Paint-splattering teens linked to triad syndicate

Two 15-year-old debt collectors and a 23-year-old alleged triad member have been arrested in connection with eight cases of splattering red paint on homes - a sign of money owed being chased - during the past two months.

The two teenagers, who claimed to be students, and the triad-linked man named Siu, a construction worker, were arrested for conspiracy to damage during a two-day operation by police on Friday and Saturday.

Detective inspector So Wing-shun of the Mong Kok regional anti-triad unit said the eight cases of paint splattering were in Mong Kok, Kowloon City, Kwun Tong, Yuen Long and Tuen Mun in October and November.

The red paint was splattered in residential compounds or on properties owned by supposed targets, though some victims said they were not in conflict with anyone.

In any event, So said, the cases were committed by people in a triad-manipulated syndicate.

Officers had arrested the two teenagers in Kowloon Bay on Friday and Siu on Saturday.

Siu is now detained for investigation, So said, but the teenagers were released on bail and they must report to police in mid-December.

Investigators believe Siu is a core member of the syndicate who had used the promise of "making quick money" to lure the teenagers into splashing red paint.

Siu allegedly contacted the pair in October and had paid them HK$800 each time they did a paint-splattering job on a property.

So said the two had split the money between them.

And officers had seized a paper cup with red paint and clothing that they believed had been worn by the teenagers when they mounted their raids, So said.

"We have successfully cracked a triad-manipulated syndicate that makes use of teenagers," she added. "Parents should be aware of the danger and take good care of their children. Teenagers should not engage in illegal activities for generating instant income."

Conspiracy to carry out criminal damage can carry up to 10 years' imprisonment, according to the Crimes Ordinance.

Similar crimes were committed from March to September this year, with triad members hiring teenagers to splash red paint or stick threatening notes at debtors' homes.

The pay for such work was said to see teenagers being handed from several hundred dollars to over HK$1,000.

The police have also warned that teenagers will be detained even if they are juveniles and will carry criminal records.