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(photo credit: www.telaviv.police.gov.il)
Tel Aviv Police head Cmdr. David Zur believes Israel should implement a policy in which repeat offenders would automatically receive prison sentences, similar to the "three strikes, you're out" system in the United States.
"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."
The reason for this is that the courts are overloaded or that judges pass light sentences. Zur therefore believes 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 the 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 then steal again and go free again."
Zur was speaking at a press conference to present the Tel Aviv District's summary for 2005. Among the most significant figures presented dealt with the drop in total reported crimes. The number of crimes in the district fell 3.8 percent to a total of 108,848. The drop was less than the national drop of 5.5% or the Southern District's 13.3%, but greater than the 3.1% decrease in Jerusalem.
In the same time period, the number of arrests fell by 2.1% to 13,546, the year produced 3.5% fewer criminal files and indictments fell by 16%. Youth crime dropped 5.9%, helped by a drop in all types of offenses, including violent crime and drug and sex offenses.
Despite the hopeful trend, burglaries rose by 7%, the number of murder files increased 15% to 31 and 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 the Disengagement from Gaza, which took place in August, Tel Aviv police dealt with dozens of protests, including 12 where demonstrators blocked main roads. Over 330 people were arrested and 161 indictments were handed down.
"A lot of hours were spent dealing with the disengagement which would otherwise have been spent dealing with crime," said Zur.
During the year, the Tel Aviv Police revealed a number of high profile investigations, such as the Trojan horse affair in which private detectives allegedly used a software program to spy on their clients' rivals.
At the end of last month, Michael and Ruth Haephrati, the couple who allegedly developed the Trojan horse espionage software and sold it to the detective agencies, arrived in Israel after being extradited from the UK. Zur said that most of the things the couple told the police during their interrogation were already known, although they did provide some new knowledge.
"After the Haephratis are finished being interrogated, it will be possible to develop the investigation in new directions," he said, adding that the police were still trying to establish how much the companies knew about the activities of the private detectives they had hired.
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, although Zur said the police couldn't label them "a criminal organization."
Zur added that the Tel Aviv Police had a shortage of manpower, considering the varied types of crimes they faced. He said he would like to recruit more than 150 new officers to add to the 3,300 already on the payroll, although with each policeman costing NIS 100,000 yearly, he simply didn't have the budget for this.
Nevertheless, his aims for 2005 include cutting youth crime and improving the police's service to the public. In addition, the Tel Aviv District has begun a program that assigns a policeman to each station dedicated to dealing with crimes against tourists.
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