Organized crime won’t go away on its own

Although the Israel Police and the Public Security Ministry published data showing that there has been a decline in crime rates, this is not actually true.

Arrest [illustrative] 370 (photo credit: Nir Elias/Reuters)
Arrest [illustrative] 370
(photo credit: Nir Elias/Reuters)
A couple of weeks ago, two senior members of the Domrani organized crime family were assassinated. Although the Israel Police and the Public Security Ministry published data showing that there has been a decline in crime rates, this is not actually true.
All this data tells us is that the rate of reported criminal acts has fallen and that their effect on the economy has lessened. They don’t differentiate between break-ins to people’s homes or cars and the blood feud between leaders of the underworld. These incidents don’t just take the lives of dozens of organized crime members, but also of innocent people who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Neither the state nor the police force working in the state’s name have succeeded in significantly reducing crime. Organized crime families carry out large-scale criminal activity throughout the country – from protection rackets at markets and stores, to drug trafficking, prostitution, illegal construction carried out by contractors who owe money to criminals and gray market loan sharks.
The Israel Police has never successfully penetrated organized crime families and as a result, these families have become involved in all aspects of life, especially in local authorities where it is relatively easy to reach people with power and influence over real estate and commercial establishments.
Two bodies are responsible for dealing with organized crime: the Israel Police and the government.
The government has been neglecting the police for years. While the military has an outrageously large budget, the police barely receives enough to cover its salaries. As a result, the Israel Police has continuously lacked sufficient funds for training, police cars (that don’t spend most of their time at the garage), uniforms and even basic supplies.
The police budget has grown over the years and its staff has doubled in number. And yet, the numerous officers currently employed are not even close to being able to provide a real solution to crime. There are not enough policemen, not enough police cars, which means that at the end of the day there is little deterrence. The legal system does not provide protection for policemen even when they are carrying out their jobs in the best way possible. Policemen who’ve harmed criminals during chases or investigations later suffer from onerous investigations. The result is that in the field, many times policemen prefer to turn a blind eye rather than getting involved.
They know that in the end their commanders and the court system will not support them.
There are also a number of unsettled internal issues within the force. In addition to the terrible conditions, low wages, numerous shifts and lack of materials, there’s a problem in the way the police has dealt with organized crime throughout the years.
Only recently have the government and the police begun treating the mob assassinations as terrorist attacks on civilians. The significance is that the police have begun treating these attacks in the same way the Shin Bet deals with nationalist terrorism. The police has constructed intelligence systems – HUMINT (human intelligence) and SIGINT (signals intelligence) – and legal infrastructure that allows it to carry out investigations like the Shin Bet does.
As intelligence that is gathered needs to be admissible in court, the police fails to gather enough information to back up its cases.
This lack of deterrence and the fear of coming up against organized crime families make it difficult for undercover agents to penetrate major criminal organizations.
To overcome these issues, a dedicated police system needs to be established to deal with countrywide criminal terror. This system needs proper legal support and access to relevant intelligence and technological capabilities. The only way such a system would succeed is if undercover agents could successfully penetrate the crime organizations at a low level and make their way up to senior positions.
The only other alternative would be placing technological devices in proper locations.
To a certain extent, problems within the police are due to improper prioritization and poor management, but for the most part, the government and the Public Security Ministry are to blame.
Billions of shekels are channeled to the military instead of to the police; the courts do not protect policemen; and local authorities fear standing up to organized crime leaders. All of this makes it extremely difficult for the Israel Police to fulfill its obligations and at the same time allows organized crime to flourish and prosper.
The writer is a former brigadier-general who served as a division head in the Shin Bet (Israel Security agency).
Translated by Hannah Hochner.