Is it a criminal gang or isn’t it? That’s the question posed by a report in the Boston Globe. Their weapons may include lacrosse sticks, rocks, and a hot butter knife. Their neighborhoods are mostly in Las Vegas’s gated subdivisions, where homes sell for at least $250,000. Police are investigating a group of as many as 30 suburban teens from a good high school. Their summer activities included videotaping themselves attacking random victims.
More than a dozen of the “311 Boyz” have been charged with felonies in a range of assaults. In one, a victim was attacked with brass knuckles; in another a horde of teens incited a late-night melee while chanting the gang’s name. “What’s unusual about this is that you have a gang of white suburban kids of this size that seems well-organized, as opposed to smaller groups of white kids doing isolated, predatory things,” said C. Ronald Huff of University of California, Irvine, author of “Gangs in America.”
The most serious charges have targeted nine suspects, 16 to 18 years old. They are accused in a rock attack that crushed the face of a 17-year-old. That attack led police to discover the existence of the 311 Boyz, most of whom have attended Centennial High School in the Las Vegas Valley’s fast-growing, upper-class northwest.
A defense lawyer, James Buchanan, rejected the contentions that the 311 Boyz exist or that such a group might constitute a gang. Buchanan represents an 18-year-old boy who has pleaded not guilty to charges that he was the ringleader in the rock case and that he had burned a youth with a hot butter knife.
Another gang specialist, Mark Fleisher, author of “Dead End Kids,” disputes the assertion that a group such as the 311 Boyz would qualify as a gang. “The difference between this and a real gang is the difference between jumping off a chair and calling that flying,” said Fleisher, of the Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. “Here you have a bunch of kids from rich families raising hell.”