Police in the South were the most successful in reducing crime last year, despite having to carry out the disengagement program, Southern District police chief Cmdr. Uri Bar-Lev said on Sunday. Crime in the region fell 13.3 percent, compared to a national drop of 5.5%, a 4.2% fall in Tel Aviv and a 3.1% decrease in Jerusalem. The southern district covers 65% of Israel, and stretches from Ashdod and the Dead Sea to Eilat. In the southern region, there was a 49% drop in murders and a 33% fall in attempted murders, but an 8.3% rise in robberies. The majority of crime - 61% - was carried out against property, while 9.7% was violent and 5.1% drug-related. On the borders, police seized 121.7 kilograms of heroin, 33.6 kg. of hashish and found 151 Kalashnikov rifles. They also discovered eight women being trafficked. Crime in Beersheba fell 40%, with Bar-Lev attributing the drop to a new program that commanders began implementing six months ago and which will be expanded in 2006. Under the initiative, the southern district has been divided up into 54 sub-regions, each of which has an assigned officer who is obligated to learn about the area for which he is responsible, to map out where the crimes take place within it and to find solutions to prevent such crimes. These solutions are then to be implemented in cooperation with the local and regional police stations, and the officers have to report results to their commanders. Police achieved the improvement in crime statistics despite having to carry out the disengagement, in which 21,000 soldiers and police officers from all over the country took part, under Bar-Lev's command. "Disengagement was our biggest challenge this year," he said. "The way it was carried out can make us proud... [that] as a people we weren't torn apart." During disengagement, 987 people were arrested, of whom 200 were passed on to the courts to deal with and 37 ultimately indicted. The alleged offenses included throwing caustic soda at police officers who were trying to evacuate the synagogue in Kfar Darom. The most recent police report on the matter couldn't confirm the presence of the substance on the clothes of the evacuating forces, although the police argue that this was because the officers were drenched with water to negate the effect of any scalding. "The experts in the field, the doctors, said there were signs of the material, and after they threw lots of water on the policemen, there was very little left of it," said Bar-Lev. As early as August, police forensic experts backtracked from an earlier statement and said they could not definitely determine whether the substance that the settlers threw was caustic soda, which is used to open blocked drains and pipes. However, on Sunday, police said other investigations showed that there were a number of different containers of material on the roof of the synagogue, including machine oil, paint and caustic soda. Some of the cans were full and some were empty after being used. In addition, a national police spokesman said, "The disturbing pictures of police officers scalded on their faces and the medical treatment they received shouldn't be ignored."