As the police of yesteryear were usually short on manpower, residents of Ann Siang Hill and its surrounds used to rely on gangsters to settle neighbours' disputes and solve robberies. There were at least three gangs in the area ruling the streets from the late 1950s to 1965, said Mr Desmond Chen, 65, who grew up there. One of them was the infamous 369 secret society.
"Instead of going to the police, who would ignore your report, you'd go to a gangster. A stolen wallet could easily be found within two hours if you had some basic details of what the robber looked like," said Mr Chen, whose father ran a second-hand hardware store in Club Street.