Police at a security barricade in the Old City of Jerusalem.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Increased intelligence gathering, heightened police operations in east Jerusalem, and intensive monitoring of incitement in social media posts have led to a 40% decline in terrorist activity in the capital over the past year, police said on Tuesday.
The precipitous drop follows a protracted deadly terrorist wave, called the “stabbing intifada,” that gripped much of the capital after the government outlawed two radical hate groups from the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement from entering the Temple Mount.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld attributes the decline in violence to a comprehensive and far-reaching security strategy that canvasses the city’s most volatile areas.
“The decreased numbers are due to increased police operations across all the different neighborhoods in Jerusalem,” said Rosenfeld. “The security level has risen and became more effective and efficient within problematic neighborhoods, in terms of community policing and preventative methods.”
Rosenfeld added that increased cooperation in intelligence gathering among multiple units – including the Lahav 443 Intelligence Unit, which scours social media for incitement – has allowed police to track potential terrorist activity before it happens.
“Lahav 443 has been deeply involved in tracking individuals,” said Rosenfeld. “We’ve increased the number of officers that are tracking terrorists on Facebook and other social networks to gather intelligence.”
Additionally, police have worked with the IDF over the past year to lower crime, he said.
“There has been increased coordination with the IDF in the different areas where patrols are taking place,” Rosenfeld said.
Moreover, in August, Jerusalem Police Chief Yoram Halevy announced a NIS 1 billion overhaul of east Jerusalem security, featuring six new police stations in flashpoint neighborhoods, 1,200 additional officers, and nearly 200 extra CCTV cameras.
The new stations will be built in Jabel Mukaber, Isawiya, Beit Safafa, A-Tur, Shuafat, and Sur Baher.
They are intended to monitor terrorist activity within the neighborhoods, as well as petty and violent crimes, Halevy said.
Noting the perceived threat many Palestinians feel by law enforcement, Halevy said he will appoint municipal officials to work at each station to spearhead community outreach in an effort to lower tensions.
“The plan is intended to make changes to adapt to the security situation, while meeting the daily needs of local residents and helping to improve the quality of life in the public spaces with enforcement and deterrence against drug offenders, weapons offenders, property crime, and violence,” Halevy said at the time.
There are presently 3,500 police officers from a breadth of units stationed in Jerusalem. The new initiative will increase that number to an unprecedented 4,700.
According to Rosenfeld, the strategic measure – being carried out in coordination with the Internal Security Ministry, Police, and Jerusalem Municipality – is a critical part of a long-term plan to improve security across the capital, in both Jewish and Israeli-Arab neighborhoods.
“Part of that plan is to open further police stations and police points within a wide range of neighborhoods, and have police officers that can support the community in a more in-depth manner,” said Rosenfeld.
“The strategic plan to increase officers, as well as technology over 2016-2017, is being implemented and has been significant to the expansion of security operations in Jerusalem.”
During a Tuesday interview on Israel Radio, Interior Minister Gilad Erdan claimed that his ministry’s “historic” operation to strengthen security around Jerusalem has proven fruitful, and praised the hard work of the police forces securing the city.
Erdan added that Jerusalem will soon receive 1,250 additional officers, who for the first time since 1967, will man positions inside neighborhoods in the eastern portion of the capital, not only at their entrances.Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.