Policing Authority Chairman Bob Collins has said some younger people have been 'lured' into crime due to coronavirus restrictions.
He also said the relationship some people have with the force has been 'frayed' because of the restrictions.
He was speaking as the authority launched a public consultation for policing priorities in the coming year.
But he told The Hard Shoulder young people are particularly vulnerable.
"For very many people the Gardaí are the living manifestation of the State, and the State has introduced these restrictions.
"That can sometimes fray those relationships.
"I think the young people, who were particularly restricted, for some they may not have had the space or they may not have felt entirely safe to be at home all the time.
"They spent more time outside: they became prey to people who wanted to lure them into inappropriate behaviour, into criminal activity, into drugs.
"Both as messengers, as mules, as users which can have very long-term consequences.
"There are serious issues that arise from that that will be with us, probably, for longer than the restrictions will be".
'Difficult to escape'
He said these Gardaí, and society as a whole, will have to respond to this.
"I think there's a serious issue there for young people, children some of them, who have been lured into this activity with inducements and enticements - and then find themselves caught in circumstances from which it's difficult to escape.
"And their families can similarly be dragged in their wake.
"And it's not just the Gardaí, but society generally will have to find ways of responding to that and having regard to the future welfare of those children, those young people".
On the public consultation for policing priorities, he explained: "What we're trying to do is hear a new range of voices giving their views in relation to the priorities that the Gardaí should have for their work in the coming year.
"We also this year want to open up that a little bit more to hear the views of people in the community.
"What it allows people to do is express their view as to where they think the balance of priority should lie.
"Not everything can be a priority, so therefore people will have to make choices, and some of them will be difficult enough choices to make.
"But it's a very straight forward thing to do, and it would be very, very useful to us to hear those voices as one of the inputs that we will then take into account in setting the priorities for next year".
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