By Joe Beck -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Law enforcement officials in several communities kept a wary eye on the Pagans MC outlaw motorcycle gang as up to 150 members rumbled through the Northern Shenandoah Valley Saturday.
No complaints were reported during their appearance along a route that ran from Winchester to Front Royal, police said.
"There was no trouble," said Richard Swartz, team leader of the Northwest Virginia Gang Task Force. We had no issues, no complaints whatsoever in any of the jurisdictions they were in."
The gathering, although uneventful, was notable for its sheer size, Swartz said.
"Since 2005, this is the largest event we've seen in our area," he said.
Capt. Mark Werner of the Front Royal police went back even further, calling it the largest assembly of motorcycle gang members he has seen in 22 years with the department.
Swartz said law enforcement agencies throughout the region were notified of the gang's arrival around noon on Saturday.
"The region responded," he said. "The departments took care of what they needed to take care of."
Swartz said the Pagans' appearance in Winchester and Frederick and Clarke counties included several smaller, supporting motorcycle clubs that added up to about 150 riders. Riders from Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware were identified in the group, he said.
He said the Pagans' stops included Grove's Winchester Harley Davidson on Independence Drive; the Blue Fox Billiards Restaurant Bar and Grill, 1160 Millwood Pike, Winchester; and the Lone Oak Tavern on Lord Fairfax Highway in Clarke County.
Werner estimated about 100 Pagans arrived in Front Royal at the Stonewall Jackson restaurant and bar on North Royal Avenue around 4 p.m. and lingered inside and outside the building until about 6:30 p.m. Neither Swartz nor Werner had an explanation for the gang's visit.
Werner said he was confident that police agencies in the area could have responded effectively to any disturbances through mutual aid agreements, but the unusual size of the gathering was a concern.
"Between all the agencies in the area, we would have been able to handle anything that did happen, but you can't plan for everything," Werner said.
While the Pagans came and went without incident in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, other parts of the country have experienced differently.
In 2009, the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of West Virginia unsealed a 44-count indictment charging 55 Pagans, including some from Virginia, with crimes that included kidnapping, racketeering, robbery, extortion and conspiracy to commit murder.
In its 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment, the FBI identifies the Pagans as one of about 3,000 outlaw motorcycle gangs in the United States. The agency defines an outlaw motorcycle gang as "organizations whose members use their motorcycle clubs as conduits for criminal enterprises."
The agency's report lists Virginia among the states "experiencing the most significant increases in (outlaw motorcycle gangs), increasing the potential for gang-related turf wars with other local (motorcycle gangs.)"
The report mentions the Pagans, with the Wheels of Soul, Mongols, Outlaws and Vagos, among the motorcycle gangs that have expanded in several states recently.