Victorian tattoo parlours are increasingly coming under the control of outlaw motorcycle gangs, leading anti-bikie police to keep watch over all of the state's parlours.
Detective Acting Inspector David De Francesco said police intelligence showed several gangs had moved into the trade, which has long been linked to bikies through their love of tattoos.
"There are some [outlaw motorcycle gangs] in Victoria who are known to have a vested interest in the tattoo industry," he told The Age.
"Echo task force intelligence suggests that there are several, particularly the larger gangs, that have direct and indirect involvement with tattoo parlours. There have been instances of threats and intimidation relating to the establishment of tattoo parlours between rival gangs. Echo task force is closely monitoring all tattoo parlours in Victoria to determine links to outlaw motorcycle gangs."
Acting Inspector De Francesco would not comment on which parlours were linked to specific gangs, but it has been previously reported that the Finks operate a tattoo parlour near their Port Melbourne clubhouse.
New South Wales, Western Australia and Queensland have been hit by a spate of drive-by shootings, bashings and arson attacks at tattoo parlours over the last few months as part of ongoing wars between a number of high-profile gangs, including the Rebels, Bandidos, Hells Angels and Rock Machine.
In April, New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell announced changes to the law that would ban bikies from owning tattoo parlours. The Police Commissioner will have the final say over who can run the parlours.
In Victoria, tattoo parlours are registered with local councils under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act, but there is no restriction or test on the type of person who can operate one.
Acting Inspector De Francesco said Victoria Police is gathering information on whether bikies are using the parlours to make money, or just as a social base, as the gangs look to spread their tentacles into different industries.
"The organised crime aspect of outlaw motorcycle gangs is entrepreneurial and will continue to look for vulnerabilities in various industries to exploit," he said.
"Some of these have been the transport sector, private security industry, debt collection and the tattoo parlour industry. Although it is difficult to sometimes identify whether outlaw motorcycle gangs have a financial interest or a social interest in the organisation, as is the case with the tattoo industry."
Acting Inspector De Francesco said police are also closely monitoring the encroachment of new gangs on turf held by more established clubs, which has led to violence between clubs.
"Echo task force are aware of instances where new gangs have attempted to open clubhouses, but have been intimidated, assaulted or threatened by larger outlaw motorcycle gangs, and have either been shut down or taken over," he said.
"As outlaw motorcycle gangs increase in number, this invariably leads to the opening of chapters or clubhouses in areas that have traditionally been occupied by another gangs, which has the potential to incite violence between gangs."
The Age revealed earlier this year that the Rebels, who are actively recruiting members, have opened clubhouses in Mildura and Kilsyth, while the Comanchero and Finks are also looking to expand their territory.
Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/police-eye-bikietattoo-links-20120822-24lhk.html#ixzz24KdV7mG9