Police know the people responsible for most of the recent underworld bombings in the country, but do not have the evidence or legal tools to carry out arrests that will hold up in court, Dep.- Ch. Gadi Siso, head of the Lod-based Serious and International Crime Unit, said on Tuesday.
“We have the intelligence on who these people are, but we’re not in the business of going and carrying out arrests of people who will just be released a few days later,” he said, speaking at a panel discussion on “The celebrities of the underworld” at Kiryat Ono Academic College. The panel discussion focused on how organized crime figures have become celebrities and household names in recent years.
Like other senior police officers and politicians of late, Siso said police lack the legal tools available to the army and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) in the fight against terrorism, in that they cannot arrest people without charge only based on intelligence.
Siso pointed a finger at the media coverage of the recent wave of mob killings – including more than a dozen car bombs and nearly two dozen killings – saying that there were more underworld murders last year and that he “doesn’t feel unsafe on the streets of Israel.”
He made a point of mentioning that out of 114 murders in Israel in 2013, only 10 percent were linked to organized crime.
Much of the panel discussion dealt with the issue of the media’s role in – according to critics – turning Israeli criminals into celebrities and glorifying them.
“Today they call everyone an organized crime figure with an organization. Back in our day, some thug got arrested for a crime, he was just that, a hoodlum. Now, they all think they’ll become the head of an organization or something,” longtime crime reporter Buki Naeh, said.
Siso said that the media bear responsibility for the public’s sense of insecurity, and for the way small-time criminals are often portrayed as sophisticated mafiosos.
“If you look at most of the bombs recently, they weren’t carried out by criminal organizations, rather by individual criminals trying to settle accounts,” he said.
Hours before Siso spoke, an unidentified assailant threw a fragmentation grenade at a store at the Petah Tikva shuk, wounding five people in what police said was part of a business dispute.