The Israel Police is going through a highly successful phase that is among the best in the organization’s history, Israel Police Insp.-Gen.Yohanan Danino said at a Knesset committee hearing on Monday. His comments were made amid a spree of underworld violence including over a dozen car bombs and more than 20 murders in the past four months.
“There is no doubt that historically this is one of the most successful phases in the history of the Israel Police and I say to all those detractors – go learn the facts,” he said.
Danino was addressing the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee on police performance, and during his comments he countered the public criticism of his agency through the use of statistics. Danino pointed out how over the past two years there were 48 fewer murders than the two previous years, asserting that the Israeli murder rate is lower than that of countries like Finland, Belgium, and Canada.
He mentioned significant drops in the number of shooting incidents and property crimes, saying that over the past year there was a 21 percent drop in burglaries, 18% decrease in car thefts and a 12.5% decline in robberies.
“I’m happy that police officers are able to distinguish between specific, localized events and the wider organizational accomplishments of the police,” Danino said.
In addition, Danino called for an increase in the number of police personnel, saying that the current number of officers is the same as it was two decades ago, despite the increase in the Israeli population.
Danino’s comments, in particular his emphasis on statistics, garnered a lukewarm reception at the committee hearing.
MK David Azoulay (Shas) said that “whatever the statistics are, if you look at the grenade at the Petah Tikva shuk [outdoor market], for the citizen on the street, one is enough, one is everything to him.”
Alexander Lautin, the widower of Margarita Lautin, the innocent bystander caught in the crossfire of an attempted mob hit at the beach in Bat Yam in 2008, said citizens aren’t protected from “ticking time bombs walking around in public,” and “if the police can’t handle organized crime, maybe they should just let the Shin Bet [Israel Security Agency] handle it.”
Deputy attorney-general for criminal matters, Raz Nazri, addressed the committee meeting, focusing on how legal authorities are working with police to combat organized crime. Nazri said that a number of laws, including ones easing the requirements for police to use wiretaps or to perform searches, were in the process of being passed before the recent wave of violence.
Nazri said that these laws are in a different league altogether than that of “administrative detentions,” the controversial detentions without charge used to fight terrorism.
However some, including Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, said they should be used in the war on crime.
“The public security minster has tuned to us repeatedly on this issue and we think it’s not the right tool to use to fight crime,” he said. “An arrest is something that hurts the human rights of an individual – a person you arrest an put on trial you have to present them with the material against them.”
He added that, in terms of terror, Israel can use the detentions because of its unique security situation and the region it’s located in.
However, it’s more problematic to use them in regards to crime, because “when it comes to crime, they say we’re in a very good place compared to other places in the world.
How can we explain to ourselves that this is necessary?” Brig.-Gen. Golan Maimon, head of the IDF Military Police, responded to questions about the army’s handling of the theft of explosives, which are then used to make bombs for Israeli criminals.
Maimon said the IDF has the issue under control and are doing more to educate troops on the issue.
Following his comments, committee chairwoman Miri Regev said, “your answer wasn’t good enough. I hope the IDF is preparing for the Syrian threat better than it’s dealing with this.”
Not long after the committee meeting, Aharonovitch told the Knesset general plenum that “it’s impossible to ignore that the public sense of security has decreased,” but added that “we only have one police force, people should stop beating up on the police.”