Public space is worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year to triad gangs who occupy roads and re-sell the space to drivers – but police have found no evidence of any crime

Police say there is no evidence of criminal activity surrounding Tsim Sha Tsui car jockeys, claiming operations against parking gangs have proved fruitless.

Car jockeys don’t even pay the $8/hour public parking meters whose space they are stealing

“Thematic operations have been mounted regularly by the District [to] ascertain any criminal acts were involved in car jockey activities, particularly ‘Criminal Intimidation’, ‘Blackmail’ or ‘Conspiracy to Cheat Public Revenue’,” says a spokesperson in response to a file showing money changing hands over public metered parking spaces on Cameron Lane.

“So far, no such criminal acts were found whereas no criminal cases were reported against car jockeys in the past year,” the police spokesperson says.

Jockey club: a car jockey directs one of around 20 cars in his Cameron Lane “lot”.

Last year, a Transit Jam investigation exposed an extensive gang operation re-selling public car parking meters and public road space on Cameron Lane, just one of hundreds such locations in Hong Kong. One local source estimated the gang was taking in as much as $5 million a year from the Cameron Lane location alone.

But new questions arose about car jockey operations after senior National Security police officer Frederic Choi Chin-pang was said to have been caught patronising an unlicensed massage parlour a month ago.

Sources speculated that senior police visits to red light district massage parlours – criminal operations usually entangled with triad car jockey services – could be one possible reason for the lack of police action against even the most brazen car jockey operations.

Neither the police nor Security Bureau responded to questions on Choi’s parking habits during his alleged brothel visits, nor potential links between triad gangs and senior National Security police officers. This week, police chief Chris Tang Ping-keung said his anti-triad team would be investigating Choi, who is currently on leave.

On the car jockey issue, police say they still have the triad gangs in their sights. “In pursuance of Commissioner’s Operational Priorities for maintaining a safe and stable Hong Kong, the District would continue to mount operations in combatting car jockey activities and enhancing road safety without compromising smooth traffic flow, ” says a spokesperson.

Although police have found no evidence of criminal activity, car jockeying remains a thriving business: just months after complaints and investigations, the Cameron Lane valet service is running at peak capacity

A professor with a Hong Kong university says it’s common for criminal enterprises to take advantage of “complicity” or police corruption, especially when transport regulation was weak.

“Gang organisation of para-transport is common across the developing world,” he says.

“Gangs move in and organise informal spaces and services where they have an advantage over formal government, in terms of manpower, local knowledge and sometimes capital. And governments turn a blind eye because the implicit contract excludes violence and provides public services above and beyond what the government is capable of,” he says.

“Eventually, successful services get regularised one way or another, sometimes retaining their links with illegal organisations,” warns the professor.

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