Youth Gangs Still Do Exist, Harvard Urban Expert Says

Back in the '50's, the streets were ruled by the big gangs. Boston newspapers were filled with the exploits of the "Okie" Tigers, the Park Boys, the Red Raiders, the Rays and the Marcair Dukes. But that was in the '50's, and we all know the gangs died long ago.

Dr. Walter Miller, senior research associate at the Harvard-M.I.T. Joint Center for Urban Studies, disagrees. He has done extensive research on youth gangs and has concluded that most big cities, including Boston, still have them.

Miller says that while the emblazoned black leather jackets, the names and genre may have disappeared, the youth gang is still around, in changed form.

"The city of Boston has what I would call 'gangs,' " Miller said.

Harvard University Police Chief Robert A. Tonis said that Cambridge is an exception to Miller's findings.

"We don't find any evidence of gangs in Cambridge," he said. "A couple of instances of motorcycle riders a few years ago, but not really organized gangs."

Miller's definition of a gang includes "that group of youngsters that currently congregates at some sort of locale out of the house. This would include that bunch of kids' that many people refuse to call a gang, merely because it is not formalized,"

"There is at least one such gang in every one of the 15 districts of Boston," Miller said.

"The Boston Police dispatcher's order to break up a gang is probably the single most common type of report sent to local cruisers," he said.

More White Gangs

Miller indicated that there were many more white gangs than black gangs in the U.S., simply because of the nine-to-one ratio of whites to blacks in this country.

He also said that it was in the interest of police officials not to see that gangs existed. "So no matter what happens, they will say there are no gangs on the corner," Miller said.

Miller also feels that it is similarly in the interest of black militant groups to ignore youth gangs and to state that youth groups have become more politicized.