GEORGE TOWN - Secret societies, which used to be active here in the past, appear to be making a comeback.
With increasing inter-gang rivalry, gang leaders have been trying to recruit members, including Myanmar nationals and other foreigners.
Police are, however, on their toes after learning of the "membership drive".
State police chief Datuk Ayub Yaakob said the two main gangs -- The Three Hill Emperors and Gang of 24 -- had intensified their rivalry, especially over territorial rights.
He said investigations showed both gangs were looking for new members in residential areas.
He said the gangs had also tried to extort businessmen in the run-up to Chinese New Year early next month.
"They are ruthless and they intimidate businessmen who refuse to cooperate with them," he said, adding that the Four Wheels Gang and Flat Gang were also trying to make their presence felt.
"We are concerned with their rivalry as the gangs are roping in help from outside Penang to gain more territorial rights."
He said police had set up a task force to tackle the threats posed by the secret societies. He added that police had detained five suspects, in their 20s and 30s, during a recent gang clash, involving 30 gangsters in Gurney Drive.
They had also identified eight other suspects in connection with the incident.
"The suspects are now high on the police wanted list with their mugshots widely circulated here."