ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - Since the 1970s, the Bandidos motorcycle gang has used intimidation and threats of violence to keep rival bikers from establishing a foothold in New Mexico, police said.
The strategy worked until the last couple of years, when another motorcycle gang called the "Vagos" established a chapter in Albuquerque, according to gang detectives from Bernalillo County and Santa Fe.
"They're one of the faster-growing clubs," said the Santa Fe Police Department detective, who requested anonymity because he works undercover. "Now they just want to expand across the U.S. They want to be the big dog."
Other gangs like the Mongols and the Hell's Angels are also sniffing around New Mexico, he said. And that means turf wars, which could ensnare innocent civilians, might be looming, the detectives said.
"I do expect there to be a rise in violence," said the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office detective.
The Santa Fe detective agreed.
"If they're disrespected or something happens where they take offense – if it's a civilian, someone with their family – they'll take action," he said.
A former member of the Bandidos, who recently got out of the gang and also requested anonymity, said civilians could easily get drawn into conflict with the bikers.
"All the time," the former Bandido said. "I've seen it in bars. I've seen it, like I said, at stop lights. I've seen it at parties. God, it could happen anywhere."
There are currently 11 Bandido chapters around New Mexico, and members have their hands in shootings, stabbings, drug dealing, thefts and prostitution, according to the former Bandido member and police.
The detectives said their job is to document all the biker gang members they can, and try to keep the peace at bike rallies or when they know members are about to commit a crime.
New Mexico is appealing to the gangs because three major interstates crisscross the state, which can be used to easily move drugs and stolen goods, police said.
"They're some of the most violent people in society or anywhere," the former Bandido said. "(Their attitude is) we'll do what we want, when we want, how we want, with who we want. Nobody can stop us."
The man said he was a Bandido in Albuquerque for five years and still fears for his life.
"They tell you just like this: ‘If we call you, you better come,' " he said. " ‘We don't care if your child or wife is dying. You better show up.' I've seen brutal violence. I know there's been people missing. I still watch my back."
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