MARCO ISLAND — The Marco Police Foundation held their annual Lunch with the Chief on Friday, and along with recognizing the youngsters who completed the police and fire departments' summer camp, the bulk of the meeting was taken up with a discussion of motorcycle gangs.
No, Marco Island has not been invaded by the Hell's Angels. Locally, the guys you see on the big Harley-Davidsons are much more likely to be realtors and attorneys. But along with the law-abiding bikers, who hold charity runs and live exemplary lives, there is a strong presence of criminal motorcycle gangs in the Sunshine State, Jim Dillman told the attendees.
Dillman is a task force agent with the Collier County Sheriff's Office, who worked with Marco Island Police Chief Don Hunter when Hunter was county sheriff. With his shaved head, long goatee, and tattoos, Dillman could be an outlaw biker, in different clothes, and at times, he has used that camouflage to blend in. In fact, when the question was asked, why aren't the gangs operating in our county, Hunter, a Harley rider himself, pointed to Dillman.
"You're looking at the reason," he said. At the same time, said Dillman, there are numerous outlaw bikers living here – they just do business elsewhere. That business involves a wide range of illegal activities, notably the distribution of methamphetamines, "crank" or "ice," as well as other drugs, prostitution, arson, assault, homicide, extortion, robbery, money laundering and fraud.
The biggest group of outlaw bikers in Florida is the Outlaws, said Dillman, or the Outlaws Motorcycle Club or American Outlaw Association. They "own" Florida in the world of criminal bikers, just as the Hell's Angels own California, and Texas belongs to the Bandidos gang.
The gangs engage in ongoing turf wars, with Outlaws wearing patches on their "colors" or jackets reading "ADIOS" – Angels die in Outlaw states. The colors, said Dillman, are key to understanding the gangs.
While 99 percent of bikers are law-abiding, the "one percent" glory in that designation, and wear it on their colors, along with patches proclaiming their club, location, and other less savory information such as criminal acts they have performed. One key for law enforcement, said Dillman, is to look closely at the colors, also known as "rags" or "cuts," and take detailed photos when they interact with the bikers. The colors are sacred to the gangs, he said, although presumably nothing much else is.
Dillman had a habit of referring to the biker gangs as "scumbags" or other less than glowing terms, although he would then correct himself and say "gentlemen." Showing a tombstone etched with a gang symbol, he said, "there's a good outlaw."
"We call them kindergarten children with guns," he said.
The "one percent" patches, which Dillman said is a sure sign of a criminal biker, came about decades ago in the 1940s, in response to a report saying not all bikers should be tarred with the outlaw label.
"If you see that one percent diamond, they're a bad guy," said Dillman, who said many of them frequent a pool hall in East Naples – although only for recreation.
"We have an understanding. They don't do business here," said Hunter.
After lunch, but before the gang presentation, Chief Hunter joined Officer Al Schettino to tell about the exciting five days the young "campers" at the joint police and fire youth program had. They participated in vehicle and vessel stops, operated fire hoses and ventured into the FD's "smoke house," and solved actual simulated crimes.
Certificates were presented to Arianna Laurent, Brian Laurent, Matthew Nugent, Michael DeSantis, Sarah Keefe, Alessio Luna, Andrew McAllister, and Madison Beucler.
Hunter also introduced Officer Andrew Clark, age 22, the newest member of the force, who he said "could give the department a whole new image."