Crime: And the beat goes on...

‘The Jerusalem Post’ joins police officers on a typical night patrol in Rishon Lezion as they deal with a gangland shooting, drunken youths.

Police 311 (photo credit: YAAKOV LAPPIN)
Police 311
(photo credit: YAAKOV LAPPIN)
Shootings, assaults and drunken youths are just some of the incidents dealt with by police officers on patrol in Rishon Lezion on a typical Thursday night.
The Jerusalem Post joined FSM Daniel Spector, his partner F.- Sgt. Sigal Randel and Israel Police spokesman Ch.-Supt. Micky Rosenfeld for a highly eventful – and at times, distressing – patrol which cast a sobering light on the state of violent crime.
Before setting out from Rishon’s newly constructed police station, dozens of police officers, border policemen and plainclothes detectives gathered for a briefing by Ch.-Supt. Mevurah Avraham, who would be overseeing the shift from the station.
“We’ve had two terror attacks in two days,” Avraham noted, referring to the recent Hamas shootings in the West Bank. “Some Palestinian factions are seeking to sabotage talks between the prime minister and Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas]. We need to be extremely vigilant. Every report of a suspicious person or item must be taken seriously.
This is also the holiday season, and there’s always someone who wishes to spoil the holidays.”
Moving on to civilian crime, Avraham said, “We have three addresses that have been threatened... Three patrol cars must answer any call from those homes.”
The officers were then addressed by station head Dep.-Cmdr. Alon Aryeh. “The new alcohol law is in effect, and we must be familiar with it.”
Under recently passed legislation, police can confiscate alcoholic beverages from individuals drinking in public.
“If you see that drinkers will stop consuming alcohol in public after the law is explained to them, try talking to them first,” Aryeh added. “Our job is not to harass civilians. Let people party and enjoy themselves, so long as they keep to the law.”
At 10 p.m., the Post joined Spector – who would command the patrol units from the ground – Randel and Rosenfeld in the police car as it began its all-night shift.
A computer screen in the Skoda patrol car displayed a map which showed the positions of all other units, and listed incidents sent by the police dispatcher from the station.
Half an hour later, the first major incident flashed on the screen.
“SHOTS FIRED; gunman has escaped,” the report said.
“Injuries reported.” Spector activated the siren and raced toward the scene of the shooting, in the heart of a residential neighborhood in west Rishon Lezion.
As the car slowed to a halt, the officers jumped out. A 20- year-old man lay screaming in agony in the passenger seat of his black Honda, clutching his leg. Minutes earlier, two masked men had approached him as he started his car, opened the car door and fired several rounds into his leg, according to eyewitnesses.
“My leg!” the man shouted, as blood poured out of several bullet wounds. He was placed on a stretcher by paramedics, taken into a waiting ambulance and rushed to the hospital for surgery to remove the bullets.
Several police cars arrived on the scene and officers cordoned off the area. Police took statements from witnesses, some of whom were visibly shocked by the shooting.
Meanwhile, forensic officers arrived and began placing yellow markers around the vehicle.
They carefully collected shell casings fired from a 9 mm.handgun. Plainclothes detectives also arrived and began to ascertain the identity of the suspects.
Police believe the shooting was part of a dispute between criminals. It appeared as if the gunman was seeking to issue a very grim warning, rather than kill the man.
Two days later, police arrested a man in Rishon Lezion on suspicion of carrying out the shooting.
Meanwhile an unrelated incident began to unfold. Senior municipal employees, who work closely with law enforcement, also arrived at the shooting scene. They had received an alarming message from Mayor Dov Tzur. A man had just sent him a text message threatening to commit suicide.
The man was desperate because he could not find a job due his criminal record.
A municipal official made phone contact with the man.
“I will help you find a job.
Come to the municipality on Sunday in the morning. But right now, you need to tell me where you are,” he said.
The negotiations paid off, and the man told the official he was standing in a field in the eastern part of the city.
Spector and his partner headed over to his location, together with another patrol car.
“He’s known to us from past offenses. He did time and he’s been in and out of prison,” Spector said on the way. The police cars located the individual – a large man in his 30s, dressed in black.
Spector offered him a cigarette and began to calm him down. Eventually, he accepted a ride home.
“One thing leads to another – you never know what’s going to happen next,” Rosenfeld said after the incident ended.
At 2 a.m., we joined a police checkpoint on the city’s main street, Rehov Herzl, where a young man had been pulled over. “He’s a kingpin in a criminal organization,” Spector said. Plainclothes detectives were called to the scene, and searched the man’s vehicle. No illegal substances were found, and he was permitted to drive on.
At 2:30 a.m, Spector was called to the scene of a domestic incident.
A man who owed alimony payments to his ex-wife had been evading his obligations, and a court order was issued ordering him to either pay his debt or face imprisonment.
But the order can only be issued to the man on sight by police. His ex-wife contacted the police to say that she saw him outside of his home.
Incidents of this type blur the line between police and social services, as officers find themselves dealing with dysfunctional and, at at times, violent families.
“We’ve been here many times in the past,” Spector said.
The home has multiple entrances, and the man has cunningly evaded police on several occasions. “We once surrounded the place, but he still managed to escape,” Spector added.
Two heavily built men, identified as the man’s brothers, came outside wearing only their boxer shorts. They began shouting at police.
“Why are you here? You’re waking up the whole family,” one shouted. A woman in a bra and underpants joined the brothers, and screamed at police. “That’s his sister,” Spector said.
“He’s not here! What do you want from us?” the woman hollered. After being shouted at for several minutes, the police decided to leave.
The patrol car heads towards the city’s beach promenade, where dozens of drunken youths could been seen emerging from nearby bars and clubs and congregating in the parking lot. The atmosphere was unpleasant, but no crimes were committed, and the patrol continued.
In between the incidents, the officers stopped off outside a bakery for a midnight snack. Rendal and Spector lit one of many cigarettes that night. “You’re going to finish a pack in a single night,” Rosenfeld, the only nonsmoker among us, said. “It’s always like this on the shifts,” Randel said, shrugging her shoulders. “During the day I smoked just two cigarettes.”
At 2:50 a.m., officers spotted a moped drive past them at high speed. The vehicle wobbled on the road – a telltale sign of drink driving. Spector activated his siren and pulled over the driver.
Randel typed his license plate number into the machine, and immediately received a readout of several driving offenses committed by the driver in the past.
The man, in his mid-20s, agreed to take a breathalyzer test, but failed to fully blow into the machine, a common evasive tactic, according to the officers. “Blow into the machine properly, or we will consider this a refusal to be tested,” officers told him. After a few minutes of arguing, the driver finally blew into the contraption – and failed the test.
He was taken to the police station for a full test, but this time managed to pass. He had apparently been just over the limit, and his stalling tactics gave his liver enough time to remove the alcohol from his body.
Meanwhile, the officers resumed their patrol. Spector’s colleague came on the radio.
“The gunshot victim from earlier tonight cannot be questioned now. He has just had surgery and can’t speak,” he said.
A few minutes later, a domestic violence report flashed on the screen. “It’s a woman’s expartner.
He’s threatening to beat her and refuses to stop harassing her,” it said.
Police were aware of the case, and Spector produced a photograph of the suspect.
The officers drove around her home searching for the suspect, but he managed to escape.
The patrol car then drove through the tough Ramat Eliahu neighborhood. On street corners, youths with shaven heads and large necklaces sat around, smoking. One youth shouted provocatively at police. Spector stopped the car and rolled down his window.
“What’s your name?” he asked. The teenager provided his name, and continued to smile. “I know that family,” Spector said as he drove away.
“His father is behind bars.”
Many of the hardened young faces which stared aggressively at the car as it drove through the neighborhood were known to the officers from past criminal offenses.
THE COMPUTER screen notified officers of a new assault incident.
Officers on the scene provided further details to Spector over the radio: “We have a report of two youths who were leaning on a car. When the owner asked them to stop leaning on his vehicle, they punched him in the face and threatened him with a knife.” Spector assigned a number of units to search for the suspects.
Meanwhile, the computer screen showed that the neighboring police station in Rehovot was dealing with a stabbing outside of a pub.
The screen then flashed a new incident; three youths had punched a taxi driver after a dispute over the cab fare and fled on foot. “The cab driver said the suspects were drunk, and split up after running away,” an officer reported on the police radio.
Spector and Randel combed the area searching for the suspects.
When the sun sets again the following evening, Rishon Lezion’s police officers will begin another night shift patrolling the city’s streets, never knowing where the next incident may lead.