A new report into organised crime and criminal networks in areas around Dublin has discovered children as young as 10 years old being groomed for the drugs trade. In the areas between the Liberties and Walkinstown, many of the children used as runners and carriers are even considered expendable.
The aim of the report Building Community Resilience was to establish the nature and reach of key criminal networks operating within the area which covers the Liberties, Ballyfermot, Crumlin, Drimnagh, Walkinstown, Inchicore, Kilmainham and Rialto. It estimated that there are around 650 individuals engaged in a loosely organised criminal network in the Dublin South Central Area comprising of career criminals, street dealers and children who provide supports. When pared down, it identified two distinct networks comprising of 44 and 52 core individuals, respectively. The research, which was carried out in close collaboration with An Garda Síochána, was commissioned by the Policing Forum Network which represents four policing units from the Dublin South Central Area.
The report said a ‘complex and almost symbiotic’ relationship that could exist between criminal networks and their ‘host communities’ highlighted the importance of policy responses particularly in relation to policing and community safety. It found that organised confrontations with gardaí, either in patrol cars or on the beat, are sometimes intended to make certain locations no-go areas for policing.
Whole system approach needed
The drug trade provides not just money for those involved in the supply chain but is also the source of cheap goods for local residents as dependent drug users often stole goods to fund their addiction. The author of the study, Dr Johnny Connolly, a post-doctoral researcher and lecturer at the University of Limerick, has said there are answers to the problem, but it is not going to be easy.
Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Dr Connolly said that what was really important was that people in the community still wanted to engage with the gardaí and were willing to do so.
A ‘whole system’ approach needs to be adopted to ensure that there is support available for vulnerable young people. This would be a means to disrupt the criminal networks, he said.
The situation is not completely out of hand, he added. This was not to minimise the impact of serious crime on the community.
In terms of the children involved, they were all from disadvantaged backgrounds and were on the deprivation index. Others got caught up in debt and were groomed, particularly vulnerable young people, explained Dr Connolly.
One of the most problematic elements was the degree of control the organised crime gangs exerted in the areas. The report found most crime in the Ballyfermot area is not reported by local people which had a big impact on crime data.
“The vast majority of people want to live normal lives”, he said, but fear drives them to find other solutions to the issues they are facing.
The report recommended adopting a ‘carrot and stick’ approach to dealing with career criminals and an intensive outreach programme for targeting young people involved in street dealing, as well as specific interventions for children exposed to criminal networks and their families.
“There is a lot to change in this space”, he said.
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