Motorcycle gangs, also known as biker gangs or outlaw motorcycle groups, comprise 2.5% of the gang population in America. These gangs pose as motorcycle groups, but they use violence to take part in a number of crimes, such as drug and weapons trafficking. While biker gangs make up the smallest percentage of gang membership in the U.S., these groups are highly structured and organized and can be very dangerous.
Biker Gang Statistics
The FBI estimates that there are more than 500 large motorcycle gangs in the U.S.; when smaller biker gangs with only a few members are included, the number of biker gangs tops 2,500. Overall, it is believed that more than 44,000 Americans belong to a motorcycle gang.
Crimes Committed by Motorcycle Gangs
The majority of motorcycle gangs make the bulk of their income through trafficking drugs and weapons. But these gangs are very violent, and gang members have been arrested for assault, burglary, and murder. Violence often erupts between rival biker gangs, resulting in huge fights or shoot outs. Unfortunately, biker gang violence can break out in public places, which can put innocent bystanders in danger.
The Most Dangerous Motorcycle Gangs in America
- Vagos Motorcycle Club: Operating predominately in the Southwest United States, the Vagos Motorcycle Club has approximately 4,000 members. This gang is well-known for smuggling drugs from Mexico. The Vagos were formed in the 1960s, and have had an ongoing feud with the Hells Angels for years.
- Bandidos Motorcycle Club: Primarily based in Texas, the Bandidos are another biker gang that specializes in smuggling drugs from Mexico. The gang was founded in 1996, making them a relatively newer outlaw motorcycle group; they have over 2,500 members and have chapters in 16 states and 14 countries.
- Outlaws Motorcycle Club: Founded in 1936, the Outlaws are considered the oldest motorcycle gang in America. The gang has over 1,700 members and their territory is in the Eastern and Central regions of the U.S. The Outlaws play a large role in smuggling drugs across the border into Canada. The Hells Angels and the Outlaws battle often, since the Hells Angels continually try to move into the Outlaws territory around the Great Lakes.
- The Mongols: With 1,500 members, the Mongols are a powerful motorcycle gang in Southern California. This group is particularly violent, and has close ties to many of California’s most notorious street gangs. This gang is comprised mostly of Hispanics and Native Americans who were denied entry into the Hell’s Angels. The Mongols were able to overthrow the Hells Angels in Los Angeles with the help of street gangs in the 1980s, and they have held on to their turf since then.
- Hells Angels: Arguably the most famous and well-known motorcycle gang in America, the Hells Angels have over 2,500 members and chapters across the country. This gang is very aggressive and violent, which often leads to turf wars with rival motorcycle gangs. The Hells Angels was formed in 1948, and since then they have become a worldwide operation with chapters on 6 continents.
- The Pagan’s: Although small in size with approximately 250 members, the Pagan’s are considered one of the most dangerous motorcycle gangs in the country due to their ties with the Aryan Brotherhood and the Italian Mafia. Based on the Eastern Seaboard, the Pagan’s have been tied to bombings, arson, murder, and trafficking machine guns. Like many other biker gangs, the Pagan’s are often at war with the Hells Angels and it is believed that the gang was responsible for the murder of the vice president of the Philadelphia chapter of the Hells Angels in 2005.
- Black Pistons Motorcycle Club: The Black Pistons are considered a “support club” for the Outlaws. There are approximately 200 members in chapters scattered around the United States. The sole purpose of a support club is to do the dirty work that the larger gang doesn’t want to deal with. The Black Pistons take care of the more dangerous side of drug trafficking for the Outlaws, and are in charge of roughing up members of rival gangs or anyone who shows disrespect to the Outlaws. Due to the nature of the activities that a support club takes part in, the Black Pistons are a very dangerous and violent group.