Yitzhak and Meir Abergil 248.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
A serious police effort is under way to stamp out organized crime, and for the first time in years, mob bosses and their soldiers are on the defensive.
Fifteen out of the 16 recognized mob heads are in custody, according to police, and efforts are now being made by police units like the Lahav 433 anti-organized crime unit to target lower-level operatives within the organizations.
Organized crime is international, and the close cooperation between US and Israeli authorities in tackling drug smuggling networks run by Israeli mobsters should be commended. Using undercover operations, wiretapping, and employing a zero-tolerance policy of arresting and indicting underworld figures for minor offenses, Israeli law enforcement has proven that it is capable of tackling organized crime in the country.
The effort is being joined by judges, who are casting away the practice of light sentencing and who have begun handing down heavy sentences against mob bosses. State prosecutors have begun to play their part in the combined effort as well.
It is, however, too early to declare victory, and underworld kingpins in jail are being replaced by younger family members and associates keen to take over the "business." Some of the incarcerated bosses continue to run operations from behind bars by sending coded messages to their hundreds of soldiers in the outside world.
In addition, a number of components are still missing in the struggle against organized crime, such as a witness protection program to enable state witnesses to take the stand without fear, and a fully operational financial enforcement body that can monitor suspected economic offenses.
It was, after all, an indictment on income tax evasion that helped put the infamous US gangster Al Capone behind bars.
There is good reason to believe that such gaps in the fence will soon be mended. Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch has vowed that a witness protection program will be in place within a year, while the Finance Ministry has set up a body to aid police efforts to monitor the financial activities of crime organizations - thereby bypassing the Tax Authority, which has refused to target crime figures without receiving additional hazard pay.
As State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss noted in a May report, a "structured economic attack" on crime organizations through a targeting of their assets is a requirement for waging a successful war on crime, enabling the police to improve on their impressive record in this field.