Thieves steal a vehicle from an IDF base in the Negev..
(photo credit: REGAVIM)
The Public Security Ministry has cited a dramatic drop in crime in the South despite a recent poll in which a majority of Negev residents said they felt criminal activity there was rampant and that the police and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan have abdicated their responsibilities to the region.
As a result of the survey conducted by the Rafi Smith Polling Institute at the end of August, the NGO Regavim has launched a campaign called “Help Us Find Erdan” to demand greater law enforcement by the ministry.
Founded 10 years ago, Regavim, which says it is “dedicated to the responsible, legal and environmentally friendly use of Israel’s national land resources,” is perhaps most notable for aggressively combating illegal Beduin sprawl in the South.
“Over this past weekend, Regavim launched a public awareness media campaign that calls for the public’s assistance in ‘locating’ Minister of Internal Security Gilad Erdan,” the NGO said in a statement on Sunday. “Regavim’s campaign includes an illustrated map of the Negev’s unique criminal activity in the style of popular comic search puzzles for kids, with instructions to search the picture for Gilad – who isn’t there.”
According to the survey of 625 respondents, 51% of residents of the South are generally dissatisfied with law enforcement in the area, compared to 38% of residents in the Central and Jerusalem regions and 42% of residents in the North.
The poll found that 67% of residents of the South were dissatisfied with the police’s handling of property theft and home and vehicle invasions; 74% were not satisfied with the handling of agricultural crime, including theft of equipment and livestock; 56% with the handling of violent crime; and 59% were upset over the handling of drug and alcohol-related crime, including the proliferation of marijuana fields.
Additionally, 70% of residents said they were not satisfied with the police’s handling of illegal Beduin construction and land encroachment; 74% were dissatisfied with the handling of camels wandering on the Negev’s roads and highways; and 63% were unhappy with the handling and prevention of road accidents.
“Regavim believes that the Smith Institute’s comprehensive new survey indicates that the lack of law enforcement is a constant and unacceptable fact of life in the South of Israel, and particularly in the Negev,” the group said.
“Behind the numbers is the voice of the citizens of Israel’s South, and their call to the relevant law enforcement bodies to put an end to the ‘wild west’ atmosphere that is raging, unchecked, around them, threatening lives and livelihood.”
However, police data released on Sunday comparing southern crime rates in 2017 with the same period last year told a wholly different story.
Noting that Erdan allocated a special budget of millions of shekels to enhance security in at-risk communities, a ministry official, who requested anonymity, claimed “the Southern District is much stronger than ever.”
“The number of police officers has increased significantly, enabling a quicker response to crimes,” the official said, adding that a new police station was constructed in a troubled area in addition to 11 checkpoints to monitor illegal Beduin construction.
According to the data, agricultural crimes dropped 30% compared to the same period last year, property offenses decreased 10% for the same period and drug arrests increased exponentially.
“Since the beginning of the year, 7.5 tons of marijuana, 400 kg. of hashish, and 1.5 kg. of crystal meth have been seized by the Southern District of the Israel Police, and nearly 100 drug greenhouses have been exposed,” the police said in a statement.
“More than 300 indictments were filed on suspicion of drug imports, and 103 indictments were filed for the cultivation and manufacture of drugs, along with about 1,000 indictments for possession.”
Moreover, the statement said that enhanced traffic enforcement had led to a 30% decrease in the number of fatalities and a 33% decrease in accidents in the South.
“These are real facts about what is happening on the ground, and not a survey that presents a partial picture based on the feelings of the respondents,” the ministry official said.