Children as young as six are being recruited by drug dealers into a life of crime as “runners”, communities have told Gardaí.
According to the Policing Authority’s “What We Heard 2022” report, vulnerable children are being lured into engaging in criminal activities with the promise of high-end runners and free drugs.
“In terms of the age at which children are being lured into acting as ‘runners’ for dealers, the Authority heard of children as young as six but more typically between eight to 12 years of age,” the report stated.
It added that “vulnerable” children were being specifically targeted by criminals.
“They seek out children they know to be in already vulnerable positions, befriending them with gifts of luxury, high end shoes and clothes and giving ‘freebies’ of nitrous oxide or cannabis,” the document continued.
Communities reportedly went on to say that these seemingly “free” gifts would land the child in debt with the drug dealer, forcing them to work off what they owe.
“In one area, it was stated that the seeming ease with which money can be made at a very young age for the simple task of transporting packages over short distances entices children into criminality,” the report read.
It added: “One group stated that they now use the terminology ‘child trafficking’ to describe what is happening within communities to convey the full extent of the abuse and exploitation faced by children.”
Notably, the report said that the “culture” around cannabis is changing as the drug becomes more potent, with children becoming more aggressive due to its use.
“They also stated that the potency of the cannabis that children now use means that it costs more and makes them behave more aggressively, creating a different culture around the drug than had been seen previously,” it claimed.