The world of Israeli organized crime is becoming defined more and more by
unsophisticated, small local gangs and not the larger organizations familiar to
the public and the media, a senior police official said Tuesday.
official, a senior officer in the police’s intelligence branch, said that there
are only between eight and 15 groups in Israel that fit the definition of a
criminal organization. Many of the people the public or press speak of as
mobsters are basically low-level gang leaders running localized criminal
The official said that part of the change is the result of a
series of killings and arrests of organized crime leaders and the decision by
many of the larger figures to take their business abroad.
As he put it,
the move towards smaller gangs is something that has increased in each of the
past few years, as former big fish in the criminal world like Yaakov Alperon was
killed, or leaders like the Abergil brothers and Ze’ev Rosenstein and others
have found themselves behind bars. With the larger targets dead or locked up,
many organizations have fractured and changed their alliances, with captains and
soldiers starting their own smaller gangs that have fluid and ever-changing
“We should see in 2014 more and more gangs as opposed to
organizations. Whenever we see more pressure on the organizations the
gangs raise their heads and begin to exert themselves more and more,” the
He then began to describe how police characterize a
criminal organization, saying that they have to meet a certain number of
criteria, including a hierarchy, a certain level of funding and planning, in
addition to a clear area of influence.
In addition, they typically will
have an operations, economic and leadership branch. In terms of numbers, he said
they usually have a hierarchy of around 20 to 40 members, with a high-number of
associates, hangers-on and wannabes who do their work but aren’t part of the
“I don’t want to say how many criminal
organizations there are in Israel because the number can change from one day to
the next. An organization that’s strong today can fall apart tomorrow and the
issue of loyalty isn’t sacred. At the end of the day it’s purely about interests
– these are people who want to make money.”
That said, he added that in
the Arab sector, the situation is less fluid. The crews are clan and
family-based, with alliances forged in blood.
He added that the field has
become hazier as a growing number of Israeli gangsters have moved their
operations abroad. He spoke about the popularity of Morocco as a base for
Israeli mobsters, but also South America, South Africa, and eastern European
countries like Serbia and Romania, the latter being a known field of operation
for the Moseley brothers organization.
“They always try to assure us that
they’re only operating in those countries and not touching things in Israel, but
we don’t believe them,” he said.
Speaking with the official, the
impression was that despite the public and political uproar over recent
organized crime violence, police aren’t overly impressed by the criminals’
methods or capabilities. They view their own capabilities as far superior, yet
bound by a series of legal limitations that level the playing field. The
criminals, conversely, use fairly simple, easy methods to wreak havoc, and are
aided by having very clear goals and no legal limitations on their
“Most of the work they have to do isn’t that sophisticated, it’s
putting a GPS on someone’s car, taking a block of explosives and hooking up a
They simply don’t need to do as much as we do,” he said,
adding “typically when there’s a big incident like in Ashkelon we know within 20
minutes who’s responsible, but we need evidence to do something.”
past police officials under the spotlight, he seemed a bit flustered by the
public criticism, and curious about why there isn’t more focus on the successes
He mentioned in particular several cases, including the
convictions of members of the Zagari crime family from the South, the Megidish
family from Ashdod and the Abdel-Kader family from Taiba.
the official, since 2010 there has been a continued decline in the economic
viability of criminal organizations, who he said “are not in the same shape they
used to be.”
He said they no longer feel as comfortable going straight to
legitimate businesses and extorting money from them and that they are haunted by
the fear that they are surrounded by police informants.
The picture was
at times optimistic – as he put it larger organizations are on the run or
lowering their profile.
At the same time, the entire public can see the
continued struggle for money and power in the underworld play out in more and
more bodies on the streets of Israeli cities, something that the official did
not say he expected to end anytime soon.
According to police figures, in
2012- 2013, there were over 200 indictments issued against people suspected of
being involved in organized crime in Israel.