Irish Penal Reform Trust

Research reports from the Greentown Project launched by Minister for Justice

27th January 2021

On the 27th of January 2021, Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD, launched new research by the University of Limerick.

The Greentown Project, a partnership between the School of Law at University of Limerick, the Department of Justice and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY) provides insights into how criminal networks attract and confine children, encouraging and coercing them to be involved in serious crime. The Greentown Project has been ongoing for the last five years.

The Greentown Project published four reports on 27th January 2021. These reports provide detailed examinations of the features of criminal networks that operate in locations where children were detected for involvement in high levels of crime, including burglary and drugs for sale and supply.

Greentown study: Originally published in 2016, this research found that family and kinship networks were key to the longevity of network presence in Greentown.

Redtown study: The structure of the crime network was dependant on the type of crime being committed. The study reports evidence of parents passing on pro-criminal norms and coaching their children for offending.

Bluetown study: Identifies four area-based criminal networks in one geographical area. The first network identified was family-based and hierarchical in nature. The second and third networks were based around peer relationships and neighbourhood. A fourth network appeared to have a looser drugs-orientated and more fragile organisational structure.

National Prevalence Study: This is a report from a survey distributed to all Garda Juvenile Liaison Officers (JLOs) in Ireland. The key finding from this study was that JLOs estimated that a minority (1 in 8) of the children involved in the Diversion Programme fit the profile of the children who featured in the Greentown study, indicating indicates that an estimated 1,000 children across the State could be involved with a criminal networks.

The Minister also announced the commencement of a newly designed community intervention programme based on this University of Limerick research. This programme is being implemented on a pilot basis in two locations; one in Dublin and one in a provincial town. The purpose of these intervention programmes is to prevent children from entering crime and to identify pathways to support children out of crime. The community intervention programme is built on four core elements:

  1. Network disruption, (e.g, identify and target individuals involved in cultivating relationships with children for crime)    
  2. Improved community efficacy, (designing local activities to improve the ability of a community to take back control community spaces) 
  3. Improved pro-social opportunities (encourage or incentivise children involved in a criminal network to re-engage with school, training, or secure employment)
  4. Improved family functioning (improve parenting capacity/develop an intensive case work relationship with families where children are engaged with crime networks)

The pilots will be evaluated after 2 years, and will be a key influence on the development of the Department’s policies and interventions in the youth justice area.

For more information non the Greentown Project, and to read the Greentown, Bluetown, Redtown and National Prevalence Study reports, visit the Department of Justice website.

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