Gangs trafficking public space for huge profits appeared unfazed by a weekend police crackdown on a Yau Ma Tei gang, with business as usual at two notorious Yau Tsim Mong car jockey hotspots today.
On Saturday, police claimed to have busted a 30-year illegal occupation of parking spaces in Yau Ma Tei, arresting key members of a triad gang that earned over $300,000 a month from its illegal enterprise.
Anti-triad police say they arrested six men and two women, aged between 19 and 66, and seized 56 car keys, 30 Octopus cards and $40,000 in cash. Officers also issued 66 parking tickets to vehicles illegally parked in the gang’s watershed – those vehicles would have paid monthly fees to the gang rather than paying the local parking meters.
But a visit to the area today showed possible syndicate members still working the meters, topping up parking spaces every hour for their monthly clients.
Exclusive Transit Jam footage shows two operatives working with a lookout from a garage on Man Cheong Street. All 12 spots on one stretch of Man Cheong Street had registered “14 minutes” remaining when Transit Jam first arrived on the scene – as the countdown reached around two minutes remaining, the operatives began their two-hourly top-up. The old-style parking meters have a two-hour payment limit.
Staff in the office of lawmaker Priscilla Leung, which overlooks the whole street, say they had no knowledge of the illegal activity. “We just know what we read in the newspapers,” said a worker in Leung’s office.
The area bounded by Man Cheong Street to Man Hui Street has for years been widely known as a triad-operated parking area, with real estate agents reportedly selling flats with the “monthly parking facility” as a feature.
One newspaper said the scheme was cooked up 30 years ago and even passed down a generation from father to son.
Meanwhile a few kilometres away in Tsim Sha Tsui, business for the Cameron Lane valet parking gang was as brisk as ever, with a turnover of possibly a hundred cars an hour at the peak evening rush. Those gangs operate a different business model – while Man Cheong Street gangs re-sell parking meters to monthly customers, the Cameron Lane villains run a “car jockey” or valet parking service, for as much as $200 an hour, shuffling cars around the Cameron Lane cul-de-sac or shifting them to kerbside on Cameron Road until drivers return.
In December, Transit Jam reported the gang earned an estimated $5 million a year, with police claiming they had found no evidence of illegal activity in the area. Local newspapers estimated the Man Cheong Street parking gang earned around $3.6 million a year.
Police did not respond to follow-up questions.