Reducing hate crimes was at the center of discussion at a panel I participated in during the Israel American Council 2019 national summit this past week in Florida.
The IAC is one of the most important organizations in strengthening Israel and the Diaspora. By focusing on reaching out to American-Israelis the organization is tapping into a very motivated, influential, energized and younger segment of the US Jewish population. I was joined on the panel by my colleagues Bal Harbour Mayor Gabe Groisman and Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber.
Municipal power is growing globally. Predictions suggest that by 2030, urban areas are expected to house 60% of the world’s population and generate up to 80% of global economic growth. Cities are required to provide most of the services to their citizens. In addition, they must fight crime, poverty and violence while maintaining strong communities and ensuring economic growth at the same time.
Accordingly, the role of the mayor is growing and becoming crucial to the well-being of his or her residents. These days, we rely on technologies more than ever, in order to improve life, be more efficient, save money, monitor activity and prevent crime. The goals for cities today are to become both safe and smart.
Smart solutions are opportunities for cities to keep residents safe and save money, which can then be invested back into programs and services. Mayors promote safe and smart cities, with smart technology operating solar lighting, smart parking and much more.
In cases of a terrorist attack or natural disaster, everything starts with us. We essentially run the daily lives of our residents and therefore are the first responders when disasters strike. We meet all their needs: providing psychologists and social workers, educational assistance, evacuation plans and the restoration of order.
Mayors are the best line of defense for this kind of hate because we are handling the relevant services, whether they are education or enforcement.
Fighting violence is a local issue, as well as a national and international one. When hate spreads on social media, people feel unsafe in their homes, and many times, many of the worst crimes begin with incitement.
Education starts at home. Tolerance starts at the dinner table. Our children hear how we speak about others.
Moreover, in every country, there has to be serious legislation that defines hate crime, incitement and violence. There has to be a clear and enforceable punishment to be paid for these actions. All countries should follow the US and Germany and embrace legislation against such crimes.
We have to make sure that there is proper enforcement that involves the police, schools and municipal residents.
If we all realize the importance of this matter and handle it properly, using the right tools, we can make life safer for our people, both locally and around the world.
The writer is chairman of the Federation of Local Authorities in Israel, mayor of Modi’in Maccabim Re’ut and one of the founders of the Global Consortium to Fight Hate, Racism and Discrimination.