Fri, 08 Jan, 2021 – 06:30
The typical age of drug runners in a large Dublin suburb has fallen from 13 to just 10 in recent years, research indicates.
The report said the runners, who carry and deliver drugs to local dealers, can be as young as eight years old.
Researchers said there has been a continuing increase in the number of juveniles involved in drug dealing in the last four years.
Children are being drawn into drug running and dealing by the “social status” and “easy money” that comes with it, as well as family connections and rising drug debt intimidation.
The report, conducted annually by the Blanchardstown Local Drug and Alcohol Task Force, also cites the “normalisation” of drug use within society.
The Drug and Alcohol Trends Monitoring System 2020 — the fifth year of the research — uses a range of data sources and surveyed 85 people, including current and former drug users.
Mixed socio-economic area
The research is carried out in Dublin 15, home to 110,000 people and a mixed socio-economic area, straddling the wider Blanchardstown suburb, as well as Castleknock and Carpenterstown.
The report found that while the norm (or typical) age of drug dealers had increased in the last three years — from 14 in 2017 to 16 in 2019 — the typical age of drug runners dropped from 13 in 2017 to 10 in 2019.
The youngest reported age of drug runners was eight in 2019, the same as in 2017, but higher than 2018 (age 10).
The youngest age for drug dealers was 12 in 2019, compared to 10 in 2017.
The research, conducted by Janet Robinson and Jim Doherty, said that while the runners and dealers were predominately male, females “aged from 12 years” were also engaged.
It said the reasons why children were being pulled into the drugs trade comprised personal, family, and environmental factors.
The desire to increase social status is an important driver of drug-dealing behaviour and to make ‘easy’ money.
Family members involved in dealing was also a factor.
The report said participants surveyed reported an increase in drug debt intimidation: “It is likely that there is a link between the increasing levels of drug debt intimidation and under 18s drug running and dealing, whereby young people are forced to hold and sell drugs to pay off debts.”
Victims feared an escalation in intimidation if they went to the gardaí or were fearful of highlighting their criminal activity.
The report said families of users reported living with “fear, violence and financial implications” because of drug debt intimidation.
It said Garda help is rarely sought, though a network of designated gardaí are available to assist.
The research also pointed to a “normalisation of drug use” where use has become socially acceptable, influencing children in becoming involved in the trade.
The report said that since 2017 there has been an increase in dealing in secondary schools and that by 2019 this had spread to all secondary schools in Dublin 15.
It said cannabis herb and alcohol were the most common drugs among young people and highlighted new trends, such as the use of cannabis edibles (eg sweets, chocolates and cakes), cannabis drinks, oils and wax.