1,000 more policemen to fight street crime

The cabinet on Sunday approved the deployment of an additional 1,000 policemen on the country's streets to combat crime. The plan, pushed forward by Insp.-Gen. David Cohen and Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, finally received the go-ahead when Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On okayed the undisclosed budget. They will join the existing force in both the Israel Police and Border Police of some 28,000, and are being deployed in the wake of an apparent escalation in robberies, especially against the elderly. "There is no police force in the world with as many responsibilities, in the fields of both crime and security, as the Israel Police," said Olmert following the decision. "Dichter did not relent and Bar-On was objectively convinced of the need to enhance the police force with additional personnel to an extent not experienced for many years. The aim is that the new police personnel will act and be seen at the stations, and will come in contact with citizens in order to strengthen the feeling of personal security." The police officers, who Dichter's office says are to be drafted in the near future, have been earmarked to reinforce existing police stations, with the vast majority going to "field" jobs such as patrol units. First dibs on the new cops will go to the troubled Northern District, which has seen a serious upturn in crime in general and specifically violent crime in the past year. That district will receive approximately 300 of the new recruits, while the remaining 700 will be distributed among the other five districts. Within the districts, police hope to reinforce a number of "problematic" stations such as Rishon Lezion, Modi'in and Ashdod, cities in which the populations have more than tripled but the number of police officers stationed in them has remained relatively unchanged for years. Dichter emphasized Sunday that the objective of this reinforcement plan was to strengthen the personal security of Israeli citizens and to provide a better solution to the crime problem affecting the country's law-abiding citizens. While he expressed satisfaction with Sunday's decision, he also called on the government to delegate the upcoming year - 2009 - as one in which the field of public security will be given preferential treatment as a national goal. At the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday, Dichter and Cohen briefed the cabinet on the Israel Police's goals for the coming years as well as on the planned distribution of the new officers. Mark Weiss contributed to this report.