The 1%er next door
November 18, 2010 7:49 PM   Subscribe

Just how dangerous are the Hell's Angels these days? That is, how dangerous to live next to?

I have a new neighbor who rides an old Harley and wears a jacket indicating that he is a "Prospect" in the California chapter of the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club(wiki:"Prospects are allowed to wear only a bottom rocker with the State or Territory name along with the rectangular 'MC' patch.") He lives with his girlfriend in a small studio that shares a driveway with my house, and our relationship to date has been distant but not unfriendly (I said hello to him the day he moved in and he seemed taken aback for a moment that I was addressing him, but since then we've exchanged greetings and pleasantries a few times.)

The guy's given me no reason for alarm beyond his affiliation, and I have no plans to treat him differently than I would any other neighbor. I'm wondering, though, if increased proximity to a Hell's Angel and the crowd he presumably runs with is putting my household at increased risk of violence or crime. They have a reputation as meth brokers; is this guy likely to be bringing tweakers up our driveway, where they'll see our nice TV through the window and our bicycles parked out back? Will his move out be punctuated by some kind of crazy house-destroying biker party like I read about somewhere? Will there be cops here all the time? I guess really what I'm looking for is a general feel for the character of the Hell's Angels organization in its current form and what the hazards of living next to one of their Prospects might be, from people who have recent direct knowledge of their activities. (I don't need links to articles, I can find those myself. I've also read the Hunter S. Thompson book, though it's been a while.)

We live in a small town in Southern California, I'm a man living with my girlfriend, we're both around 30. We don't exactly present as straitlaced, but have regular jobs and are far from threatening.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (34 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Don't take them for granted (and don't antagonize them) - they are dangerous. We had Hells Angels move into our once very nice neighborhood of heritage homes near Vancouver City Hall. Neighbors have been intimidated by bikers using threatening body language. In August, after the resident was expelled from the gang, he was shot dead on the street outside his home.
posted by blockhead at 8:09 PM on November 18, 2010

I'm no expert on Hell's Angels. But you might want to check out a National Geo series called "Gangland" on Netflix. One episode featured the Hells Angels, which my 15-year-old son watched. He reported that they are one of the most terrible gangs in existence, that they kill, deal in heroin and meth, etc. Not to be an alarmist or anything. My impression of Hells Angels was that they were just bad asses, not necessarily criminals. But maybe my impression is outdated.
posted by zagyzebra at 8:09 PM on November 18, 2010

having a hells angels house move into our neighborhood seemed to curtail a lot of the petty crime and waywardness we'd otherwise grown accustomed to over the years. since they've kinda moved on, the tagging, handshake-dealing and such seems to have returned.
posted by RockyChrysler at 8:10 PM on November 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

I had a friend who lived in the Village a couple of doors down from some kind of Hell's Angels hangout. They were always loitering around his block and in front of his building.

When he was moving in, he was unloading stuff from his car, he at one point put his boxed television up on the stoop of his building and went back to his car (right in front of the building) for another load, turned around, and the TV was gone. He was complaining about it out loud to his friend. Some of the Hell's Angels overheard and came over to ask what had happened. He explained, and they said "Okay" and walked away. An hour later, they came back with his television, declining to comment on how they'd recovered it.

That was the last dealing he had with them, good or bad, besides the occasional "hey," for the year that he lived there.

Who knows how they treated the thief, but to my friend they were excellent neighbors.
posted by thebazilist at 8:12 PM on November 18, 2010 [35 favorites]

My city has a significant Hell's Angels presence. While full-patch members live all over the city, their alleged main criminal enterprises are concentrated in certain neighborhoods already known for a tolerance of crime and criminal enterprises. Your prospect neighbor may or may not be expected to host any activities related to the association. It is unlikely that the main thrust of any criminal activity will go on at the prospect's home, unless he is either already criminally involved in some ongoing enterprise, or the neighborhood is such that said enterprise is likely to be tolerated by the neighborhood at large. However, as prospects are typically not permitted to maintain or operate the sort of enterprise that creates significant cash flow (i.e., drug manufacturing and sales) due to their low/nonexistent status within the association, it is unlikely that you will notice any persistent activities of a criminal nature. Put simply, the association will not tolerate a prospect either stepping on the toes of any ongoing association-related enterprise, and will also not tolerate the prospect branching out on his own to engage in an enterprise not already under the auspices of the association. As a prospect, he is not granted the trust and responsibility to participate in any alleged enterprise the association may oversee.

Treating your neighbor with the respect you would any other neighbor will do you no wrong here.
posted by Sternmeyer at 8:14 PM on November 18, 2010 [7 favorites]

Simple logic dictates that if he has a small studio apartment, then wild parties are likely to take place elsewhere. They have clubhouses and bars for that. My understanding is that if--notice I said "if"--he is involved in any illegal activities, chances are he's going to keep it very low profile amongst "citizens." (That's you and your girlfriend.) If he doesn't, he won't be a prospect for very long. Like most criminals, they don't want the cops coming around all the time, and thus will take measures to prevent that. I would hazard a guess that your major concern might be less about crime and bad people hanging around than about really loud pipes.

I have met some Angels (in New York, not Cali) and known some outlaw-biker types. I'm a married woman. As such, I was almost always ignored by them, even while I was standing next to my husband while they were talking. I assume this was because I was considered his "property." I would advise your girlfriend to ignore him and wait for his girlfriend to make any friendly advances she may or may not choose to make.

Oh, and never call him "bro."
posted by scratch at 8:16 PM on November 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

As a general principle, if you live near a dealer you can expect to be left alone by their clients - a kind of "don't shit where you eat" principle. Dealers like things to be as low profile & hunky-dory as possible with their neighbours, and will therefore normally cut off any clients who cause any trouble.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:42 PM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I grew up in Bloomington, CA, the birthplace of the Hells Angels (they sprang from the Pissed Off Bastards of Bloomington) The town was loaded with Angels when I was growing up in the 50s and 60s and everyone considered them to be just some of the local color. Like any other group of individuals, there were good guys and bad guys. Their presence did keep the petty crime down and undesirables away. And they sponsored some great hillclimb competitions on the hill just across the street from their clubhouse down on Cedar St. Hells Angels colors were a common scene at the PTA meetings, family picnics and grocery stores. They were folks, just folks. Folks who had in all likelihood at least one felony conviction under their belt, but so did a high percentage of the other Bloominites back then. The Green Acres cemetary down on Cedar St is the preferred resting place for Hells Angels and permanet home to an awful lot of them. Their funerals were huge spectacles, comprised of hundreds (maybe thousands for a couple guys) of motorcycles riding double file down Cedar St in a line that seems to go on forever. Most of them left Bloomington and Fontana in the early 90s but I still run into a few that I know now and then.

But, we knew not to pee in their beer or otherwise antagonize them. Just the other day, I was visiting a friend in the old hometown and we were talking about what a shithole and dangerous place it had become. He said, "yeah, we really need the HAs back to drive out the trash". They're among the last people you'd want to cross, but their presence does provide some security to a neighborhood. They are strong believer in not shitting where they eat, so you shouldn't see any problems at their home. Of course if the stories I've heard are true, that prospect will have to commit a felony in the presence of full members before he earns his patch.

By the way, it is Hells Angels, not Hell's Angels.
posted by buggzzee23 at 8:43 PM on November 18, 2010 [6 favorites]

they slashed my tires in AZ for some WTF reason. will never figure that one out. there is a long story with this one....memail me if you are interested in some lore
posted by lakersfan1222 at 8:53 PM on November 18, 2010

I don't know about the California one, but the branch in Australia are bad news at the moment. Their clubhouse about five minutes' walk from my house (in a fairly gentrified inner west suburb) was bombed and shot up last year, and they were involved in a fatal brawl in public at Sydney Airport.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 9:08 PM on November 18, 2010

You might inquire whether your local police or sheriff's office has a Community Relations officer. A simple chat with one of them might be informative about the gang's activities in your locale.
posted by exphysicist345 at 9:24 PM on November 18, 2010 [5 favorites]

Just like any other group, there are nice members, and not so nice members. I've partied and hung out with some of them here and there, and they were some of the nicest guys I'd ever met. Keep an open mind, be friendly, and assume the best. Good people to be friendly with if you have a situation like the guy above with the stolen TV. :)
posted by BryanPayne at 9:42 PM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

When they moved out of a place my family owned, they burned it to the ground. Cops wouldn't bother with it (this was the early 80s).

On the other hand, everyone's different. Maybe he'll be a perfect neighbour.
posted by klanawa at 9:43 PM on November 18, 2010

When reading anecdotes about Angels, you should keep in mind that the activities and tendencies of the group are very very different in Europe, Australia and Canada than they are within the states. Most rational enforcement personnel in the US don't even much consider them an active gang in any criminally meaningful way.

Personally, one of the best neighbors I ever had as a renter was a color wearing member of the still very active Outlaws MC. I was neighbor friendly with him and his guys, and as a result, I never felt safer in my sketchy neighborhood.
posted by broadway bill at 12:01 AM on November 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best security system I ever had was a Banditos clubhouse two doors down from the sharehouse I lived in. They threw mad parties, but kept the shenanigans indoors and even hired a row of portaloos for big events so no-one would pee in the neighbours' yards. Also, petty crims who want to keep their kneecaps avoid pissing off bikers and limit their robberies and muggings to areas where they aren't going to get retribution from bring down the cops.

I'd also agree one guy in a studio apartment is likely to be just as quiet a neighbour as any else. I'd be more worried about kids just out of home or hipster types who'd be more inclined to try and party in a small space. As was mentioned upthread, if he wants a wild night he'll just hit one of their bars.
posted by Jilder at 3:01 AM on November 19, 2010

Even if he is not a threat to you, he may be a target and it would be smart to raise your alertness in a way you might never have had to consider before.
posted by InkaLomax at 5:14 AM on November 19, 2010

I have partied with some 1%ers a few times and agree with the general consensus that they can be a stabilizing influence on a neighborhood and generally avoid bringing any unwanted attention to themselves. I do want to emphasize that they generally don't like answering a lot of questions or people who are overly friendly; they tend to assume that anyone who is even a little nosy is digging for information to use against them in some way. Motorcycle clubs in general tend to be pretty tight knit and wary of outsiders. Also, their views on women and minorities tend to be pretty regressive, to say the least, so take that into account if you interact with him.

A good book on motorcycle clubs in general that approaches them from a sociological perspective and avoids a lot of sensationalism you see elsewhere (it was the basis for the author's doctoral thesis) is The Rebels by Daniel Wolf.
posted by TedW at 5:22 AM on November 19, 2010

Knew one that used to be the meth cook for a club. When I met him he was a great guy and still had connections to the club but no longer 'cooked' for them. Instead he was a 4 star chef in the seasonal employment restaurant I worked in, and a damn fine one at that.

He taught me how to make a killer bearnaise sauce and that it's the only sauce I like on an already good steak.

One caveat, I would not mess with this dude. Hang out, friendly jokes, tell stories, sure. Never would I range into a topic he didn't bring up, nor get physical with him in a sporting event. It just wasn't wise...

I also knew a bouncer at a place I worked at that used to be a Sgt. at Arms/Enforcer for a HA chapter. He mentioned that their particular initiation ritual included the pledge drinking an entire pitcher of Yukon Jack with a level of Green Chartreuse floating on the top.

The same rules as above applied as far as fraternization.

Anyway, now I love bearnaise sauce and chartreuse. There's things to be gained in friendships with these guys, but be up front with them and don't push any boundaries or piss them off because, unless you're a lot harder person than I am (and I'm not the prissy-est person on the block), they're hard as nails and can go off like no other.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:30 AM on November 19, 2010

Are you sure he's not in the ATF?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:33 AM on November 19, 2010

Be polite, MYOB, and don't ask questions that go much beyond, "Hey Howyadoin?"
posted by timsteil at 6:50 AM on November 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Be polite, MYOB, and don't ask questions that go much beyond, "Hey Howyadoin?"

Probably the best advice, word for word, here.

I don't know a lot about the Hell's Angels, since they are probably like most heritage gangs in that there are different forms of them all over. I know that they purportedly run a strip club near me. Never any trouble.

My general impression of bikers is that they look intimidating because they don't want trouble.
posted by gjc at 7:53 AM on November 19, 2010

The general thought on this subject back where I grew up in Northern BC, where the Angels control the drug trade (or did at the time, anyway), was that the safest place in the city was on streets where an Angel lived. There was sort of an unspoken tit-for-tat, you didn't cause problems for them, call the police on them, etc, and they erected a sort of protection bubble around their house that included your house.

As a rule, they're not directly involved in property crimes against random citizens anyway, so the Angels themselves aren't going to target you for anything.

If there's an active territory war in your town (and you'd almost certainly have heard about it on the news if there was), then you might have a problem, but otherwise, just treat them like neighbours you don't know very well and aren't particularly interested in, and it shouldn't be an issue.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:06 AM on November 19, 2010

My wife and I live around the corner from a HA clubhouse in Toronto (well, we used was shut down by police in 2007), and they were the last thing I ever worried about. I'm no expert, but I don't think biker gangs go around mugging people and breaking into homes.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:20 AM on November 19, 2010

My experience is old (I actually did a high school report on them, interviewing them, etc.) but I found that if you treat them with respect, they will respect you. Just be up front with them, all the while remembering your probable place on the food chain with respect to them.
posted by Danf at 8:30 AM on November 19, 2010

Twenty years ago, I was friendly with several members of a motorcycle club with a similar reputation to the Angels. In my experience, they always seemed to treat everyone with the same degree of respect or disrespect they were given. They were also really keen on keeping the peace in their own neighborhood.

That said, they were also quietly dealing drugs out of their garage and I couldn't say what other criminal enterprises they may have engaged in.
posted by JaredSeth at 8:42 AM on November 19, 2010

The HAs aren't monolithic, and vary a lot from chapter to chapter. They have no central leader who tells everyone what to do (but all follow the bylaws). There is a saying in the biker world, "give respect, get respect." Be polite (not formal, but, as mentioned, don't call him "bro") and I doubt you'll have any problems.

The ones I know are mostly very friendly, but on a fairly shallow level. I'm female, but I ride, too. There is a definite hierarchy in the biker view of the world, and if the HAs are your dominant local club, they are at the top of it. On the other hand, the ones I've met don't expect non-bikers to know that.

Probates (or prospects, same thing) are not full members. For your purposes, this probably doesn't make a big difference (although he can't call down the wrath of the club on you), but if you notice he is wearing the patch one day, it would be polite to offer your congratulations.
posted by QIbHom at 9:42 AM on November 19, 2010

Give Respect, Get Respect and everyone Minds Their Own Business.

This is a good general life rule, regardless of what people you are dealing with.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:50 AM on November 19, 2010 [4 favorites]

Are you SURE it's Hells Angels? Are you SURE he's in a gang at all? Are you basing this solely on the presence of the bottom rocker and the MC patch? My (law-abiding) father was a member of various motorcycle clubs (not gangs) when I was a kid, and I grew up going to many, many rallies where the state/locale rocker patches were ubiquitous. They sell them everywhere. They'd sell them to a ten year old girl, and I know because I had them. These were absolutely 100% guaranteed not gang members.
posted by desjardins at 9:54 AM on November 19, 2010

Oh, and many of my dad's friends had long hair and were covered in tattoos. They were basically indistinguishable from the Hells Angels looking guys you'd see in a gang documentary. But again, my dad is law abiding and he wasn't afraid to let his 3 young daughters sleep in tents at rallies with 100s of these guys walking around.

Most likely your biggest problem will be listening to loud pipes at 3 am when your buddy returns from a bar.
posted by desjardins at 9:59 AM on November 19, 2010

Piggybacking, but what's the prohibition against calling a biker "Bro"?
posted by mudpuppie at 11:04 AM on November 19, 2010

mudpuppie: others in the same MC are the MC member's brothers. no one else should call him brother without express permission. they're pretty touchy about that.
posted by mu at 11:29 AM on November 19, 2010

no one else should call him brother without express permission. they're pretty touchy about that.

In my limited experience, women, children and horses get exemption from a lot of these sorts rules, presumably because it's not dignified to brawl with them. Also in my limited experience, they're big into gender roles. If you're a woman and you dress or act "trashy" you're more likely to get hassled than if you dress conservatively. As always, YMMV.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:08 PM on November 19, 2010

Be polite, MYOB, and don't ask questions that go much beyond, "Hey Howyadoin?"
posted by timsteil at 6:50 AM on November 19 [2 favorites +] [!]

Hey..Just a coupla things I wanted to add, and sorry for forgetting it upfront.

-- NEVER go knock on the guy's door to ask something. Never get within 50 feet of his front door if he isn't leading you in there to share a beer. If he says hang on I'll get it, step off, and dont look inside. I have dealt with some MCs in my life, not quite Hunter Thimpson, but not that far removed either. Privacy is a big thing, don't get above your raisins on that.

-- As silly as it may seem, the "brother" thing does matter. I've seen this in play with three different MCs, HA, Outlaws, and VV. Some people,not all, but some people take it very personal, and have ways of making their point.

-- DO NOT take pictures, AT ALL, OF HIM, or anything. This can be serious bad hoodoo with some, the same way calling someone brother might be a big thing. Just dont do it.

-- If the fellow ever knocks on your door and needs something, pause for a sec and think he came to you instead of someone in the club. It;s probably not "club related" because he has people for that, this is just a neighbor thing. Do him the solid, and you are going to have a golden shield above you for quite a while that you cant fathom. Same respect, if it is something wrappped in a carpet, or a heavy bag that your are supposed to just look out for him for a while, you have to make your own call on that. I know what I would do.

-- Like may have said upthread, you are probably living on the safest block in your town. About the only way you can pay that back is by heeding my first advice, MYOB, dont ask questions.

-- Don't try to get "involved" say even if the guy came to you and said Im really ATF or something. Stay away. I had a guy who lived across the courtyard from me, total fuck. Out in the street shooting at his wife's fling...I called 911...fucker gunning at a guy...turns out he was Chicago undercover cops, sent to infiltrate biker clubs. You dont want a piece of that, at all.

Live and let live, be a good neighbor with these understandings taken to heed. Figure iff the bat, the guy has no beef with you, has no reason to raise his profile, and as every one has said, if he wants to party, they have a place. About the only thjing in this situation that would bother me, is seeing his old lady walk out full of bruises, with a newborn in her arms,

That, honestly, I wouyld have a hard time with when it comes to interceding.

my .02
posted by timsteil at 9:59 PM on November 19, 2010

I have to disagree with some of what timsteil said. If you have a legitimate reason to knock on his door, do it. You'll get along better treating him like anyone else, with respect than you will shying away from him. Mind your own business, don't gawk, don't take pictures without permission, you'll probably be fine.

Don't want to derail, but not all the women involved with bikers are abused. Many of them are some of the strongest and most assertive women I know. I don't see any more battering and abuse in the biker community than I do anywhere else. The bikers I know who are fathers are often very actively involved in taking care of their own and other's children. Family is very, very important and kids are more important than just about anything else.
posted by QIbHom at 9:40 AM on November 20, 2010

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