Crime wave prompted by gambling debt explosion

A spate of so-called “Jew-on-Jew” crimes has been linked to an explosion in gambling debts among the strictly Orthodox.

A 23-year-old north-west London Jewish man will stand trial next month after denying four charges of burgling a Jewish primary school in Golders Green.

A recent break-in at the Beth Shmuel Synagogue in Golders Green, the theft of a car and a robbery last year at the home of a Jewish charity director have all been blamed on gambling debts.

The car thief is said to have been planning to use the proceeds to feed his addiction and, in the latter case, burglar Joseph Schloss owed £30,000 to an Israeli gang.

Rabbi Dr Chanan Tomlin, of the Salford-based Kids Trust charity, said there was a “significant” gambling problem among strictly Orthodox communities in Manchester.

“Poker is a problem among yeshivah students. There is a poker culture among these young Jews. Some of them are going to casinos and some are addicted to scratch cards”.

Detective Allen Windsor of Barnet Police’s crime unit worked on the Beth Shmuel break-in and said the number of Jew-on-Jew incidents had increased in the past year.

“There have been a large number of burglaries at Jewish properties for a long time, but recently we have identified members of the Jewish community carrying out burglaries at communal buildings,” he said.

“It does happen that people steal from their own communities. It’s partly because of the opportunities. In this case they were aware that on a Friday night people would not be around. It’s taking advantage of that opportunity, just like most house burglaries take place during the day while people are at work.”

Golders Green has one of the worst burglary rates in London – in the 12 months up to the end of July there were more than 100 reported incidents each week in the area.

Det Windsor praised the community’s response to the burglaries, and said the quick identification of the suspects in the Beth Shmuel break-in was thanks to the synagogue members’ assistance.

“It’s disgraceful that these were three young Jewish lads breaking into a holy place and taking advantage. They knew how to get in and how to carry it out. It’s quite shocking.

“When we went down to the synagogue to view the CCTV, the community had just finished their morning prayers. People were approaching me and my colleague to give us information to help us catch them.

“People were happy to come forward. In some communities that does not happen.

The JC can reveal that rabbinic authorities were behind communal efforts to identify and turn in the three Jewish teenagers who burgled Beth Shmuel Synagogue last month.

Community sources said the break-in at the in Golders Green had caused huge tension as relatives, friends and neighbours of the trio debated whether to tell police who had carried it out.

Senior rabbis were asked to rule on the action to be taken — and said the community must hand over the teenagers to be dealt with by the criminal justice system.

Halachic guidance was that if a burglar comes into your property on Shabbat, and a person’s life may be at risk, then police must be called.

Last month, three men admitted entering Beth Shmuel Synagogue in June and taking keys to a car parked outside.

David Gutweith, 18, and another 19-year-old man who cannot be named for legal reasons, were due to be sentenced at Hendon Magistrates’ Court after the JC went to press this week.

The third member of the group, a 17-year-old who cannot be named because of his age, has already been ordered to undertake a six-month rehabilitation order and placed under curfew.

A leading community member said that, after driving the car — a Volvo worth around £3,500 — to Reading, the teenagers had sold it for just £250, but were later convinced by friends and family to buy the vehicle back and return it to its owner.

Last updated: 10:54am, October 5 2012