Children younger than 12 groomed into criminal gangs by relatives
Money and drugs or alcohol were likely factors attracting children to crime
At the University of Limerick, Prof Shane Kilcommins, Minister of State David Stanton, Dr Catherine Naughton and Prof Sean Redmond, examine a report on children and crime. Photograph: Alan Place
Children younger than 12 years old in both rural and urban areas are being groomed into organised criminal networks by family members, according to a study published on Monday by the University of Limerick.
The National Prevalence Study surveyed 107 garda juvenile liaison officers (JLOs) and found evidence that around one in eight young children involved in crime in their area were part of an organised criminal network.
The research found children related to a family member involved in an organised crime network were likely to be groomed into criminal involvement before the age of 12.
Children were likely to be groomed into criminal activity by an older family member, the study found. If the child was not related to members of a crime network they were more likely to be introduced into the gang through a young “recruiter” closer to their own age.
Children related to members of the criminal networks in 92 per cent of cases became involved in the gang before the age of 12. Of those who became involved in crime networks through a non-relative only 42 per cent were under 12 years old.
The study attempted to profile the type of children who become involved in organised criminal networks, and how they became involved.
The typical profile of a child involved in “persistent and serious crime” was male and between 16 and 17 years old, according to JLO responses.
The research builds on an earlier study from 2015, that examined the involvement of children in criminal networks in one particular area, which was given the pseudonym ‘Greentown’.
The latest research set out to examine if the same trends found in the original study were similar across a national scale, and concluded that they were.
The university study found of children involved in criminal networks, 97 per cent were described as “extremely likely” to be out unsupervised late at night, and have experience with alcohol consumption (97 per cent) and drugs (88 per cent).
Attraction to money and drugs or alcohol were the most likely factors to attract children into criminal activity.
Of adults who were involved in grooming children towards criminal activity, 83 per cent were extremely likely to have supplied the child with alcohol or drugs. Over 90 over cent of the adults were likely to have taught the child practical skills on how to commit crime.
The vast majority,89 per cent, of children involved in organised crime had the ability to manipulate the juvenile justice system to their own benefit, JLO responses indicated.
Co-author of the study Dr Sean Redmond, said it showed “children are being groomed into crime by predatory adults and, while relatively small in number, a pattern can been seen across the country”.
Minister of State at the Department of Justice David Stanton launched the report, and said the problem affects only a minority of children involved in serious and prolific crime.
“However, we also know that many of these children can be trapped in coercive relationships with adult criminals that they find difficult if not impossible to break free from,” he said.
Mr Stanton announced €1.2 million in funding for the university to trial a new crime prevention programme targeted in Limerick.