CRIMINAL gangs are in control of "many streets" in the country's biggest cities with children as young as 15 recruited into organised crime, a government committee has been told.
The Oireachtas Justice Committee heard from Patricia Flynn of the Association for Criminal Justice Research and Development (ACJRD), who said gangs are targeting vulnerable individuals and instilling fear into communities.
"Children as young as 15 are either on the periphery of gangs or have already been recruited for drug dealing and even tiger kidnappings," she said.
A drug addiction and homelessness community worker told the Oireachtas Justice Committee that Dublin communities are living in fear of gangland criminals.
Dermot Gough from the Dublin North East Drugs Task Force likened the situation to RTE crime drama Love/Hate.
"Not only is there a huge stigma about being a rat … but also the repercussions for you and your family are huge. It's very difficult for the guards to address that."
Independent TD Finian McGrath said scared residents were approaching politicians with their worries.
He said one man who came to him lived beside a well-known criminal and felt he could not go to gardai for fear of being "burnt out".