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At the police station, the district attorney of a small town lectures a group of recently arrested juvenile delinquents and their parents on the difficulties of their age. When the district attorney accuses the parents of failing to administer proper guidance, Ralph Gordon, father of Rose and Alice, protests that he and his wife work split shifts so that they can look after their daughters. Ralph then describes a party he supervised one night recently, during which Rose and Alice rehearsed for a school theatrical benefit: High school students Lily Miller, Dan Murray, the Abbott brothers and others decide to crash the Gordons' party because they resent that they were not invited. When Ralph tries to throw the group out, Dan knocks him out and a fight ensues. The teenagers finally leave but vandalize and rob nearby cars, and take the stolen items to a local storeroom, which is then raided by police. Dan escapes, but the rest of the teenagers are arrested. The Abbott boys now claim not to know the identity of their "fence," and Mrs. Abbott defends Lily, who was reared by her older sister. Back at the police station, the district attorney then recounts how Lily's older sister Mae became corrupted years earlier: Mae, who has been befriended by Molly Murdock, a crooked casino owner, and has been lured into gambling debt, is unable to pay her markers to the club. Molly suggests that she date a wealthy patron for his money, to keep the croupier from telling Mae's husband of her transgressions. Blinded by tears, Mae leaves the club and is killed in an automobile accident. Shortly after, Molly is arrested during a police raid. Next the district attorney brings in Dan's father Jim, and the fence, Eddie Quinten, whom Jim angrily assaults. After pulling them apart, the district attorney accuses Jim of murdering his own son, but Jim denies this and blames Eddie, relating the following story: Jim explains that after he was released from jail, he read a news report about his son's criminal activities. Jim learns that Eddie is Dan's fence, and follows Dan after he escapes the police raid. Believing that crime is not worthwhile, Jim tries to convince Dan to turn himself in to the police, but Dan is affronted that his much-admired father would turn against him. Jim insists that criminal friends are not true friends, and tells Dan his own story: Jim and Molly, who is now known as Belle Harris, are partners in a gambling joint. When one of his own men leaks information to the police, Jim pays two thugs, Nick Costello and Dutch Hendricks, to kill him. When Nick and Dutch see the stack of bills from which Jim pays them, they plot to take over the club. Molly refuses to be intimidated by the thugs and a brawl erupts, resulting in a police raid in which everyone is arrested. Dan sees the truth in his father's advice and agrees to go to the police, but is shot and killed by Eddie as he is leaving the building. Eddie's fingerprints are found on the murder weapon and he is arrested. The district attorney now intends to arrest the juveniles, but Jim protests that prison will not reform them. Mrs. Abbott then offers Lily a home with her sister, while her sons plan to work on a farm, and one of the girls decides to move back home to Michigan. The district attorney reiterates that a good family life offers the best chance for reformation.