Back to the future - fighting crime

'How does a kid leave his house with a knife and his parents don't know?'

karadi 88 (photo credit: )
karadi 88
(photo credit: )
Two months ago, Police Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi stood on a hill overlooking the synagogue in the northern Samaria settlement of Homesh on the last day of disengagement. Karadi watched with extreme interest as elite police forces stormed the fortified building and succeeded in evacuating more than 100 right-wing activists holed up inside, with minimal force. Flanked by security guards, Karadi was accompanied by head of Police Investigations and Intelligence Cmdr. Dudi Cohen as well as Lt.-Cmdr. Amichai Shai head of the police's International Serious Crimes Unit. Standing there watching the settlers' resistance crumble in face of the security force's might, Karadi was finally able to breath a sigh of relief his first year as police commissioner had come to an end and the disengagement was over. Standing next to his chief investigators Karadi was reminded however that his work as police chief had just begun and that now, with the pullout behind him, the time had finally come for the police to fulfill their ultimate mission and begin eradicating crime and violence from Israel's streets. In an exclusive New Year interview with The Jerusalem Post, Karadi, forceful and upbeat, emphatically said he needed 5,000 additional policemen as soon as possible to be able to provide the public with the service it deserves. Will that happen? It is a question of national priorities, he says, something that isn't up to him. From his first day as the 15th police commissioner on August 1, 2004, Karadi found himself immediately sucked into disengagement. Fighting crime was sidelined as the police played a central role in the evacuation of the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria. While the police, it seems, emerged from the disengagement unscathed even receiving praise for the efficiency and sensitivity with which it carried out the mission it had neglected its classic crime-fighting role. Looking back over the past year, Karadi smiles and says the police came out on top from disengagement and proved to the public they are a strong, powerful and resourceful force that can fulfill its missions effectively and sensitively. For now, his main wish is to continue riding on the wave of success and to keep up the momentum of the police's positive image. But with the continuing wave of crime he admits it is no easy task. A day without news of another stabbing or drive-by shooting is becoming a rarity. Karadi readily admits “Violence in society over the past few years is on a drastic rise not only in its scope but also in its severity.” Despite declarations by politicians, including Prime Minister Ariel Sharon who this week said violence needed to be combated like terror, Karadi says the size of the police force is disproportional to the size of the State of Israel and understaffed for its primary missions: fighting terror, fighting crime and maintaining public order. The general population in Israel has grown over the past few years, he says, but the police force has been diminishing. “In 1996, there were 3.6 cops per 1,000 citizens,” he says. “Today the ratio is 2.2.” The strain the police are under is felt all the way to the top. The day before disengagement, Karadi sat in a conference room with several of his high-ranking subordinates including head of Police Logistics Cmdr. Ya'acov Raz and head of Traffic Police Cmdr. Shahar Ayalon. Ayalon began briefing Karadi on the traffic police's deployment in the fields outside Gush Katif when suddenly the police chief said: “I feel like I'm having deja vu and have already heard what you are telling me now.” Half-jokingly and half-seriously, Ayalon responded: “Moshe, why don't you go lie down.” But Karadi didn't lie down and hasn't done much lying down since taking up the top cop post. Just looking at his desk and the six phones and three screens flanking it, one wonders if there are enough hours in the day for him to do his job. Similar to his predecessor Shlomo Aharonishky, Karadi has made it a point to visit every terror attack site including the one in Shfaram where an IDF soldier opened fire on a bus full of Israeli Arabs. Karadi has had a meteoric career. Before becoming the youngest police commissioner in Israeli history he served as head of the Southern District Police a job he held for a year-and-a-half. He was appointed to the top spot by then-internal security minister Tzahi Hangebi who passed up an entire generation of well-experienced officers. His military service was carried out as an officer in the paratroopers. He transferred to the Border Police where, he said, he followed in his father's footsteps. What upsets him most, it seems, is the public's claim that the police, and only the police, are responsible for crime and violence. Police, he admits, are far from perfect but the solution lies in an overhaul of the entire social system. “The police only come in at the end when there is a problem and everyone else has failed,” Karadi says. “The policeman is like a Tylenol and what we need is an overall root canal starting with the question why people come to nightclubs with knives and rifles and then we can begin to ask why they were not caught [by the police].” Calls for the deployment of cops at every nightclub and entertainment spot are impractical he says. “If tomorrow they begin shooting at a supermarket then what? Will we put a cop at every supermarket?” “There will never be an end. Every Knesset member, supermarket and coffee shop will have a policeman and there will be no end.” Rather he says, crime and violence need to be fought not just on the streets but at home and in the classrooms. The police's lack of manpower is only one factor in the overall escalation in violence but the real catalyst is the disintegration of basic social values. “The problem does not begin with criminals taking guns to the streets but in the schools and homes,” he says. “When we went to school, we used to pack a sandwich but now kids are packing a knife.” Parents and teachers, he says, no longer have any influence on children. Sixteen-year-olds drink alcohol at parties, and children's exposure to what he calls a “virtual culture” of violent movies and television shows play a key role in the escalation in violence and crime. “How does a kid leave his house with a knife and his parents don't know?” he asks. “How is it that a child goes out somewhere and his parents have no idea where he is going and who he is hanging out with?” But with his main job enforcing the law, Karadi would like to be remembered not as the “disengagement commissioner” but as the police chief who revolutionized the quality of service the force provides to the public. His dream, he says, is for the police to become like Bezeq, the Electrical Corporation or the cellphone companies “so when we get a call I can ask what else can I do for you.” Alongside crime fighting Karadi has set up taskforces, one run by him personally, to study the current level of service provided by the police and to see where it can be improved. “If there is one thing we are missing and I am unsatisfied with, it is the service to the public,” he says. “If we succeeded in carrying out the disengagement then there is no reason why if you call 100 your call will be answered after 5 minutes and not after one minute and that the patrol car will show up after 30 minutes and not after 10 minutes.” But Karadi doesn't have the luxury to sit back and give his policemen classes on how to be more polite and courteous towards civilians. The disengagement steered the police away from crime fighting but if terror resumes as some security officials predict, the police will once again have their hands full guarding bus stops and malls and running from one terror scene to the next. Karadi would like to believe that terror will decrease following disengagement. But, he readily admits, “Terror organizations do not need an excuse to attack us.” Where will the next attack happen? Karadi says it is difficult to predict but Israel does have two major weak points the border with Egypt where it runs open without a fence, and certain parts of the West Bank that are not yet surrounded by the security fence. “There can be infiltrations but the police are prepared for anything that may come,” he says. For now, Karadi is publicly placing his bets on an anti-violence committee established by Sharon in June and headed by Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra, hoping it will bring the desperately-needed funds and manpower. But with the dust already settled from disengagement, Karadi knows that with at least two years left in his tenure, the police no longer have excuses and he now faces his hardest task yet implementing a long list of reforms needed to create an effective crime-fighting police force in the State of Israel.