Danino: South is no longer a safe place for criminals

Southern police chief says his region of jurisdiction is no longer being dubbed “the wild south.”

The South was the region where criminals were most likely to be caught by police and prosecuted, southern police chief Cmdr. Yochanan Danino said on Tuesday during an annual sum-up of police work in Ofakim, adding that his region of jurisdiction is no longer being dubbed “the wild south.”
The chances of criminals being prosecuted in the South currently stands at 20 percent – the highest figure in the country, Danino said. “This is the starting stage of getting crime under control. This is the minimum we need, and if we compare it to other districts, we certainly have something to be proud of,” he added, saying, “The South is no longer wild.”
A total of 58,646 criminal offenses were recorded in the district in 2009, compared with 59,066 in 2008, 62,232 in 2007 and 83,973 in 2003. The figures represent a drop in offenses for a sixth straight year.
Fourteen of the district’s sixteen murders were solved, according to police figures. Violent crimes dropped slightly in 2009, when 5,311 police cases were opened, compared to 5,376 in 2008.
Twelve undercover agents were used to arrest 213 suspected drug dealers, while the Magen anti-narcotics smuggling police unit confiscated 82 kilograms of heroin over the course of last year.
At the same time, police recorded a 17% rise in firearms offenses compared with the 2008 numbers. Danino said 2010 would be a year when police in the South would crack down on firearms possession, following a similar initiative by the Northern police district in recent months.
After a recent lull, the Southern district was once again seeing an upsurge in the number of Africans who attempt to enter Israel illegally from Egypt, Danino said. In 2009, 4,874 illegal migrants crossed into the district. In the first two months of 2010, some 2,000 illegal immigrants from Africa have already entered the country, he added.  “This is one of the biggest problems we face. If we’ve seen this many come in already this year, what will happen during the rest of the year?” he asked.
Despite a massive drop in rocket attacks from Gaza on the South since Operation Cast Lead last year, 260 projectiles were fired into the district since the end of the war, Danino said. Southern cities like Beersheba, Dimona and Eilat were under continuous threat of terrorist attacks, he added, noting that the southern district shared a porous border with Egypt.
Looking forward to 2010, Danino said he would work to strengthenthe relationship between police and local communities, includingbuilding on links with leaders of Beduin communities.
“A shared recognition of our intertwined fate in the Negev is the first step forward,” Danino said.
Onlytwo regional councils have not joined the “City Without Violence”program, which coordinates police, municipalities, government sectors,schools, and social services to counter violent crime in the citycenters, Danino said, adding that he hoped the last remaining councilswould join the program in 2010.