Minister of State David Stanton, T.D. opened a conference in University of Limerick (UL) today focused on tackling the problem of children’s involvement in organised gang and crime networks. The conference, which was organised by the UL REPPP project, has brought together top experts in the areas of crime networks, juvenile offending and child welfare to develop a new intervention programme to help children escape the influence of criminal networks and engage in pro-social activities. The Research Evidence into Policy, Programmes and Practice (REPPP) project is a strategic partnership between UL and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) to improve the evidence base for policy making in the youth justice area. Both DCYA and the Department of Justice and Equality support and fund projects under the REPPP.

The problem of the influence of crime networks on children was highlighted in the Greentown study undertaken in 2015. The Minister said, ‘We know that this problem affects only a minority of children involved in serious and prolific crime such as burglary and illicit drugs sales. However, we also know that many of these children can be trapped in coercive relationships with adult criminals. These children often find it very difficult, if not impossible, to break free from these coercive relationships.”

A recently completed national survey of Garda Juvenile Liaison Officers, who specialise in dealing with children involved in offending, has indicated that upwards of 1,000 children may be affected by the activities of criminal networks in Ireland, and the kind of malign relationships that exist here are not restricted to large urban populations. Commenting on the publication of a report on the findings of this survey today, the Minister said, ‘there is an onus on all of us in Government and in State agencies to find new ways of addressing this problem.’

In this regard, the Minister welcomed the fact that work is progressing in this area and that the holding of this conference is another step in the right direction. He said, ‘this conference today brings together the best expertise in the area to design a new way of tackling this problem, by focussing on the network perpetrators as well as creating new opportunities for children. Our approach in this regard is receiving significant international interest.’

The Minister also announced that, in addition to funding provided by the Department of Justice and Equality to date for  work in this area, that his colleague Katherine Zappone, T.D., Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has secured €1.2 million from the Dormant Accounts Fund to trial the new intervention programme, when it is fully  developed, in a local community in Ireland in 2018.

Commenting on the partnership with the University of Limerick in relation to this project and the conference, Minister Stanton said, ‘The University of Limerick is working closely with the Department of Justice and Equality to help reduce the incidences of children’s involvement in gang and organised crime networks in Ireland.’

The Minister ended by saying, ‘Taken together these various initiatives demonstrate that we are committed not only to improve our knowledge about how to intervene most effectively in these situations but also to act in support of the children who are targeted by criminal gangs.’

ENDS

Note for Editors:

  1. The National Prevalence Study of children’s involvement with crime networks [Interim Findings] can be accessed at http://hdl.handle.net/10344/6313
  2. The original study which highlighted the problem of children’s involvement in criminal networks in Ireland ‘Lifting the Lid on Greentown(2015)’ can be accessed at http://hdl.handle.net/10344/5793