(photo credit: Channel 1)
The police last week warned the public to exercise caution due to concerns about carjackings and attempted kidnappings - especially in the Sharon and Dan regions.
Given the grave dangers to which it was alerting ordinary citizens, with all known or apprehended perpetrators hailing from the Nablus area, one might reasonably have assumed that the police's own procedures would have been adjusted.
But the case of 21-year-old Inbal Amram, found dying inside her car a week ago, seems to sadly indicate otherwise.
The police itself admitted Thursday that its officers didn't take the young woman's disappearance seriously. Three policemen have now been officially reprimanded for the obtuse manner in which they treated Inbal's distraught parents. But that insufficient response does nothing to help the aggrieved family and nothing, either, to reassure the general public. A prompt, appropriate police response could perhaps have saved Inbal's young life.
The saga began pre-dawn on Saturday March 4. Inbal drove from her family's Petah Tikva home to pick her younger sister up from a party. She never arrived and didn't answer her mobile phone. The parents sought help at the nearest police station, but the three officers present wouldn't even take down the frantic father's report or any of the missing girl's details. In fact, they shouted him down, treated him mockingly and discourteously and eventually ejected him from the station.
In desperation, he turned to a relative employed by the police in Tel Aviv. That family member kick-started the search, which was simple enough. Police, clued in to Inbal's movements from her cell-phone, sent up a helicopter and found the car abandoned in a derelict Ramat Aviv lot. Inbal was inside, her throat slashed and barely alive. The paramedics were unable to save her by that point. Earlier action might have yielded a different ending.
What exactly happened to Inbal remains a mystery. A police gag order is in force. The public has no idea whether her slaying is linked to the recent spate of armed car heists. Neither, for that matter, did the police when Inbal's father pleaded for help. The officers had no grounds to rule out the worst-case scenario.
The father was told that a search cannot begin until the missing adult has been absent for 48-hours. In fact, while this used to be the official procedure, it is no longer binding.
The context that should mandate immediate police action includes several very recent attempts to spirit away Israelis to Arab townships, from whence, possibly, they might be transferred beyond the Green Line. Cab driver Reuven Attiya was kidnapped in Bnei Brak, next door to where Inbal disappeared, and forced to drive to Tira, where he was knifed but managed to escape. Another taxi driver had a similar escape, though without injury. A mother and her six-year-old daughter were kidnapped in Tzur Yigal, but the woman ingeniously alerted the attention of passers-by. A Ben-Shemen vet was lured to Kafr Kassem and tied up until he managed to get away as well. There are more such cases.
Things are getting so bad that some wealthier Israelis police themselves. Private guards already monitor Kfar Shmaryahu and an up-scale Jaffa complex. In April, guard posts will go up in Savion to scrutinize all nighttime traffic. We may soon reach a situation in which a significant proportion of the better-off look after themselves, leaving the rest to take their chances with the police.
To restore the citizenry's waning confidence we must be assured that no officer will again resort to the excuse that immediate searches for missing adults cannot be mounted. Moreover, life-and-death decisions must no longer be left to a single desk officer. When suspicion of a horrendous crime is referred to police officers, they should be obliged to pass it on, and up, to their superiors for a second opinion. Far better to err on the side of caution than rely on the hunches and instincts of one, often harried and overworked individual.
The police now advise everyone to drive with locked doors, and tell taxi drivers to be careful whom they pick up. The least the police can do, in these dangerous times, is behave with similar additional caution and awareness.