(photo credit: )
Government beneficence on the eve of elections never ceases to amaze. After years of severely depleting the police of both manpower and resources, the cabinet issues glad tidings: 1,500 inexperienced, nonprofessional IDF conscripts, still in their teens, will pad police ranks. The police could surely use reinforcements, but it is hardly clear that they should come from the IDF, or that throwing more people at the problem will make a dent in alarming crime statistics.
The rise in crime has inspired another recent announcement: The police's defunct Etgar Unit is to be revived. It was initially set up to combat rampant auto thefts and associated felonies. Two years ago, for budgetary constraints, the unit was dismantled.
The official reason was that it was no longer essential, as vehicle larceny had decreased. In large part, of course, that was Etgar's doing. Once the cat was away, however, the mice resumed play unhindered. Now Etgar is to be reintroduced and the presumed expectation is that the voters will be duly impressed with officialdom's concern for their welfare.
Unfortunately these token gestures - marketed as bold moves to improve citizens' safety - are too little and quite late against the no longer deniable background of burgeoning organized crime.
Not too many years ago it was still possible for law enforcement authorities to dismiss the existence of hierarchical crime networks. This is no longer the case. Police complacency, coupled with scarce resources and signs of internal corruption, have allowed mob "families" to flourish and operate in the most impudent cold-blooded manner.
The plight of the residents of one Netanya apartment complex encapsulates such utter lawlessness. Last month their building was targeted by a LAU rocket, no less, fired to assassinate one of their neighbors - Asi Abutbul - alleged by the police to be a leading gang syndicate kingpin. The rocket barely missed the house and an untold number of lives were thus miraculously spared. Abutbul's neighbors nonetheless fear they might not be as fortunate next time.
Their notorious neighbor, meanwhile, has stationed five burly bodyguards in the lobby. They inspect anyone who enters, including the residents, who must open their bags, submit to sometimes invasive searches, be subjected to abuse and suffer rowdiness, harassment and intimidation. In their despair they went to the police. The guards were detained and charged with trespassing. However, the local Magistrate's Court released the five, arguing they had an apartment-owner's permission to loiter about.
The police will appeal but, for now, Abutbul has won the day. Legalistic technicalities were preferred to the obvious interests of frightened apartment dwellers. When the police at last responded to outright cries for help from law-abiding individuals, the courts let them down. No wonder felons often thumb their noses at the law enforcement authorities.
The recent spate of larcenies of metals of all sorts - from bronze letters on tombstones to statues in parks, signposts and highway safety barriers - is another example of the growing confidence of outlaws.
The curious insinuations emanating from the hearings on the brothers Perinian, meanwhile, underscore unease about possible police collusion with underworld elements. The brothers allegedly hired a cop to carry out contract hits for them and then tried to terminate him as well. The prosecution failed to strike a plea bargain with the "bad apple," who finally fled abroad only to be murdered in Mexico. The brothers allegedly continued their operations while hobnobbing with police higher-ups, although social contacts with criminals are strictly taboo for officers.
A few months ago in a separate probe, the Police Investigative Unit questioned two senior commanders on suspicions of bribery.
Despite all the above, we are repeatedly assured that, compared to counterparts overseas, our police force is relatively clean. This is small cause for comfort.
Lenient courts, a tarnished police image and reduced resources all contribute to the crime spiral. This is no time to try to dazzle us with a purported pre-election onslaught on mobsters. Abutbul's hapless neighbors are the touchstone.