(photo credit: Zaka)
Last weekend a driver sped through a red light on Route 444 at the entrance to Tzur Yigal and rammed hard into the car of Nina and Menachem Weisler, killing them and wounding their three small children. On Monday, a court allowed the driver who allegedly committed this grievous crime to return to his Taibeh home under house-arrest, despite police requests that he remain in custody.
Officers stressed heatedly that the driver, A'ooni Jabara, is considered dangerous and has amassed a record of over 30 serious traffic offenses. The judge, however, reproached the police representative for arriving to court sorely unprepared, and insufficiently familiar with the case. Jabara was released to teach the police a lesson.
Such tussles between police and judges - and they aren't rare - are waged at the general public's expense. Courts are notoriously lenient with the worst of traffic offenders, even those found guilty of killing people. Avigdor Klagsbald, who was convicted of killing a mother and son when his car hit theirs, was sentenced to 13 months with time off for good behavior.
Nevertheless, there's no excusing police nonchalance. No pretext can justify careless court appearances by law enforcement representatives.
Indeed this police failure is emblematic of what had been happening on the road leading to Taibeh, past Tzur Yigal and Kochav Yair. Residents of the latter two communities weren't surprised by the fatal crash. It was inevitable on a road that had become a free-for-all. Things are so bad that locals had petitioned the police and the Internal Security Ministry, and accompanied their entreaties to impose the rule of law on the thoroughfare with videos of drivers behaving wildly. No reaction was forthcoming.
The police has disregarded daily complaints about drivers who speed in flagrant violation of elementary road rules, often in the wrong lanes, in the face of oncoming traffic. Things are so undisciplined that the local councils have lodged complaints about drivers brazenly running red lights as a matter of routine.
After the Weislers were laid to rest, the police acknowledged the problem on the Taibeh road, yet complimented itself for occasional campaigns to curb rampant recklessness, often by drivers whose licenses were revoked or by those who never bothered to obtain licenses. But the bottom line is that such drivers continue to terrorize law-abiders.
Sporadic operations to issue more tickets to drivers - who thumb their noses at the system in any case, despite dozens of past citations each - won't solve the problem. The challenge can be met, however, without an inordinate drain on financial resources. Speed cameras and cameras at intersections, along with consistently commensurate punitive measures, will have a deterrent effect. But this is unlikely when the police fails to heed persistent and urgent pleas from the public it's obliged to protect.
Reckless disregard for substantiations of complaints by the citizenry is not only seen in traffic cases, but also in serious felonies - like the recent rape of a young boy in the yard of his Ra'anana home. Prior to that incident, parents of two other boys reported their sons were stalked in the very next street. They filed official statements with the police. These were ignored. No follow-up ensued and surveillance of the neighborhood wasn't beefed up. Had the response been adequately vigorous, perhaps the rape might have been prevented. After the assault, and after word of previous incidents reached the media, the police sought out the two initial complainants. The information they originally provided reportedly hadn't been so much as saved.
Ra'anana is still in the grip of fear and the mayor engaged private investigators to track down the perpetrator. Only then did the police demonstrate its capacity for rapid response: It demanded the city immediately desist from its initiative.
If the police was on the ball, independent probes would be superfluous. The trouble is that the police is too often egregiously remiss and disdainful of the public whose physical safety ought to constitute its highest priority. The results are dreadfully predictable and eminently avoidable tragedies.