Ashkenazi: Police only checking 1% of quarantines

Law enforcement wants authority to get addresses without court order.

A police officer updates a criminal report (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)
A police officer updates a criminal report
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)
The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee held a hearing on Sunday regarding the request of the police to authorize them to obtain addresses of people in quarantine without the need for a court order.
Committee Chairman Gabi Ashkenazi (Blue and White) gave an entirely new take on the issue, arguing that the picture presented by police details that, in practice, they are only visiting around 1% of those in quarantine due to the coronavirus.
The police portrayed the issue as a narrow program limited to the corona period and in which they only use home addresses for corona-related enforcement.
Yet, there have clearly been concerns about the idea that law enforcement could use corona as a work-around to get addresses of persons for other suspected crimes where they would normally need a court-issued warrant.
These issues are likely to be raised on Monday when civil society groups will weigh in on the police’s proposed amendment to Israel’s criminal enforcement law which would significantly increase police enforcement powers.  
Discussing the importance of the amendment, Police Ch. Supt. And Technology Director Aya Gorsky told the committee that from March 26 to April 18, the police had used technological means to pinpoint the location of 7,228 citizens who were supposed to be quarantined.
She said that the police were checking the location of around 500 persons per day at this point.
Regarding 6,308 citizens who were found to be in quarantine, she said their address and personal information were erased from the system, said Gorsky.
However, regarding the 920 citizens, or 12.7% – who were violating their quarantine based on technologically checking where their cellphone was – the police official said that police have started to follow-up on them with physical checks.
Some citizens were located and issued warnings without a fine if they immediately returned to their quarantine location, she said.
Other citizens were in quarantine, but had decided to change their quarantine location without updating the Health Ministry as required.
Gorsky said that those persons and repeat violators could face fines of NIS 3,000.
In addition, she said that the police wanted to carry out more tracking and visiting of sick persons who she called “a ticking bomb” – a phrase usually reserved for dangerous terrorists.
Describing a significant challenge, she said that while most sick persons recovered within two weeks, a significant minority could remain sick and contagious for around six weeks.
Gorsky said that out of 3,000 sick persons, the police had visited 200, finding 181 were following quarantine rules and 19, or 9.5%, were violating the rules.
To try to show that the police are more interested in enforcement than in fines, she added that only 254 fines have been issued.
Also on Sunday, the Knesset Corona Committee heard a police request to broaden their powers to arrest persons for certain corona-related violations that are not part of the standard corpus of Israel’s criminal law.
Committee Chairman Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid) noted that such arrests had been exceedingly rare in which case he thought there was no need to endorse them or anchor them in law.