One thousand children under the age of 17 are at constant risk of being exploited by criminal networks across the country.
The figure was estimated following a national survey of Garda juvenile-liaison officers.
It also followed study - carried out at the University of Limerick - into the links between children and crime gangs in a Garda sub-district outside Dublin.
The study found family and "kinship" connections were key to the long-running existence of a criminal network in the area, which has been anonymised in the study as 'Greentown'.
The local gangs were associated with "abnormally" high levels of crime carried out by children.
An analysis of the youth-crime statistics revealed most children who were detected for an offence committed only one or two crimes and they invariably moved away from criminal activity by the time they reached their late teens or early 20s.
But a small number of young people graduated to serious offending, such as selling drugs and burglaries.
The figures showed about 3pc of the children detected for offences were responsible for 50pc of all youth crime across the country.
After the completion of the initial phase of the Greentown project, it was decided similar studies should be carried out in Bluetown (a Dublin-based area) and Redtown (in another provincial urban district) and the results of those studies are due to be published shortly.
Many of the children are from economically poor and challenging backgrounds and are "generally hidden from public view in backwater housing estates", the Greentown study found.
The author of the Greentown report is Dr Sean Redmond, a civil servant on assignment to the University of Limerick.
This is the first scientific evidence of children's involvement in criminal networks in Ireland and it details the issues that influence the young to become involved in crime and the "often coercive" means used by the gang 'godfathers' to keep them in the net.
In Greentown, the study found, the network acted as a draw for children to access alcohol, drugs, a party lifestyle, revenue, power and - most of all - recognition and social capital.
The main aim of the programme is to reduce the attractions of organised crime to children.
Evidence compiled from the projects is being used to create community intervention to protect children and help those already embedded in a gang to get out.
The programme was designed with the help of leading international expertise in the area of organised crime and national experts in youth justice, child welfare and community development.
An intervention programme for children involved in crime networks in two locations will be trialled starting before the end of the year.
The trials are being financed from the Government's dormant accounts funds and a total of €4.2m has been allocated over three years with €1.42m of that available in the current year.