As many as 1,000 children are being dragged into criminal behaviour by adult gangs and crime networks, a report which surveys Garda Juvenile Liaison Officers has estimated.
The report builds on a 2015 study based on a real location in Ireland given the name ‘Greentown’ which established that some children were being inculcated into criminal behaviour by adults.
The new report surveyed Garda JLOs around the country, receiving a 90% response rate, and finds that one in eight children in those programmes fit the same profile. Principal investigator Sean Redmond, who wrote the report along with researcher Catherine Naughton, said it was reasonable and conservative to estimate that as many as 1,000 children are being dragged into criminal behaviour.
Dr Redmond, of the School of Law at the University of Limerick, said the report found that the existence of established crime gangs in an area was “an additional risk”, alongside other factors such as social deprivation and domestic poverty.
He also said a family link led some children to become involved in crime but, in other cases, children who were already vulnerable could be susceptible to being recruited. Those children are more likely to end up involved in more serious crime such as burglary, rather than public order or assault offences.
According to the JLO survey, 86% of JLOs indicated that there were children involved in serious and persistent crime in their area, with males aged 16-17 years seen as those who ‘best represent’ children involved in serious and persistent crime.
The report also highlights the perceived attraction of drugs/alcohol, money, respect and power in becoming involved in a criminal network. It also found that adults who had the most influence, in terms of crime, over the children were extremely likely to teach the child practical skills on how to commit crime (86%) and deal manipulatively with the judicial system (91%), and to supply the child with drugs/alcohol (83%).
Dr Redmond is working with international experts over the coming days to arrive at possible solutions, such as building up community guardianship, providing social alternatives to the lure of crime, and finding ways to disrupt local criminal networks by focussing on weak links or key influencers. Recommendations are to be delivered next year.
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