Israel suffers from an acute lack of special investigators trained to question minors, Knesset Children's Rights Committee Chairman MK Danny Danon (Likud) told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday evening. Danon said that in a committee meeting held earlier in the day to discuss recent incidents of alleged pedophilia, MKs were told there was an acute lack of specially trained investigators, who are the only people legally authorized to question youths suspected of involvement - whether as perpetrators or victims - in criminal cases.
Danon also told the Post that the committee had found serious flaws in the communication between governmental bodies, including police and social services, regarding complaints of pedophilia and other forms of abuse.
"Oftentimes we discuss incidents and say, 'We couldn't have known.' This time it was possible to have known - the welfare services and the police already knew of the brothers," complained Danon. "I demand that Internal Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich and Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog, take action today, without waiting for new legislation or the murder of another child."
Hours after Danon's committee hearing, Aharonovich said that a ministerial committee tasked with coming up with recommendations in light of the weekend murder of seven-year-old Bnei Ayish resident Leon Kalantrov had already reached a number of initial conclusions. Aharonovich highlighted the need to better track pedophiles active on the Internet, and to boost cooperation with other countries in identifying Israelis visiting overseas-based Web sites with pedophilic content.
The internal security minister added that the committee, led by Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, should recommend broadening the law that requires parents to report sex offenses against children to include anybody who knows of such an offense occurring. The committee also recommended speeding up investigations in pedophelia-related cases, tightening up post-incarceration services for sex offenders and encouraging private employers to check whether or not job candidates have a history of sex offenses.
During the morning committee meeting, Ch.-Supt. Meir Berkovich of the Israel Police complained that there are only 57 youth crimes investigators nationwide, while Ronit Tzur of the Welfare Ministry said that there are 700 children currently waiting to be questioned by one of the specialists.
Tzur added that in order to be able to prevent a backlog, another 15 youth crimes investigators are needed nationwide. Currently, all vacations have been canceled for investigators, in an effort to reduce the current case overload.
But experts said that it was not just youth crimes investigators that were lacking. Dr. Yitzhak Kadman of the National Council for the Child complained that although there are 400 sex offenders in Israel believed to be "highly-to-moderately dangerous," there are only 12 people nationwide assigned to monitor all of Israel's sex offenders.
"The committee must act to establish a parliamentary investigative committee on this subject," said Kadman. "The safety net is completely perforated - there are more holes than net. Even the existing laws on the subject are not enforced."
According to the Knesset's research center, 2,204 files were opened in 2009 for child sex offenses. The data determined that 2,007 minors - of whom 1,083 were below the age of 12 - fell victim to sex offenses.
"The committee was horrified to see data that thousands of cases are closed because of lack of cooperation among government authorities," said Danon, presenting the committee's conclusions. "Within a week I expect to receive a report on how many positions are lacking in order to carry out the necessary work," he added.