At Barton's Dance Palace, a fight breaks out involving the teenage
gang of Tom Barker, Pig, String and Ape. While the others are
caught, Tom slips home, where he finds youngster Butch "Shrimp"
Malone waiting for him. Shrimp tells Tom that his aunt has
abandoned him once again, so Tom tells the boy that he can stay
with him. Tom's older sister Marion (Anne Gwynne) awakens and warns the two boys
not to disturb their uncle.
The uncle awakens, however, and
complains that Tom has been sending cigarettes to convict Monk
Bangor, a friend of Tom's late gangster brother Jim. He further
states that Tom will end up in the electric chair, just like his
brother. Sergeant Frank Convoy then arrives to arrest Tom, much to
the delight of his uncle. In the chambers of Judge Luther Bryson,
Marion pleads Tom's case, to little avail. Frank arrives and
offers to organize a "Police Big-Brother" movement involving Tom
and his gang.
The judge agrees, knowing that Frank was the officer
who sent Jim to the electric chair. Frank is taken by the boys to
their clubhouse, where he is told of the gang's plan to go "into
business" with Bangor upon his release from prison. When the boys
threaten the off-duty policeman, he demonstrates his mastery of
judo and offers to teach it to them. The gang then offers their
singing act for a local benefit talent show, and another fight
breaks out. After the four are beaten up by the locals, Pig, Ape
and String take Frank up on his offer and join the police gym.
After Tom arrives, Frank offers to get the boys jobs. When they
refuse, Frank tells Tom that he is "too soft" to work. Thus
goaded, the boys get jobs working in an auto wrecking yard. Later,
the gang is met by gangsters Brick and Nutsy, who wish to hide
their loot in the gang's clubhouse. Nutsy and Rick are later
arrested and the loot, $20,000 worth of stolen jewelry, is
discovered in the clubhouse. After they swear that they had
nothing to do with the robbery, the juveniles are released.
dining at Frank's, Tom discovers the policeman's involvement in
his brother's arrest. Tom confronts the officer and falsely
accuses him of tricking his brother into his arrest. Tom leaves
with Shrimp, while the rest of the gang stays in support of Frank.
Tom then runs into Monk, who has just been released from prison.
When Tom returns home later that night, he has a fight with his
sister and leaves, taking Shrimp with him.
Tom's uncle goes to the
police, claiming that the boy has stolen some family jewelry. Tom
attempts to pawn his mother's jewelry, only to be cornered by Pig,
String and Ape. They take him to the old clubhouse, where the
neighborhood boys put him on trial. Tom is found guilty by the
kangaroo court and ordered to give himself up. He escapes,
however, leaving Shrimp behind. The little boy confesses that Tom
has joined Monk's gang and is heading west with the gangster.
Frank traces the two to a local drugstore, where he attempts to
take Tom into custody. Unknown to Frank and Tom, Monk has just
robbed the drugstore, and, in the ensuing shootout, Frank is
wounded. Tom is forced to drive the gangster's car, which he
deliberately crashes, and Monk is captured. Frank and Tom go back
to the police station, where both are absolved of their previous
crimes. The reformed gang then plans to go to a "Police Officers'
Buddies" convention with Frank and Marion, only to have the back
wheels fall off their car, as Pig forgot to put on the rear axle.