Police: Bnei Brak has by far the highest rate of sexual offenses
Police begin meeting with local rabbis to encourage additional victims to come forward.
Police investigating suspicions that a sex predator is wandering about in Bnei Brak said Sunday that they believe there are more cases of sex-related crimes in that city than in any other locale in Israel.
"The number of sex offenses in the Bnei Brak area is higher than any other city by tens of percentage points, and it is clear to us that we do not know about many cases that are not even reported because of the well-known fact that in the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community, there is great reluctance about reporting such incidents," a senior police officer in the Tel Aviv District said.
The Dan Region police received reports of 10 sexual assaults of girls in recent months. Two cases involved rape; the rest were instances either of attempted rape or indecent assault. In all cases the girls, aged approximately 12, gave a similar description of their assailant, who they said wore the garb of a specific Haredi community, and used the same modus operandi in his assaults. The suspect followed his victims and then attacked them in the yard or the lobby of a residential building.
However, police are also exploring the possibility that more than one assailant is involved.
In recent months the police have been tightening their relations with rabbis in Bnei Brak as a way of countering the attacks. According to police sources, the cooperation has often been successful and the rabbis have encouraged parents to complain about sexual assaults perpetrated on their children.
"Contrary to the past there is greater trust in the police [among the Haredi community] and less shame in filing a complaint. We recognize these phenomena that occur occasionally, and recently there have been many publications in the city, which have warned children about sexual predators," a senior public figure from Bnei Brak told Haaretz Sunday.
"Now the approach tends to be inclined toward involving the police as soon as possible after we learn that the attack has taken place. More than ever there are reports in various places, especially in schools and in letters to the parents, warning against the phenomena that threaten the children," the local source added.
He explained that there are mediators whose role is to liaise between the families and the police.
However, police sources still say that "the number of complaints that are filed is far from being high," adding that they are aware that in reality, there are many more instances of sexual assault which police only learn about through their intelligence sources.
The information is often received from "messengers" who are members of the religious courts of individual rabbis, and who disseminate rumors, recommending that the police investigate them.
A week ago, a 33-year-old resident of Lod was arrested in Bnei Brak on suspicion of sexually assaulting a teenager who returned home late one night. The suspect, who has been indicted, followed the teen and her friend, and assaulted one of them. As they fled, he chased one of them and attacked her in the lobby of the building where she lived. Her father and brother heard her screams and came to her aid, and the assailant was arrested.
Police say that "this is a widespread phenomenon and children are harmed by it. The problem is that this is a closed community where it is not customary to report such cases. Thus sexual assailants, and other kinds of criminals, know they can operate without fear in Bnei Brak, and know that the chances that complaints will be filed against them is minimal."
Nonetheless, police stressed that "the community in Bnei Brak knows the situation a lot better than us."