Only now, law-enforcement sources say, the kids are getting in at a younger age. And in another troubling trend toward the LA-ization of Boston's gangs, sources say, older members are foregoing retirement, continuing to hang with their gangs. The average age of an Intervaler is around 20, says one cop, a time in life when members used to think about getting out of the gang biz.
These days, nearly every gang is boasting about being allied with some other neighborhood's hoods. Historically, individual posses have formed loose alliances with each other. Generally, the partnerships haven't lasted too long. ("These guys change partners more often than Elizabeth Taylor changes husbands," says Dorchester probation officer Billy Stewart), leaving the gang scene in a constant state of flux.
At Hillside Shelter Care, a secure treatment facility for boys in the custody of the Department of Youth Services (DYS) program director Kevin McNeely says his staff is considering hanging up a wall-size Boston street map and using pushpins to mark off who's hooked up with whom. "It's getting to the point where even some of the kids aren't' sure where their turf is," he says.
Many of these alliance treaties are straightforward and temporary non-aggression pacts. It's signified by something as simple as two gangs standing on a corner together, and the reasons behind it are often equally mundane.
Like cabin fever. Most of the gangs claim relatively tiny areas as their exclusive domain, say, a housing project or one of the short avenues that run through the city's neighborhoods, cramped spaces that don't give them much room to roam. And with new posses springing up in every other alleyway and courtyard, "things were getting pretty restrictive," says Emmett Folgert, a street worker with the Dorchester Youth Collaborative, in Fields Corner. "What if you're stuck in a certain area and you can't get a girlfriend? What if you have a car but you can't drive it anywhere? Get an association, and now you've got a whole other area to go into. It gives them all a little more wiggle room."
Such arrangements aren't necessarily bad. For one thing, posses that get down with each other, if only for a short while, generally aren't shooting at each other. In fact, Folgert says that part of the reason last summer was far less violent than many observers expected was because "all of the gangs were working very hard at negotiating associations."
Other associations, however, are born and bred through shared hatreds. In early 1989, for example, there was this kid from Humboldt who had a girl down at Franklin Field, and was showing his face over there nearly every day. Eventually got to making small talk with some of the local boys, and they stumbled onto a topic of mutual loathing: the Franklin Hill Giants, located straight across Blue Hill Avenue from the Field. "Then from there everybody be like, 'Yo, what's up? We got the same beef with the same people, we should be down,' " the Humboldt kid recalls. So on Easter Sunday, 1989, Franklin Field and Humboldt went to the movies together, the first public showing of their new-forged bond. Not surprisingly, the Humboldt kid says the coalition split up six months later when his gang accused Franklin Field of pinning a murder rap on it.