BIKER gang violence is escalating in Australia with groups such as the Nomads, Rebels, Commancheros and Bandidos waging turf wars involving drive-by shootings and firebombings, say police.
"Enough is enough," said New South Wales state police commissioner Ken Moroney, announcing a crackdown on what Australian police call outlaw motorcycle gangs.
"We are fed up with bikie gangs launching acts of retribution on the streets ... We will not allow public safety to be placed at risk and if bikies think they can disregard the law, they are about to find out otherwise," said Mr Moroney .
The Australian Crime Commission's 2006 report said there were 35 outlaw motorcycle gangs in Australia, with 3,500 members. It said 10 gangs opened 26 new chapters in all six states last year.
A crackdown, named Strike Force Ranmore will involve officers from local, riot, traffic and licensing police, as well as specialist crime command squads, Mr Moroney said.
It will carry out regular traffic checks on bikes, raid the gangs' fortress-like clubhouses and check on gang licences to operate security and liquor businesses. Ranmore will also involve covert operations.
"I will use every lawful means at my disposal to bring this criminal activity to an end," said Mr Moroney.
Mr Moroney said he would recommend the state government pass laws similar to the anti-mafia racketeering laws in the United States, which would ban biker gang colours or insignia.
The crime report said the gangs were becoming "more sophisticated and dynamic" and operated "outwardly legitimate businesses", including finance, transport, security, entertainment and construction.
It said gang members were involved in organised crime, murder, prostitution, arson, robbery, illicit drug supply and production, money laundering and bribery.
Police also say that biker gangs control Australia's methamphetamine trade.
More members switching between clubs is one of the reasons for a recent rise in violence in Sydney, say police.
In March, Commancheros fired into the Mr Goodbar nightclub in the city's trendy Paddington suburb because the Nomads' president and his bodyguard brother were inside the club.
In April, a chapter of the Nomads, up to 60 bikers, defected to the Bandidos after the Nomads' clubhouse in Sydney was firebombed in what was a suspected attack by the Commancheros.
On the same night, shots were fired into the tattoo shop of the Nomads' national president.
In May, a fire devastated the inner-city clubhouse of the Commancheros. A day later three men shot and seriously hurt two security guards outside a Paddington nightclub. Two days later the Bandidos chapter was hit by a firebombing.
The last mass defection among Australia's motorcycle gangs led to the "Father's Day" massacre in Sydney in 1984 when a group of Commancheros formed the first Bandidos chapter in Australia. Six bikers and a 15-year-old girl died in the gun battle.
RAPID RISE OF LEATHER-CLAD MENACE
KNOWN in Australia as "bikie gangs", groups such as the Nomads, Outlaws, Hell's Angels, Rebels, Comancheros and Bandidos have become heavily involved in organised crime.
Recruits of Middle Eastern descent are joining them or establishing new chapters. Young bikies are also emerging from Australia's Serbian, Greek and Italian communities.
Alastair Milroy, chief executive of the Australian Crime Commission, this week said: "These people are predominantly involved in criminal activities. They run criminal businesses and they need to be appropriately targeted."
The commission's Illicit Drug Data Report for 2005-6 said most of the methamphetamine, known as ice, available in Australia was domestically produced.
"A strong prevalence of outlaw motorcycle gang involvement in the [amphetamines] market has been identified, particularly with small and versatile laboratories," it said. "In some areas of Sydney, the domestic production and supply of methamphetamine is believed to be controlled by [the motorcycle gangs]."
The biggest and most powerful bikie gang in Australia is the Rebels, founded by a multi-millionaire Maltese citizen, Alex Vella.
Police superintendent Scott Whyte, head of the anti-bikie drive has said the Rebels have close to 500 members in New South Wales. These are split into 14 chapters in Sydney, and about 27 chapters elsewhere in the state.
Next come the Nomads, with a membership of 200 in New South Wales. The Bandidos have about 120 and the Hell's Angels have a small but expanding membership of about 50.
One of the smallest gangs - and one involved in the current bikie war - is Comancheros NSW. Until recently, its single chapter of about 30 members was based in the suburb of Marrickville in Sydney.
There are up to 19 motorcycle gangs police know to be operating in the state of Victoria.
The FBI rates the Outlaws among the four most powerful bikie gangs in the world - behind the Bandidos, Hell's Angels and Pagans in the US.