A study of drug dealing and organised crime in Dublin's south inner city has found that children as young as 12 years of age are being induced into gangs.

The report, entitled 'Building Community Resilience - a response to criminal networks' identified two large criminal organisations with around 100 members between them.

It outlines responses to community-based organised crime, including increases in the number of outreach workers and community gardaí.

The report was carried out by Dr Johnny Connolly from the University of Limerick Centre for Crime, Justice and Victim Studies.

The gardaí say their response is encompassed in their new Community Policing Strategy being rolled out across the country.

Dr Connolly said a whole system approach needs to be undertaken in order to prevent young people being groomed by gangs.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, he said the vast majority of people in communities, where gangs operate, want to live safe and normal lives, but are disengaging from the policing and criminal justice system due to fear and a belief that the system is not bringing solutions to their problems. 

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Complex links between organised crime and community

The report examines the organisation, pervasiveness and impact of organised crime gangs within communities in Dublin's south city.

It identifies 650 people with links to crime which it then pares down to two major criminal networks of 44 and 52 members respectively.

The members are aged from 12 to 39.

The gangs, the report says, are "loosely organised" along three levels; career criminals, street dealers and children being groomed into criminality.

Senior gang members are admired and younger people seek to emulate them.

They use anti-social behaviour as a control mechanism and organise confrontation with the gardaí to create "no go areas for policing".

Even though they cause significant harm, the gangs only represent a very small proportion of the community - 1.2%.

The report is critical of the responses of voluntary and statutory agencies, including the Joint Policing Committees, the Local Policing Fora and the gardaí and makes a range of recommendations.

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach has said that it is a matter of "enormous concern" that children are involved with drug dealing gangs.

Leo Varadkar said the Cabinet decided yesterday to support Fianna Fáil legislation in relation to purchasing drugs from children or using children to transport drugs.

He said while this was already illegal, the new legislation being proposed by Deputy John Curran would strengthen the laws in this area.

He also said there is a joint agency response involving gardaí and child protection agencies to deal with the issue.

Fianna Fáil has said the legislation will increase the sanctions on people who buy drugs from under 18s.

Mr Curran said at present there was little sanction against people buying from young people.

"We are bringing forward a bill to tackle the use of children in drugs. I welcome the fact the Government supporting the bill," he said.

He added: "It makes drug purchasers less included to purchase from minors."

Mr Curran said: "I'm hoping this legislation will be a wake-up call. No longer can young vulnerable children be exploited." 

Additional reporting: Samantha Libreri