Langford Mayor Stew Young says the new Devil’s Army motorcycle gang clubhouse at 2775 Spencer Rd. presents more of a land-use issue than a criminal one, at least from the City’s perspective.
The clubhouse officially opened Saturday, coinciding with the annual Zeke Run – a motorcycle ride in memory of a Nanaimo Hells Angels member who disappeared in 1993.
Around 100 bikers made the trip from Campbell River to the new clubhouse, where they gathered for the opening under the watchful eyes of RCMP.
“We are taking direction from the RCMP who have the resources to deal with these types of situations,” Young said. “All I am concerned about as a mayor is that our community is safe.”
He acknowledged that any such organization – whether engaged in criminal activity or not – in close proximity to schools and major thoroughfares, increases the concern from the residents.
While the police will continue to take care of criminal aspects in the community, Young said, the City is in charge of land use and that’s his main issue with the clubhouse at this time.
“From our perspective, it’s just like any other development in Langford that doesn’t comply with the zoning. Whether they’re a biker gang or not, they came into town and bought a piece of property, did renovations without permits, with no notification to our staff at all.
“And then we looked at their zoning, and you can’t have 100 or 150 people – or however many were there on the weekend – with one or two washrooms. The zoning doesn’t allow that. Whether it’s legal activity or not that’s going on there, it’s not the appropriate use,” he said.
Young added that he’s more concerned right now about the rise in high-profile crimes being seen in the city before the clubhouse went in. “(Criminals) were already in our community before (the clubhouse) was opened up. We need to bring down the guys who are on our trails lurking around,” he said, referencing the recent spate of public assaults in the region.
Up to 10 more RCMP officers will be hired this year for the West Shore detachment – according to their needs in addressing the uptick in crime.
Young said he is “very concerned” about the criminal activity that’s been happening recently in the community, and the biker clubhouse isn’t the reason for it. The city was already discussing increasing the funding given to the West Shore RCMP detachment so they can add officers, and those additional resources were planned well before news of the clubhouse reached City Hall, Young said.
Langford contributes, on average, funds for one additional officer per year to the West Shore RCMP detachment, but this year they will add as many as are needed to gain control over the crime situation, he said.
“It’s something we have to do as a community to make sure we are safe. When you start to see a spike (in crime), we’d better address it right away.”
Young didn’t rule out a property tax increase to pay for such a boost in police resources, and he thinks the public will understand that community safety is a good use of public dollars.
In a statement released last week, the West Shore RCMP called reports that a clubhouse for the Devils Army – an affiliate of the Hells Angels – was being created in Langford “concerning” and one that will be under “close scrutiny by your local RCMP and city officials.”
“Maintaining public safety remains the top priority of the West Shore RCMP Detachment,” West Shore RCMP Insp. Larry Chomyn said in the statement. “We will work closely with our neighbouring RCMP, municipal police forces and partner agencies to identify, investigate and disrupt criminal activity and organized crime in our communities.”
As always, the public is asked to report any suspicious or illegal activities they see anywhere in the region to the RCMP at 250-474-2264 or CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).