Police: Russian Immigrants Have Not Raised Nat'l Crime Rate

Immigrants from the former Soviet Union have not raised the crime rate in Israel, police figures show, contrary to some reports following the massacre of the Oshrenko family in Ashdod and the public sentiment that ensued.

A police study finds that the crime rate among immigrants from FSU is less than 2 percent, compared to a little more than 2 percent among the overall population.

The crime rate among FSU immigrants in 2007 was smaller percentage-wise than the portion of society that they make up. Out of 143,000 criminal cases opened in 2007, some 21,000 - about 15 percent - involved FSU immigrants, who make up an estimated 16 percent of the population.

The immigrants' part in crimes such as manslaughter, murder and attempted murder is especially low, police figures show.

All of these figures vary depending on various bodies' definition of "new immigrant."

The police's research and statistics department categorizes sectors according to people's origin, ethnicity and number of years in Israel. These categories are not published for reasons of political correctness.

The main transgressions committed by immigrants in 2007 involve disruption of order (31 percent), property related crimes (24 percent), bodily crimes (20 percent), drugs and vice crimes (19 percent).

The immigrants' part in committing manslaughter, murder and attempted murder stood at about 7 percent.

It is very likely that the violent public image of FSU immigrants has been intensified by the numerous brawls they are involved in, particularly the younger ones.

However, racist utterances and calls - like the one to change the Law of Return following the murder of the Oshrenko family - are voiced every time Russian-speakers make the headlines in association with acts of violence. The immigrants as a community are deeply offended by this reaction.

They see this as society's refusal to accept them and a terrible distortion of their contribution to Israel, in light of the small incidence of crime.

Nonetheless, some of them admit that there is a problem - not in crime rates, but in the nature of the crimes committed.

"You can't blame all the Russians, but neither can you hide reality under a politically correct cloak," says Dr. Elana Gomel, an English Literature lecturer at Tel Aviv University and author of the book "Atem ve'anachnu" ("You and Us"), about FSU immigrants in Israel.

"The Oshrenko family's murder was a Russian murder," says Gomel, who immigrated from Russia in 1980. "There are differences between crime cultures. Behind this brutal murderer there is a tradition of especially brutal crime, even without reason."

Still, the response to the killing has been disproportional, she says.

"When it comes to the Russians, Russianism becomes the reason, precisely because we are treated with appreciation and alienation simultaneously - just as the Jews were treated in exile. We are the 'Jews' of Israel," she says.

Some immigrants attribute the brutal character of Russian crime to the Soviet regime, which demonstrated contempt for human life.

In off-the-record conversations, Russian sociologists say that this group of immigrants may not have led to a rise in Israel's crime rate, but has brought with it crime of a different nature.