Three new police task forces are to be created "immediately" to bolster the fight against organized crime, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch announced on Monday, during a journalism conference in Eilat.
The new forces will join the five existing forces already in place, and will be tasked with targeting crime organizations on the economic front, battling money laundering, and gathering intelligence on crime outfits and mob bosses.
The task forces will be made up of specially trained officers from the central units of Israel Police districts, and will boost the number of police assigned to tackling crime syndicates.
Their creation will free up the resources of regional police districts and allow them to tackle local crimes like murders, thefts, arson attacks, and the use of explosives.
The Israel Police is using a "rank system" to take on several organized crime outfits, Aharonovitch said, adding that all known crime entities have been divided into ranks and assigned to various police forces to be tracked and disbanded.
"In this way, pinpoint operations will be carried out against all of the layers of organized crime," the minister said.
Aharonovitch said the practice of charging "protection money" from businesses has become a worrisome phenomenon which needs to be dealt with firmly in the coming year. In 2009, 1,194 extortion cases were opened by police, compared with the 974 cases opened in 2006.
"[The rise in figures] is mostly a result of our exposure, since there are not many who are willing to complain and testify against those criminal elements," he said.
Legislation to allow harsher sentencing and the issue of restraining orders against criminals who run protection rackets were some of measures being considered for 2010, Aharonovitch said.
The public security minister expressed concern over the glamorous image enjoyed by some senior crime barons, and slammed the media for what he said was its over-the-top and unnecessary coverage of every move made by underworld kingpins.
"Where did they eat? What did they drink? Who were they with? ...This is not informative and factual coverage, but an attempt to create a Hollywood movie to reel in the media consumer, thereby creating true glorification of murderers, thieves, and immoral criminals," he said.
More than 10 crime lords are behind bars, either serving out sentences or waiting for trials, Aharonovitch noted.