Tel Aviv Police chief Cmdr. David Zur believes that Israel should implement a policy similar to the "three strikes and you're out" system in the US, whereby repeat offenders automatically receive prison sentences.
"We see a lot of people being arrested for crimes returning to the street one or two days afterwards and then continuing to commit crimes," Zur said on Sunday. "We don't have an effective solution to deter them from doing this."
To sidestep causes of the phenomenon, such as overloaded courts and light sentences, Zur said that those who repeat violent crimes or offenses against property should automatically go to jail, although he didn't say what the minimum term should be.
"The balance between the safety of the public and individual rights in the last few years has gone against the rights of the public," Zur said.
"I think the safety of the public is far more important than the rights of a suspect who knows he can steal and will soon afterwards go free, and then knows he can steal again and go free again," he added.
Speaking at a press conference to present the Tel Aviv district's summary for 2005, Zur reported that the number of crimes fell 3.8 percent to 108,848. However, the drop was less than the national decline of 5.5% and the Southern District fall of 13.3%, but greater than the 3.1% decrease in Jerusalem.
The number of arrests fell 2.1% to 13,546, the amount of files dropped 3.5% and indictments fell 16%. However, burglaries rose 7% and the number of murder files increased 15% to 31. Youth crime dropped 5.9%, helped by a drop in all types of offenses, including violent crime and drug and sex offenses.
However, the overall number of drug crimes edged up 0.9% as dealing rose 15% and consumption 6.1%.
"It's like a balloon - you press in one place and the air moves somewhere else," said Zur.
In the run-up to disengagement, Tel Aviv police dealt with dozens of protests, including 12 where demonstrators blocked main roads. Over 330 people were arrested and 161 indictments given.
"A lot of hours were spent dealing with disengagement that would otherwise have been spent dealing with crime," said Zur.
In 2005, the Tel Aviv police revealed a number of high profile investigations, such as the Trojan horse industrial espionage affair. And last week, Tel Aviv police and the Tax Authority said they had cracked an illegal gambling network run by the family of Likud MK Inbal Gavrieli.
With all the types of crime the police are facing, the Tel Aviv district lacks officers, said Zur. He would like to recruit more than 150 new officers to add to the 3,300 already on payroll, but budget constraints - each policeman costs NIS 100,000 - stand in the way.
Nevertheless, Zur's aims for 2005 include cutting youth crime and improving the service the police provide. The district is also carrying out a program of assigning each station a policeman dedicated to dealing with crimes against tourists.