Cops Worried by New Generation of Trigger-happy Gangsters

Police say underworld successors of Ze'ev Rosenstein, Assi Abutbul and Amir Mulner respect no one.

Police are concerned that a new generation of criminals is arising who obey no "code of honor" of the type that prevailed in traditional underworld families, but who instead are much more likely to immediately resolve disputes using violence and murder.

The shooting deaths of Avi David, 29, in Bat Yam on Sunday, and of Shai Dabul, 35, in Holon last Wednesday, are examples of what police say are crimes being committed by an emerging breed of criminals who are much quicker on the trigger and respect no authority.

Yitzhak Abergil - Tess Scheflan - 11102011
Tess Scheflan

"There's no more 'arbitration,' and there's no one who controls these young people," said a police investigator at the shopping center in Holon where Dabul was gunned down last week. "They do what they want. Every little s**t takes a pistol and does what he wants."

What worries police even more than the spate of killings is the brazenness the attackers have been exhibiting. To kill Avi David in Bat Yam, the attacker pulled up to a local restaurant on a motorcycle and although there were dozens of people nearby, the killer didn't hesitate to pump several shots into David's head and speed off.

Likewise, Dabul was gunned down only meters from a pizza shop where numerous families were having lunch.

Police say that young hothead criminals rejecting the authority of their elders was a phenomenon they had already begun to see in the Arab community. If in the past a respected sheikh or imam could be counted on to resolve disputes between clans or neighbors, today such disputes in places like Lod, Tira and Taibe are much more likely to end in murder or attempted murder, police sources said.

Now police sources, criminal lawyers and even senior crime figures believe this loss of authority has started to penetrate the Jewish underworld.

In the past, senior crime figures like Yaakov Alperon, Yitzhak Abergil, the Abutbul family and others would turn their homes or luxurious hotel rooms into underworld courtrooms, adjudicating disputes and issuing "arbitration orders" that were binding and not subject to appeal.

Sources involved with criminal cases say that the decisions of these same crime bosses still carry weight - if they are asked to get involved. The problem, the sources say, is that younger criminals don't seek such intervention; instead, they take their disputes to the streets, leaving the bodies to fall where they may.

"Today if you have a T-Max [motorcycle] and a pistol you're omnipotent," said a source involved in the crime world. "Once, to take out someone you needed permission from the head, the boss. Today's youth don't have any respect for anyone. If you cast too long a shadow you might already have to fear for your life."

Police sources say that one reason for this situation is, ironically, the fact that former police commissioner David Cohen had declared "a war to the death" against organized crime, and succeeded in putting many veteran underworld figures behind bars, including Ze'ev Rosenstein, Assi Abutbul and Amir Mulner. Many of those who were not imprisoned left the country to escape Cohen's clampdown.

Crime, however, abhors a vacuum, and the holes left by the exit of the more senior figures are being filled by younger criminals, each of whom are vying for their share of the gray market loans, drug trade and bottle recycling businesses that have become organized crime's domain.

"But today's criminals who are killing and being killed are not part of crime organizations like those of Abergil, Abutbul and the others," a police source said. "They don't have assets or companies supplying them with income behind the scenes. These are guys in their twenties who are at the start of their careers in crime. If someone wants to control the gray market in Holon or Bat Yam, he makes sure to show everyone that he's the 'boss man' and whoever gets in his way will just be killed.

"There's no hierarchy or crime organization," the source said, "just a few petty criminals who, in order to show that they are in control, have to do extreme things - and extreme means to murder your rival."