LA Times — Youth Gangs Leading Cause of Delinquencies

LOS ANGELES TIMES, JUNE 2, 1943

YOUTH GANGS LEADING CAUSE OF DELINQUENCIES

By Gene Sherman

Fresh in the memory, of Los Angeles is last year’s surge of gang violence that made the
“zoot suit” a badge of delinquency. Public indignation seethed as warfare among
organized bands of marauders, prowling the streets at night, brought a wave of assaults,
finally murders.

Gang activities constitute an important part of the juvenile delinquent problem in Los
Angeles. Next to “desire for adventure and employment” the Police Department lists
gangs as the chief cause of delinquency.

Many over 18 in Gangs

There are, however, two exceedingly important things to remember when dealing with
gangs-a large group of the membership of gangs comprises youths over 18 years of age
and although many gang members wear “zoot suits,” thousands of “zoot suit” wearers are
non-delinquents.

At the beginning of the year it was estimated that there were 30 gangs in the country,
including approximately 750 juvenile boys.

This estimate is at variance, however, with the police statistics which blame gang activity
for the booking of 811 juveniles last year and the investigation (without booking) of 115
more.

Mark of “Distinction”
Although “zoot suits” became a uniform of delinquency because of their popularity
among the gangs, their adoption by some of the city’s youth was more a bid for
recognition, a way of being “different,” in the opinion of Heman G. Stark, County
Protection Office chief of delinquency prevention.

Stark and Superior Judge Robert H. Scott of Juvenile Court concur in the belief that the
formation of gangs was an outgrowth of a feeling of inferiority on the part of minority
groups.

Whitfeiffer, executive-secretary of the Council of Social Agencies, points out that,
between native-born youths of native-born parents and native-born youths of foreignborn
parents, the latter always poses the greater delinquency problem.

Language Marks Difference

Juvenile files repeated show that a language variance in the home – where the parents
speak no English and cling to past culture – is a serious factor of delinquency. Parents in
such a home lack control over their offspring.

Motives for gang warfare are ridiculous in adult eyes but sometimes lead to planned and
bloody fighting. One youth rallied his gang when a member of another East Side band
made disparaging remarks about his automobile. A knife fight almost resulted when a
member of one gang bumped into a member of another on Main St.

Many of the gang fights reported in newspapers have been planned conflicts with clubs,
rods, lengths of pipe, knives and even guns-planned much like a football contest would
be.

Detective Work Started

Using the gang idea, much has been done to direct the energies of groups of idle boys
into constructive channels.

A plumber on Third Street not long ago was troubled by boys who broke his windows
and raided other stores in the block. The plumber corralled the leader of the group,

invited the whole group to have dinner with him, planned the organization of a club and
personally raised money for athletic equipment. Window-breaking ceased and the merchants had the fun of backing a winning softball
team!

The gang theory is used to superlative advantage in the Boy Scouts, Wood-craft Rangers,
Campfire Girls and other youth organizations. Juvenile officers report instances where
whole gangs, engaged in assorted depredations, have been formed into merit-badgewinning Scout troops….