THE State is targeting children as young as two years old in some of the country's most deprived estates in a desperate bid to prevent them from becoming future gangsters.
The Limerick Regeneration Agencies are working with about 90 families across two suburbs to prevent young children from taking a criminal path in their formative years.
The state bodies -- established by government order in 2007 -- are providing funding to community organisations in the Southill and Moyross areas in their bid to assist families who are not engaging with support services.
It is estimated up to 35 families in Moyross and 50 in Southill are being targeted by the community groups.
This is because many of these families who need the most assistance refuse to engage with social workers or officials from the Health Service Executive.
Instead, state funding is provided to community groups, which then try to direct families to support services they require.
"There are some awful problems out there," Limerick Regeneration chief executive Brendan Kenny told the Irish Independent.
"This can be very difficult -- families may refuse help and there are issues with children going into care. We have to go after the kids before they even go to primary school.
"Early intervention is important. Otherwise you could be talking about them becoming the gangsters of the future. If we do not work at this, when they go to school, they can influence others and so forth."
In the majority of cases -- but not all -- the families and children targeted come from "difficult backgrounds".
Those involved in the unique project say the families or children are not involved in criminality but may be living in very deprived circumstances.
Specifically funded community organisations are working with families who find themselves in extreme or difficult circumstances and have refused assistance from state agencies.
These include the Moyross Community Companions Project and the Family Support Outreach Service in Southill.
No figures of how much has been invested were available last night.
Mr Kenny insisted the aid was a vital tool in the fight to prevent future generations getting sucked into the seemingly endless cycle of gang violence.
"Ultimately, if crime is going around them, they are much more vulnerable than other kids," Mr Kenny said.
He said children as young as two and three years old who were caught up in crime at an early stage would find it hard to escape from this life.
"That's where the real intervention is needed. Even in many cases, before the child is born at all, if we can get the parents themselves interacting with the agencies. We want to work with these families and kids before the trouble starts," Mr Kenny added.
"What we are trying to do is get the state agencies to be more intensive in their services; sometimes they are not reaching those most in need."