BOYS as young as 12 have been questioned by gardaí after Dundalk store owners reported how a gang of preteens went around town centre shops terrorising customers and workers.
Four youths, aged between 12 and 13, were questioned at Dundalk Garda station on Monday evening following complaints from a number of shop owners in the town centre that a gang, wearing hoodies and with their faces covered, had been going into stores demanding money, threatening staff and trying to get at the tills.
A spokesman for Dundalk Garda Station confirmed that a number of complaints had been received from store owners about the gang, and following analysis of CCTV and other inquiries, four boys were brought to the station on Monday for questioning. The spokesman said: 'Maybe they thought this was a bit of a laugh, but it is very serious. Customers and shop workers were frightened by what happened and a number of stores were targeted, though very little was actually stolen.
'The fact they had hoods on and their faces covered made it all the more threatening'.
Gardaí have not charged anyone in connection with the incidents, which took place the week before last as the Christmas shopping season started.
Officers have a number of options about where the investigation goes next.
The spokespman said: 'There's no doubt that we will be looking at these lads and finding out whether they have been in trouble before. We will, of course, involve the station's juvenile liaison officer in the process and it will ultimately be up to the superintendent to decide what happens next.
'The fact that these lads are so young is a big factor in the way things will develop'.
Options include cautions, youth diversion programmes, sending a file to the DPP and waiting to see if the director decides if any charges are to be brought before the courts.