You see them downtown: teenagers with punk haircuts and chains, hanging out in parks and under highway overpasses. They scowl at each other and sometimes at you. But you take for granted that though young and troubled, they're likely harmless...
While estimates of their number vary, most child welfare advocates estimate that there are approximately 1.5 million street kids in the United States and that the majority belong to a street family... "The cleaned-up streets offered a new playground" for these kids, Denfeld explains. "Isolated from other influences, they create a fantasy world all of their own."...
Over the past decade, through "Dungeons & Dragons" and computer fantasy play and gaming, it's becoming increasingly acceptable for people in their 20s to spend hours a day engaged in adopting mythical characters or pretending they are part of a medieval society. A lot ofyoung people are taking this fascination and acceptance of fantasy play with them into street culture. They will get engaged in elaborate, real-time fantasy games as part of this culture. They might perform rescue missions or decide that somebody offended them and have amission to go punish the perpetrator.
Once they get on the streets, these youths take street names that arevery important to them. In this particular case, the kids took names like Shadowcat and Gambit and Neo.
Disturbingly, they seem to be on their way to developing proficiency with the spiked chain, which will allow them attacks of opportunity galore:
I found an amazing amount of violence within this subculture. A lot ofthe youth are armed. They carry knives or what they call smiley chains, which are chains that are linked into a circle. If you actually talk tothem, they speak with ease about the violence they commit. It wasn'tjust the one particular street family I followed. I documented hundredsof crimes that other street families in the area had committed, often very violent crimes like muggings and hate crimes against gays. They call it "rolling trolls," which is their term for mugging gay men.
Is this a real phenomenon? I'm not familar with it although D.C. wasn't one of the cities mentioned. Apparently one person, Jessica Williams, was killed in 2003. There's a distinct lack of solid statistics. Obviously both muggings and attacks on homosexuals are distinctly not okay and should be cracked down upon. But aside from the Jessica Williams case I don't think she documents a single incident. Am I being overly blase here? Is there something actually going on that I'm just not seeing in the relative sticks?