The Nation: Cripplers In The War Zone

Frightening enough when they are alone or in pairs, youths in a gang are a formidable engine of mayhem. Today's urban gangs commit roughly 25% of the juvenile crime, and they are better organized than ever, more heavily armed and less queasy about the blood they spill.

Particularly in the ghetto, the gang gives a kid the structured life he has never had at home or anywhere else. The peer pressure to enlist is almost irresistible. Rico, 17, joined a Puerto Rican gang in Chicago for "protection, man, protection. I was a skinny little...

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