The judicial system must mete out stiffer punishments to those who commit violent crimes, and the police should take those who make verbal threats more seriously, former Supreme Court president Meir Shamgar said Wednesday at a conference on violence in Israeli society held in Eilat. "Israeli law is developed enough to deal with violence in our society, but the system of punishments needs to be utilized more fully," Shamgar told The Jerusalem Post following his presentation. "The punishments also need to be backed up with increased education and explanations for the younger generation." He addressed more than a thousand government and police professionals on the first day of a two-day session. He also emphasized that verbal acts of violence were just as serious and as "threatening as physical violence." "It is time for the police to take more seriously verbal threats," said Shamgar, describing the fight against violence as a subject "close to my heart." "Verbal threats only escalate and lead to physical violence. People need to be more careful with their words." This is the fourth time Shamgar has acted as honorary president of the conference, which will also highlight the progress of the City of Non-Violence project aiming to reduce violence in Israeli society. The program was piloted in the city of Eilat in 2004 and has since spread to 12 more cities, including Ramle, Lod, Ashkelon, Ma'aleh Adumim, Rahat and Acre in the past year. The program, which is jointly sponsored by the government and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, is hoping to reach a further 48 municipalities by the end of the year to bring up the number to 60 for Israel's anniversary celebrations. According to police figures released at the opening of the conference, violence in Israeli cities has fallen by 7.5 percent. The fellowship also announced yesterday that it would commit another $2 million to take the project into 2009.