AS Queensland's controversial "bikie" laws are set to be reviewed by a commission of inquiry later this year, our four-part special report looks into the impacts of the legislation since its introduction in 2013.
YOUTH gangs have thrived since the crackdown on outlaw criminal motorcycle gangs (OCMGs), and police believe teenagers as young as 16 have been recruited to step into the evolving bikie gap.
Taskforce Takeback Superintendent Jim Keogh, the man charged with leading the police fight against bikies on the Gold Coast, said it typically started with gate crashing of parties and jumping of cab fares, before moving onto debt collection drug dealing and robbery.
While youth gangs seem to have the highest impact in south-east Queensland, figures show traditional and synthetic drug charges are on the rise, particularly in regional areas.
A recent report from the Crime and Corruption Commission said it was believed bikie gangs had become more involved in the synthetic drug market.
It is difficult to assess whether or not there is a correlation, but Justice Department figures from Gladstone and Biloela courts show an increase in youth drug crime, with 58 youths sentenced in 2013-14, up from 47 the previous year.
Rockhampton Youth Justice Centre representative Mark Ryan said young people had gravitated away from volatile substance misuse (such as glue pr petrol sniffing) and more toward higher-order illegal drugs, but there had been no discernable impacts from the crackdown on bikies.
"We know our juveniles purchase their drugs from somewhere and we suspect that sometimes they might buy them through bikies, but we have no definitive evidence," he said.
It's a different story on the Gold Coast, where in 2013 Taskforce Takeback raided the homes of dozens of youths part of the Gold Coast Brotherhood and Mexican Soldiers feeder gangs.
Supt Keogh said teenagers were increasingly being called to carry out the criminal activities of outlaw gangs in an effort by full-patched members to escape crackdowns.
"We are trying to get to them before they fall within the auspices of associates of a CMG in a public place," he said.
But sociologist Dr Angela Dwyer, a senior lecturer at QUT, said limited intervention by police was better when dealing with youth crime in general.
"If police had a more hands-off approach to nuisance behaviors in public spaces, the research suggests we would have far less young people committing crime, and doing so repeatedly," she said.
"Ultimately, the less contact police have with young people, the less likely they are to offend in the future."
BIKIE LAWS - The Fallout is a collaboration between Australian Regional Media and students of Bond University.
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