The crime prevention council, Brå, has, on behalf of the government, studied how children and young people are involved in criminal networks.
The study is based, among other things, on around 30 interviews with people who themselves are or have been involved in criminal networks. The results show the conditions of the children and young people in terms of their entry into the criminal networks, the crime, relationships with the elderly and opportunities to leave the networks.
One result of the study is that the children themselves distinguish between criminal youth gangs and criminal networks – and that people often start their criminal career in a gang and then move on to an organized network.
– This is often done by taking an offer from an elderly person in a criminal network. Our view is that the access processes to the networks have changed, linked to changes in the drug market, says Linda Lindgren, team leader for field social workers, Västerås city.
16-year-olds recruit 12-year-olds
Often it is boys aged 16 who recruit those aged 12. The older teenagers are often at the bottom of the gang hierarchy and need run boys to take a step up in their criminal career themselves.
– Why children? Yes, it is seen as cheap labour, says Linda Lindgren.
The study describes networks with leadership figures aged 35 at the top, with younger men in descending ranks who in turn have children below them.
Revolts and rebellions
The younger ones receive assignments from the older ones, mainly in drug trafficking, but also when it comes to acts of violence, weapons handling and fraud. It is often about assignments from the top that go through several levels, before they can finally land on twelve-year-old children.
A shooting is seen as extra valuable.
– This means that you can make a lightning career in this structure, says Katharina Thollin, project manager at Brå.
For example, younger people can also be assigned to take on the crimes of older people. It is called “busting” and is seen as a way to climb the networks. Another way to climb is to carry out “revolt”.
– Younger people can join together and take revenge on the older people. If, for example, they have humiliated them at a young age. It could be about executing them and taking over their assignments, says Linda Lindgren.