A new report on criminal gangs in Dublin's south inner city has found that children as young as 10 or 11 are being groomed for the drugs trade.
The research - carried out by Dr Johnny Connolly of the Centre for Crime, Justice and Victim Studies at the University of Limerick - looks at criminal networks in areas between the Liberties and Walkinstown.
It shows a small number of people - estimated at under 2% of people aged between 12 and 40 - are involved in crime and anti-social behaviour.
However, it warns the impact is often "corrosive and damaging" on the local communities.
It says there are two main criminal networks in Dublin South Central, with a 'loose hierarchical structure'.
The top players are said to be rarely directly connected with criminal activity, while 'middle-men' - said to be mostly young men who often use drugs themselves - work the streets and carry out jobs.
The report found that children as young as 10 or 11 - many of whom are still in primary school - are groomed by the gangs to be runners and carriers, and are considered to be both 'expendable' and 'plentiful'.
In the wake of the findings, the researchers and Community Action Network are now calling for a number of measures to be put in place.
The proposed measures include specific interventions for children before they are groomed, and an 'intensive' street level outreach model to target young people involved in the drugs trade.
Author of the research, Dr Johnny Connolly, said the actions of a few people have a large impact on the entire community.
He explained: "People are not willing to report... they're not willing to engage.
"Sometimes it's because of fear, sometimes it's because they just don't believe there's any point - so that leads to a normalisation of this type of behaviour, which is extremely problematic."
He added: "Less than 2% of the population aged from 12 to 40 are engaged in these networks, so it is not a huge figure.
"It's not saying that a small number of people cannot create a lot of problems, particularly in terms of prolific offending... but it is a manageable issue, in that the vast majority of people are not engaged."