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Fundamentally Freund: We were robbed!
By MICHAEL FREUND
05/09/2012
Early this past Sunday – much earlier than I would have liked – that is precisely how I was aroused from a deep and satisfying slumber.
 
There is nothing quite like the feeling of waking up in the morning to the sound of your child shouting at the top of his lungs, “Daddy, we’ve been robbed!”

Early this past Sunday – much earlier than I would have liked – that is precisely how I was aroused from a deep and satisfying slumber.

Smack in the middle of my REM sleep, nestled ever so comfortably in the warm embrace of my pillow, I was thoroughly enjoying the utter lack of sensory activity when my own flesh and blood decided to deliver the unexpected news.

Leaping out of bed, I quickly grasped for a straw of hope, praying that my son was simply reading the sports section and notifying me that the New York Mets had been fleeced of victory by an umpire’s bad call.

But when I reached the kitchen and saw the cut in the screen and the window pried open, I knew right away that this was no sports caper.

Yikes, we really had been robbed!

Within minutes, shock had turned to terror when I realized that the burglars had methodically gone from room to room, hovering over my children while they slept. Fortunately, they were only looking for iPods and laptops, but what if their designs had been darker? Thank God, no one had been hurt.

After calling the police, we began to take stock of the damage.

Drawers were open throughout the house, and a trail of personal items, wallets and credit cards led out the back. And in what seemed to be a final act of insult, my son’s tefillin (phylacteries) had been removed from their protective case and tossed on the ground.

As an avid viewer of America’s best cop shows, I readied myself to greet those charged with enforcing the law.

Surely, I thought, they would come armed with determination to tackle the case. I imagined an entire team of CSI experts descending on our home, deploying advanced techniques and sophisticated analysis to solve this whodunit after just two or three commercial breaks.

Clearly, I have been watching too much television.

Instead of Israel’s finest, we got Israel’s grumpiest. “Yours is the fifth house in the area that we are visiting today,” one of them complained, as though I had committed an injustice by being robbed.

After taking my statement with all the enthusiasm of an underpaid clerk at a convenience store, the cop handed me a slip of paper.

A few hours later, a woman showed up, quickly dusted for fingerprints, and then left.

Case closed, Sherlock.

I was, to say the least, underwhelmed by the whole experience. It had all the feel of an empty bureaucratic exercise, of filling out paperwork that would be filed away in some dusty cavernous hall where it would quickly be forgotten.

The police were seemingly more interested in recording the case than in solving it, which is hardly the most effective way to fight crime.

Nonetheless, earlier this year, Israel Police chief Yochanan Danino proudly trumpeted what he described as a steady drop in criminal activity across the country.

Addressing the cabinet on January 15, Danino said the crime rate had fallen by 5.3 percent in 2011, and that whereas there had been more than 278,000 property-related crimes in 2003, the figure had plummeted to “only” 161,880 such offenses last year.

Now I’m no criminologist, but Danino’s numbers hardly provide much comfort.

If anything, I wouldn’t be surprised if the crime rate has fallen simply because many of the crooks have had such long and successful careers that they have been able to retire.

If the way the police handled the burglary of my house is any indication, then the drop in crime nationwide has little if anything to do with their efforts.

By all indications, according to the police, those who broke into my home were most likely Israeli Arabs or Beduin. A rash of similar thefts has plagued the area of late, so much so that the commander of the local police station decided to pay us a visit later that same day.

He insisted that the bad guys occasionally do get caught, though he admitted that in this case the chances were slim.

Frankly, what really had me worried, I told him, was what the intruders had taken from my children: their sense of personal safety and security.

“They were just inches away from me,” one of my kids said. “They could have hurt me or worse.”

Another child has been beset by disturbing dreams, shouting out in the middle of the night. Of course, I blame the criminals who did this, for violating the sanctity of private property and the rule of law.

But the police are also guilty of creating an atmosphere of impunity, one in which the thieves know all too well that their chances of being caught are close to nil. And our society at large has come to abide this situation, as though break-ins and theft are akin to weather patterns over which we have no control.

This is something I simply cannot accept.

We need a police force that is larger, better trained and well-equipped. In addition to a national force to tackle fields such as counter- terrorism and missing persons, Israel needs to set up local police forces as well in every municipality. Their focus would be on the town alone, patrolling the streets, investigating crime and maintaining order, all with an eye on serving those among whom they live. By anchoring the police to local concerns, it will inevitably contribute to a safer environment, one in which criminals will be more hesitant to operate.

At first glance, tackling property crimes and petty theft may not seem all that urgent.

After all, material things can always be replaced.

But a child’s innocence, once perforated, can never again be made whole. And that is something no society should tolerate.
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