The U.S. Department of Justice classifies Biker Gangs as Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, or OMGs. OMGs are included in the National Gang Threat Assessment conducted periodically by the Department of Justice. The last assessment was compiled in January 2009. While OMGs are technically not classified as terrorist organizations, the groups on the threat list are considered to be extremely dangerous to public safety. According to the Department of Justice, as of June 2008, between 280 and 520 OMGs existed, at least partially, in the United States, with more than 20,000 validated members. Due to the sheer number of OMGs, the Department of Justice only names the largest and most threatening on the threat list.
Bandidos Motorcycle Club
The National Drug Intelligence Center considers the Bandidos to be one of the two largest OMGs operating in the United States. They operate mainly out of the Pacific, Western and Southern regions of the United States and are found in at least 13 other countries. The Bandidos consist of between 88 and 93 chapters stretched across 16 states. Approximately 900 members of the Bandidos are located in the United States, and the club has a total of around 2,000 to 2,500 members. The Bandidos are active in the production, distribution and transportation of drugs including cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana.
Black Pistons Motorcycle Club
According to the Department of Justice, the Black Pistons are a subgroup of the Outlaw Motorcycle Club used to find and recruit new members for the Outlaws. The Black Pistons also engage in the distribution and transportation of drugs, as well as other criminal activities. The Black Pistons have an estimated 200 members in the United States and have a presence in other countries such as Canada, Germany, Great Britain, Belgium, Norway and Poland. The Black Pistons were established in 2002 and have spread quickly throughout the United States since then.
Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club
The National Drug Intelligence Center considers Hell's Angels to be a criminal threat on six continents and in 27 countries including the United States. While overall membership is estimated to be between 2,000 and 2,500, estimates for United States membership vary from 800 in 27 states by the Department of Justice, to up to 950 in 22 states by the National Drug Intelligence Center. Both organizations agree that Hell's Angels are heavily involved in drug production, distribution and transportation, as well as a number of other crimes.
Mongols Motorcycle Club
The National Drug Intelligence Center has said that ATF agents call the Mongols the most violent and dangerous OMG in the nation. The Mongols are based mainly out of California, where they wrested control of the southern part of the state from Hell's Angels in the 1980s. Many of their 800 to 850 members are reportedly Hispanic Americans who were once active in street gangs. Besides committing violent crimes, the Mongols are known for their current alliance with the Bandidos, Pagans, Outlaws and Sons of Silence against the Hell's Angels.
Outlaws Motorcycle Club
According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, the Outlaws also go by the names American Outlaws Association and Outlaws Nation. Mainly located in the Great Lakes area of the United States, the Outlaws spread their membership of around 1,700 members throughout 22 states and 12 other countries. Like most of the other OMGs, the Outlaws are involved in drug activities as well as other violent and nonviolent crimes including prostitution and kidnapping. The Outlaws are known to compete with Hell's Angels for territory.
Pagans Motorcycle Club
Though one of the smaller groups, the Department of Justice lists the 200- to 250-member Pagans as one of the "most prominent OMGs in the Mid-Atlantic region." Their influence extends among 41 chapters located throughout 11 states. Many of the activities of the Pagans have been linked to organized crime groups in New York and Pennsylvania. The Pagans deal in drugs and criminal activities.
Sons of Silence
The Sons of Silence have a membership of between 250 and 275, according to the National Drug Intelligence Center. They operate through 30 chapters in 12 states and also have a presence in Europe, consisting of five chapters in Germany. The National Drug Intelligence Center does not list the specific drug-related activities of the Sons of Silence as it does with many of the other OMGs. They are just listed as being implicated in drug trafficking as well as a host of other crimes ranging from motorcycle parts theft to murder.
Vagos Motorcycle Club
The Vagos are more concentrated than many of the other OMGs, with the Department of Justice putting their approximately 300 members mostly in the Southwest and Pacific areas of the United States. The Vagos also have a presence in Mexico. The main reasons the Department of Justice has for listing the Vagos as an OMG include production and distribution of drugs and a wide range of other criminal activities.
Hank Tolman has been writing for the U.S. Army since 2004. He has an Associate of Arts in intelligence operations from Cochise College and an Associate of Arts in Arabic from Excelsior College. Tolman is working on his bachelor's degree in Arabic at the University of Utah.