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[Dehai-WN] Haaretz.com: Israel Police: Unemployed African refugees turning Tel Aviv beaches into high crime spots

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Wed, 2 May 2012 16:14:17 +0200

Israel Police: Unemployed African refugees turning Tel Aviv beaches into
high crime spots

Authorities attribute thefts to increase in number of refugees who have come
to the city this year, and lack of employment opportunities.

By Yaniv Kubovich

Published 02:02 02.05.12

Youth gangs from the community of Sudanese and Eritrean refugees have in
recent weeks been swamping Tel Aviv beaches and stealing bathers'
belongings, according to police. Most of the thefts have occurred on Tel
Aviv's major beaches. Authorities attribute the thefts to the increase in
the number of refugees who have come to the city this year, and the lack of
employment opportunities for them. Police say the stolen goods and money are
sufficient for a day's existence; they expect more such incidents to occur.

Eritrean and Sudanese refugees start arriving at the beach at noon, say
police, especially to the strip between Jerusalem Beach and Mezizim/Peepers'
Beach. Some try to find day-labor jobs in the morning, but some who fail
allegedly try to earn their daily keep by preying on beach-goers instead.

Police say small groups composed of up to five refugees roam the beach
looking for easy pickings. Young lovers or teens in the water are the
preferred targets, but the main goal is to find a bag or something else
lying around that is easy to grab and then sell at the city's Central Bus

Police describe the gangs' activities as follows: they begin by surveying
the beach. The moment one of the thieves spots a likely item, he signals his
buddies. Then the group strolls toward the promenade to plan the theft.

"The minute they identify the item they want to steal, they give a whistle,"
says Walid Ottoman, a company commander in the Border Patrol, who has been
busy patrolling the beaches for the last two weeks. "Two of them will head
straight down to the object while the others move to the sides and watch for
police or others who can catch them in the act. The moment the two, who are
now near the item, decide that it's a go, the bag disappears," he explains.

The gangs use several methods to steal bathers' bags, say police. One method
is to crawl toward young lovers who are completely absorbed in one another.
One member of the gang will silently inch toward the couple's belongings and
return the same way, while clutching the goods. Another common method
involves crawling toward a bag or wallet that's been spotted, digging a hole
in the sand, hiding it there, and leaving some kind of marker - a bottle cap
or shirt - to indicate the location. The thief then leaves as if he were an
innocent bystander, and later one of his buddies collects the loot without
arousing suspicion.

Most Tel Aviv beaches fall under the jurisdiction of the Yarkon police
district. Lately, even though the bathing season has not yet opened
officially, district commander Brig. Gen. Yoram Ohayon has approved the
summer season's working plan. The district allocates large forces to the
beaches on weekdays and increases the numbers on weekends.

In 2011, 88 suspects were arrested for property theft on beaches in central
Tel Aviv. This year the police expect that figure to double. In the last two
weeks alone, 11 Sudanese and Eritrean refugees have been arrested on the
city's beaches. In one incident, a policeman and a policewoman who happened
to be relaxing at the beach spotted a group of Eritrean youths approaching,
and went into the water. One of the group members fell for the ploy and
allegedly stole the bag. An undercover police officer nearby arrested him
and the friend who'd served as the lookout.

In recent months, crime involving Sudanese and Eritrean refugees has
increased by many dozens of percentage points, with a steep spike in
property crimes, as well as an increase in violent crimes and sexual
assaults. A major problem in combating the phenomenon is the fact that it is
almost impossible to punish the thieves, either because of language
limitations or lack of identification means. By the next day, those arrested
are often back on the beach.


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Received on Wed May 02 2012 - 10:14:49 EDT
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