past three years. It is believed, however, the number of fatalities and material losses could be greater than that, was many cases related to the activities of the motorcycle gangs have gone unreported.

The continuing violence underscores the police’s failure to deal with the problems associated with motorcycle gangs, whose members are mostly youths. The police have taken ad hoc measures in response to the crimes committed by members of the gangs and punish the perpetrators, but have done little to fight the culture of thugs.

There has been no comprehensive or systemic plan or concerted efforts to address the social problems behind the acts of violence involving motorcycle gangs. Conventional punishment won’t work as the gangs have developed their own recruitment systems, while the youths have a natural urge for self-actualization that motorcycle gangs help facilitate.

The police need to be proactive, stage comprehensive plans and join forces with related government agencies and educators to address the problem given the sheer scale of activities and the number of motorcycle gang members. As quoted by The Jakarta Post recently, IPW said the motorcycle gangs have used around 80 spots in Jakarta as their racing tracks this year.

West Java, especially Bandung, is home to a large number of motorcycle gangs, with membership reportedly reaching tens of thousands, many of them high school and university students.

The four biggest motorcycle gangs operating in West Java — Moonraker, Grab on Road (GBR), Exalt to Coitus (XTC) and Brigade Seven (Brigez) — declared their dissolution in 2010 in response to widespread concerns among the local community and authorities over their unruly behavior, which often resulted in fatalities. They pledged to transform themselves into ordinary mass organizations.

Freelance journalist Mulyani Hasan explains in her much viewed blog that a motorcycle gang is different from a motorcycle club.

While the motorcycle gangs are active in street racing and violence, motorcycle clubs are established to address the needs of professionals, youngsters or other elements of the society who are passionate about certain brands of motorcycles or tour across cities and the country side on motorcycles together. Among the motorcycle clubs are fans of Harley Davidson, Yamaha Mio, Honda Tiger, Scooter, etc.

The chronic problem coming from the unruly activities of motorcycle gangs in Indonesia is not endemic. Advanced countries such as the United States and Australia have also been facing the same problem related to motorcycle gangs (known by its initials as OMCG), which owe their origin to the aftermath of World War II.

The motorcycle gangs started to hit the American streets after World War II, spearheaded by American war veterans. One of top 10 gangs is called the Hell’s Angels, which has chapters across the world, including in New Zealand, Australia and Russia and European countries.

In Australia, the activities of motorcycle gangs have posed serious problems to the community Down Under. The Australian Crime Commission (ACC) estimates 39 motorcycle gangs are operating across Australia.

The ACC’s report dated April 14, 2011 says the gangs have 200 chapters nationwide with the number of members exceeding 4,000 people.

The gangs are dubbed the most high-profile manifestation of organized crime, in which they are involved in a range of serious crimes, including manufacture and distribution of methamphetamine and importing and distribution of cocaine and heroin.

The gangs also are a cause for concern of the community due to their involvement in territorial disputes among them, which oftentimes result in not only tension and public anxiety, but also loss of innocent lives.

Unlike Indonesia, Australian law enforcers have laid out comprehensive plans and actions, which involve various government agencies and society’s stakeholders to address the issue of motorcycle gangs.

The ACC helped launch the organized crime strategic framework in November 2009 in order to “ensure Australian agencies are working together to prevent, disrupt, investigate and prosecute organized crime.”

Every state in Australia has also issued tough anti-motorcycle gang laws. The sternest law as claimed by then South Australia Premier Mike Rann is The Serious and Organized Crime Control Act 2008, which came into effect in the state on Sept. 4, 2008.

It stipulates, among others, that “the gang members who engage in acts of violence that threaten and intimidate the public will be guilty of serious offences and will find it harder to get bail and the police will be able to prohibit members of a motorcycle gang from attending a place, event or area where this would pose a serious threat to the public”.

In addition, the legislation created new offences of violent disorder (maximum penalty of 2 years jail); riot (7 years, 10 years where aggravated); affray (3 years, 5 years where aggravated) and stalking of public officials by motorcycle gang members (7 years).

Indonesian law enforcers need to get tough with motorcycle gangs and follow in the footsteps of the ACC if necessary before the problem worsens and costs more lives.

The writer is an Australian Leadership Award (ALA) fellow and currently a PhD student at The School of Culture, History and Language (CHL) at The Australian National University, Canberra


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