Dr Sean Redmond (School of Law, University of Limerick) has just completed a four-year study of a criminal network using data from the Garda Pulse system. The findings of the study into criminal gangs and their impact on boys and young men, as well as their wider local community was published this week. The Lifting the Lid on Greentown report was commissioned by the Department of Justice and found that criminal gangs are recruiting and exploiting children as young as 11 using drugs, alcohol and the notion of status.
The urban location of the study has been given the pseudonym ‘Greentown’, to prevent young people and the community being identified. The study discloses patterns of enticement and coercion for children, linked to their engagement with the criminal network. Children were offered access to drugs, alcohol and the notion of status from being associated with the network. However once they were engaged in relationships with network leaders it became very difficult for the children to leave.
According to the research the network served to “regulate” the behaviour of those involved in criminality, but also keep in check other residents in Greentown who were not involved.
Dr Redmond said the problems described in the report must be tackled, but fresh thinking was also needed.
He recalled a teenager who had run into debt with a local drugs gang and decided to leave the area. “The boy’s mother contacted him after he left and pleaded with him to come back home and take his beating. Apparently, the local gang had made the parents’ life a living hell,” he said.
Dr Redmond said the report, using Pulse data and the testimony of local gardaí, tries to “get under the bonnet” of how children become engaged in criminal networks.