Central district chief: Police ties with Arab community improved in past decade

Bruno Stein says it is rare to have openly-expressed desire by Arab communities for more policing in the Triangle region.

September 3, 2013 15:21
3 minute read.
Central District Commander Bruno Stein.

Central District Commander Bruno Stein 370. (photo credit: Ben Hartman)

The past 10 years have seen a significant change in the Arab sector’s cooperation and faith in the police, which officers see in the field and in public statements by Arab leaders, Central District Asst.- Ch. Bruno Stein said Tuesday.

“You see more people [in the Arab sector] turning to the police for trivial issues and more serious ones. This is something that was much rarer 10 years ago,” Stein said.

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Requests for more police posts in the Triangle – a collection of Arab villages in the northeast corner of the district – is evidence of a desire for more policing in the Arab sector, Stein added. Therefore, police are planning on opening a new post in the area of Kafr Kasim and Jaljulya in the Triangle, he said.

“We see them making these public calls to fight drugs and illegal firearms and this is something that requires that we as police provide them with these services,” he added.

Stein spoke to The Jerusalem Post from his office at the district headquarters in Ramle on Tuesday, just ahead of Rosh Hashana. Stein’s new office is back in his old stomping grounds, where he served as Ramle police chief from 2002-2003. He served the next two years as the head of Netanya police, also in the Central District, before being assigned to head the Eilat police and later, the Tzion subdistrict in Jerusalem from 2007 to 2011, when he was appointed head of the National Traffic Police. In May he was appointed head of the Central District, his first post as a district head.

The Central District is Israel’s most populous, covering a broad swath from the Netanya coast and the Alexander River in the north to Gadera in the south and east to the Green Line. The district is home to over 1.6 million people in 230 towns and 45 local authorities, many of which have historically been among Israel’s most crime-ridden, including Lod, Ramle, Netanya and the towns of the Triangle.

Stein, a 52-year-old father of three from Rehovot, has in the past few months dealt with a series of gangland hits in the district, including the murder of two men in July who were killed in a car bomb at the Yarkon junction, and a brazen drive-by shooting that took place outside a kindergarten in broad daylight in Petah Tikva earlier in the month.

“These are cases that stay at the head of our list of priorities until they are solved. Anything we consider a serious crime is something we stay with until the end.”

He praised his predecessor, Bentzi Sau, for a number of cases, including the arrest of over a dozen members of the Taiba-based Abdel-Kader crime family and a serial bank robber.

Stein was a subdistrict head in Jerusalem during a number of times of tension between police and haredi and Arab residents of the city, including the protests surrounding the Sheikh Jarrah movement. He said that the things he learned about building bridges with the Arab community is something he hopes to bring to his new post, especially when it comes to the issue of illegal firearms, which has long been a scourge of the Arab sector in Israel.

While illegal firearms have plagued the district for decades, a newer issue has drawn the attention of district police – underground marijuana grow labs hidden in suburban houses. This summer there have been a series of raids of such houses in the district, including in Rishon Lezion and in Ness Ziona. The grow rooms are built to meet the high demand for marijuana brought on by a drought in the local market, largely brought on by the construction of the border fence on the border with Egypt.

Drought or no drought, Stein said they’ll fight the phenomenon, and laughed off a query about if he supports legalization.

“Anything dealing with drugs is for us an all-out war. We’ll keep building intelligence on this front, drought or no drought.”

In terms of a separate war – that may or may not happen following an expected United States strike on Syria – he cautiously said that police “are ready to deal with any situation,” before wishing a Happy New Year to all the people of Israel.

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