Organized crime organizations have been trying to form connections with local
authority leaders in recent years, the head of the police’s Investigations and
Intelligence Branch said on Wednesday.
“We have seen very early attempts
by organized crime figures to connect with local authority leaders, and in each
case we acted immediately because this is a very sensitive issue that poses a
serious threat to our democracy,” Asst.-Ch.
Menahem Yitzhaki told the
Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee.
chairwoman, Miri Regev, called the meeting following a car bombing in Ashkelon
last Thursday afternoon that killed one member of the Domrani crime family and
badly wounded another. The meeting was meant to take a look at organized crime
in Israel and for police to give answers about the scope of the
Yitzhaki also spoke publicly for the first time of a new
investigative unit whose sole purpose is to investigate bombs found by police.
The unit, which was founded two months ago, has examined hundreds of grenades,
bombs and other explosive devices to determine to whom they belong, how they
were made or stolen, and what purpose they were used for.
not give exact details about the number of crime organizations or their names,
saying it was something best kept behind closed doors. He added that there was a
problem with the terminology.
“These aren’t really organizations with a
clear hierarchy or the way people understand organizations. Sometimes it’s a
small gang or group of people.
Sometimes they’ll change alliances back
and forth, it’s all very dynamic. I don’t think that every group of four or five
guys who join together is an organization.
Also, they aren’t appointed
officially by some outside body and they don’t operate by the rules that
civilians understand,” he said.
Police gauge the groups based on their
abilities and there are really only a few major organizations, and even those
don’t always stay united, their power ebbs and flows as they take hits or suffer
arrests, Yitzhaki said.
He added that police knew of about 300 organized
crime figures who were behind bars in Israel, plus a certain number who moved
abroad and operate their interests from foreign countries.
items worth some NIS 240 million from crime figures in Israel in the past year,
An intelligence officer who addressed the committee said that by
his estimate there were around 10 groups that could fit the definition of an
organized crime family.
Yitzhaki said that while police knew how serious
the issue was for the public, for them it was a matter of priorities and having
to shift resources from organized crime to fight other threats and vice versa,
using the example of a recent operation about criminals in Tel Aviv who
repeatedly robbed elderly people.
Though he did not adopt a combative
tone in the meeting, Yitzhaki did say that while the bombing in Ashkelon made
waves in the press, police on regularly managed to stop underworld murders
before they happened, and that those arrests rarely made the news.
this Regev asked, “So how’d you miss the car bomb?” Yitzhaki answered, “I would
like to be able to stop 100 percent of these incidents, but I don’t think any
other organization is expected to have 100 percent success.”
asked Yitzhaki to describe police efforts to fight firearms crime. He said it
was an ongoing struggle to stop firearms from getting to the street, and that
most get there after being stolen from homes or the army, or being smuggled into
MK Masud Gnaim asked police to talk about the scourge of
organized crime and underworld hits in the Arab sector, saying that in towns
such as Taibe and Kalansuwa, “it’s like Chicago already, we no longer have any
sense of security at all.”
He added, “Don’t force people to take the law
into their own hands.”
In the Arab sector, one saw the influence of
Jewish crime groups and their cooperation with local crime gangs, Gnaim
Regev quipped, “In the crime field we see great coexistence and
cooperation between Jews and Arabs.”
MK David Tzur, a former head of the
Tel Aviv Police, said officers needed to increase their efforts against
organized crime and called on the court system to find ways to avoid the plea
bargains that so often see known mafia figures receiving light
Police had lost their deterrence against organized crime and
these groups were now flexing their muscles, Tzur said.