The Greentown Study of criminal networks in Ireland and their use of children in criminal enterprise.
A large body of research exists in relation to youth crime. However, comparatively little is known in relation to the contexts of children who engage in serious offending behaviour and participate in criminal networks. Using a case study design, this study first identified and then examined the behaviour of a criminal network operating in a Garda Sub-District in Ireland in 2010–2011. For the purposes of the study, the Garda Sub-District, which is located outside of Dublin, has been given the pseudonym Greentown. In order to facilitate this examination, Garda analysts constructed a network map for the study using incident data to position 31 individuals aged 11–36 years who had been involved in either burglary or drugs for sale and supply in Greentown in 2010– 2011. Importantly, the map indicated relationships where two or more individuals were involved in the same offence. The map was used as the key reference tool to interview Greentown Gardaí about the activities and contexts of the individuals identified.
The study found that the criminal network which existed in Greentown in 2010–2011 was hierarchical in nature and was governed by a family and kinship-based ‘core’. The hierarchical structure was supported by a deeply embedded sympathetic culture in the area, as well as powerful ongoing processes – in particular, patronage based relationships which shared the rewards of crime among associates, but also generated onerous debt obligations. It was also found that the power and influence of the network is most influenced by the intensity of the relationships between individual members of the network and the network patrons, but geographical proximity between them also plays a role. The overall key finding of the study was that criminal networks play a significant role in encouraging and compelling children to engage in criminal behaviour. The study identified potential applications for the methods used in the project to progress further research on serious youth crime, and outlined some implications for youth crime-related policy.
The Programme Design Project is aimed at developing new effective responses to the problem of children’s engagement with local criminal networks in Ireland. Based on the findings of the original Greentown study, the challenge has been set as two-fold:
A. Reduce the influence of criminal networks on child offending
B. Improve pro-social outcomes for children involved in criminal networks
The process follows a deliberate programme-building sequence designed to respond to complex policy issues, problem definition, solution identification, and detailed programme design. It involves a range of national and international experts with extensive experience in the areas of youth offending, social network analysis, law enforcement, child welfare, governance, research and evaluation, and policy and programme design. The panel has been identified as optimal and complimentary for the complex challenges involved.
National Prevalence Survey: Start Date: February 2017 Completed date: November 2017
Principle Investigator: Sean Redmond, Lead Researcher: Catherine Naughton
Irish Youth Justice Services funded the National Prevalence Survey.
This follow-up study involving a national survey of Garda Juvenile Liaison Officers indicates evidence that the profile of children involved in serious crime (as identified in the original Greentown report) are present more widely throughout Ireland. Importantly, the youth crime problems identified in the Greentown report in 2015 are not only confined to large urban areas. Similar to the original Greentown study, the survey findings also suggest that some children are being groomed into crime by predatory adults. While relatively small in number, this pattern has emerged across the country. The full National Prevalence Study Report 2017 can be accessed here: http://hdl.handle.net/10344/6313
In 2021 and 2022, REPPP is engaged in programme design and field trials. The Whitetown and Yellowtown studies bring together frontline agencies, practitioners, and researchers to implement and (risk) manage a multifaceted programme response. The implementation of Greentown Programme is being evaluated to examine whether it reduces the influence of crime networks on children and facilitates access to pro-social opportunities for those affected.