Sinister gangs using new trainers to bribe kids into life of crime
A new pair of trainers, or a bit of cannabis at the weekend, are among the bribes used by criminals to groom children as young as 12 into a life of crime.
An investigation into crime networks in south central Dublin has provided an insight into how young children are lured into gangs.
The report, called Building Community Resilience, into Dublin's south inner city identified around 650 people involved in the crime network in the area, with some as young as 12.
It looked into the nature and reach of key criminal and anti-social behaviour networks within Dublin south central.
It identified two main core groups, comprising of 44 individuals and 52 individuals operating in the area.
Carried out by Dr Johnny Connolly from the University of Limerick's Centre for Crime, Justice and Victim Studies, it found that crime divisions are even being experienced in schools. There, it said, divisions and conflict can emerge over associations with different individuals or families linked to networks.
When broken down by area and population, the total numbers making up the crime networks were 1.2pc of the population aged from 12 to 40 years of age, with 92pc of offenders from this age bracket.
The report identified three levels, including career criminals, street dealers and children operating in the networks.
One man in his early 20s, from Crumlin, with multiple friends who were groomed by thugs, described how easy it is for children to get caught up in it.
"It's kind of like Instagram drug dealers. They see rappers on Instagram with expensive cars and clothes and think 'I want that'," said the man who spoke to the Herald on condition of not being identified.
"But they come from families who can't afford it and they look around and see that the lads selling drugs do have it. They look up to them, like idols," he said.
"It starts out with being given a bit of weed for holding some stuff. If you see an 11 or 12-year-old walking down the street, you're not going to think they have drugs.
"It is grooming one million percent, but it's so easy for street dealers because the kids look up to them.
"It might be an older brother's friend who is the dealer, it's effortless for them," he said.
A sinister aspect of the behaviour, he explained, is that once a kid gets into the life it's difficult to get out.
"Once you're in, you know a lot, you know who's involved, so you'll be branded a rat if you give it up," he said.
Fianna Fail TD and spokesperson on justice and equality, Jim O'Callaghan, said the report showed "our children and our communities" are being failed.
"Fianna Fail has prepared draft legislation to help put an end to the abuse of children in the distribution of drugs."