Police to shift focus from terror to crime

Police Chief David Cohen presents his plan for 2008; outlines the structure of the nascent "Israeli FBI."

david cohen 224.88 (photo credit: Israel Police)
david cohen 224.88
(photo credit: Israel Police)
Israel Police Insp.-Gen. David Cohen laid out his plans for 2008 Sunday, emphasizing that the role of the Israel Police would be redirected toward fighting crime rather than on responding to terror. "In 2007-2008, we will not return to the security situation of 2001-2002," said Cohen, explaining the basic understanding underlying his realignment of the police ranks. In a conversation at police headquarters, Cohen outlined the structure of the nascent "Israeli FBI" set to be inaugurated on Tuesday, clarifying that - despite earlier reports to the contrary - the entire unit, under the command of newly-minted Cmdr. Yoav Segelovich, will be subordinate to Intelligence and Investigations Division Cmdr. Yochanan Danino. Within the unit, six 13-member task forces, each one consisting of three prosecutors, two representatives of the Israel Tax Authority and eight police officers, will each be assigned to a specific crime organization, in an effort to address the criminal operation in a holistic manner. The new unit will also take on public corruption cases, drawing on what Cohen hopes will be in coming years a deeper pool of white-collar professionals joining the unit's ranks, including accountants and attorneys. The unit's muscle, as previously reported, will come from the "Gideons" - the elite Unit 36 which heretofore was responsible for difficult anti-terror operations in the Jerusalem District. The unit has been receiving training in combating organized crime, but will be maintained as a flexible force that can fight crime families and then, depending on the security situation, take on terror and provide security in the capital city. One of the operational changes will be a renewed focus on the war on drugs, with two new units - Yagal along the Lebanese border and Magen along the Arava Valley Jordanian border - established within already existing central investigative units to stem the tide of narcotics smuggled across the borders. "In the last five years, particularly with the rise of organized crime activity, the Israel Police has relatively neglected the response to drug trafficking," said Cohen, adding that in recent years, there have been few to no major drug busts on a national level. In addition, the Israel Police's Immigration Authority will also undergo a switch, with the unit redirected to work on a platform of intelligence and investigation rather than operations, focusing on the trafficking of women and forged identity documentation such as identity cards and passports, rather than rounding up illegal foreign workers. Beyond the bells and whistles of new crack units, Cohen also emphasized the importance attached in the new strategy to putting more "boots on the ground." Some police stations will be "given" as many as 70 new police officers to beef up street presence in problem precincts. The Tel Aviv, Northern and Central districts, viewed to be particularly problematic, will gain the lion's share of the 1000 new recruits expected to be enlisted between February and December 2008. "In 2008, citizens, both law-abiding and non-law-abiding, will find themselves meeting a different police force," said Cohen. "It will be a much more determined, tougher police force who will know when to take of their gloves and fight."