The rate of drug charges has  increased by 26% across the state since the introduction of the VLAD laws.
The rate of drug charges has increased by 26% across the state since the introduction of the VLAD laws. SUPPLIED

Serious crime was falling before VLAD but gangs suffering

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.

AN ANALYSIS of Queensland's crime figures has revealed the Newman Government's controversial "bikie" laws have had little impact on crime rates, but a substantial impact on bikie gangs.

Although serious offences have decreased across Queensland since the Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment (VLAD) laws were introduced in October 2013, they have also been decreasing for years.

Australian Regional Media's analysis of extensive police data, tracking crime rates over 15 Queensland districts since 2001, has found a consistent drop in crime trends over the past decade.

The average number of assaults in Queensland has dropped by 3.7% since the introduction of the laws, but it also has decreased by 9.8% since 2010 and by 21% since 2005.

MORE: Teens being recruited to fill bikie gang gap

And many districts such as Mackay and Moreton have seen an increase in assaults in the past year, with the most dramatic increase in Mackay (7%).

The rate of drug charges (per 100,000 people) has also increased by 26% across the state since the bikie laws were brought in, with some particularly big spikes in regional areas.

Bond University Criminology Professor Terry Goldsworthy, who is also a former police detective inspector, said police records showed bikie groups were involved in the rise of drugs in Queensland, but were not at its forefront.

"Organised crime is a systematic, business-like process taking place over a long period of time," he said.

"(Bikies) have involvement (in drugs), but is it an overwhelming involvement? No. Not from the data I've seen."
He said he believed any drop in crime rates was consistent with well-established trends and a better-resourced police force, not the "essentially punitive" VLAD laws.

"The VLAD laws simply add a penalty to the sentences," Dr Goldsworthy said.

"It really is only the existing laws and increased police productivity that has led to the increase in certain types of arrests."

But police statistics show the impact on bikie gangs themselves has been undeniable.

The figures include:

  • More than 371 former bikies have disassociated from their gangs
  • The 37 "prescribed places" (clubhouses) listed in the legislation no longer operate, with 18 having been vacated or emptied, 19 no longer used and seven removed from the legislation because they are no longer connected to bikie gangs.
  • More than 1800 participant arrests, with more than 5000 charges laid.
  • More than 400 police raids and 259 traffic infringement notices issued.

Former LNP attorney-general Jarrod Bleijie, who spearheaded the introduction of VLAD, stood by the laws and pointed to the conviction in June of Joshua Robin Rohl - sentenced to five years jail for his role in smuggling $16 million worth of cannabis on commercial flights - as evidence they were working.

"Crime is down, motorcycle gang members have fled the state, and areas throughout south-east Queensland are once again owned by the community, not criminal thugs," Mr Bleijie said.

"Hundreds of alleged offenders have been chanrged with thousands of offences following the great work of Taskforce Maxima.

"The only winners out of the Labor party repealing the laws will be criminal gangs."

It has also been suggested other Australian states including Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania may soon adopt similar laws to Queensland's.

But Dr Goldsworthy said he believed legislators were unlikely to solve the drug problem by removing criminal motorcycle gangs.

"You'll just get different crime gangs (that) will move into that market," he said.

Rise in rate of drug charges since 2013:

Mackay - 56%
Darling Downs- 34%
Moreton - 29%
Ipswich - 28%
Sunshine Coast - 16%
Wide Bay-Burnett - 14%
Capricornia - 2.5%

BIKIE LAWS - The Fallout is a collaboration between Australian Regional Media and students of Bond University.