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The ‘12 O’ Clock Boys’: New Kind of Gang in Baltimore

( [email protected] ) Feb 12, 2014 02:19 PM EST
According to FORBES, Baltimore is the seventh most dangerous city in the U.S. And recently that danger has taken on a very new, very unique persona: the 12 O' Clock Gang.
(Roger Ebert)

According to FORBES, Baltimore is the seventh most dangerous city in the U.S. And recently that danger has taken on a very new, very unique persona: the 12 O' Clock Gang.

The 12 O' Clock Gang is a street riding gang named after their most popular (and extremely dangerous) maneuver which involves pointing the nose of their dirt bikes straight up into the air as if the hand of a clock as at 12 o' clock. These "weekend warriors" and "street riders" take to their bikes on the weekends and wreak their motor-driven havoc.

To the many young men, this gang is seen as a positive alternative to the regular gangs. Steven, a current member of the gang says, "You will learn the right way to do all the wrong s**t in Baltimore City.... [But] one of the first things you see that you actually wanna do is ride a dirt bike. It's one of the first things you see that's positive."

To adolescent boys like Taekwon Ford, better known as "Pug," the gang is a group of role models. He sees the members as mentors. "They taught me stay in school, do all my work, pass all my classes. They just taught me to focus on school. Don't worry about bikes all the time."

12 O'Clock Boys
(NPR)

Lofty Nathan, director of the documentary, "12 O' Clock Boys" had an opportunity to meet many of the young men caught up in this new and seemingly odd gang life when he started filming them three years ago as a college student.

"But for someone like Pug who needs to rebel, he's working against something. He's seen enough by a certain age that he's got a kind of hard edge and it's going to be an unconventional way of growing. It has to be through rebellion."

When Nightline asked Pug why he wanted to be a 12 O' Clock boy he simply said, "it's fun." He later elaborated saying, "You're seeing people's faces, they be so excited to see you...it's just amazing."

Nathan describes them as a sort of alternative community providing that mentored outlet for them "unconventional" "rebellion" these young men feel the need to take part in as they grow up in a hard world.

Steven emphasises that women like CoCo Brown, Pug's mother, shouldn't have to raise a child like him by herself; with gangs like the 12 O' Clock Boys, she doesn't have to. It seems they see themselves as healthy alternatives, or at least better than the typical, glorified gang life.

12 O'Clock Boys
Taekwon and mom. (Photo: City Paper)

But that's not how local law enforcement views them.

ABC News Timeline stated, "There are real dangers here. Bikers have been severely injured, some of them killed. Baltimore police can do only so much. Officers usually don't chase the bikers for fear of accidents."

Former Baltimore City Police Officer, Albert Lemon, also mentioned, "We don't want to risk the lives of innocent people by chasing them, unless they committed a violent act. But at the same time, the act of them riding around, throwing willies at high speed, is a violent act in and of itself." He went on to say, "We lose at least 10 to 15 lives every Summer in reference to dirt bikes."

The entire documentary continually emphasises the need to escape or "rebel" against the "hard-knock life" many of the Baltimore kids are exposed to. They want an out; they need one. Nathan describes Pug as "smart" and "resourceful" and encourages him to place all of that energy into school but in the director's words, "there's no easy out." Let's hope they find it.

Watch the Nightline interview on Yahoo! News.