Eilat confab to study how to stop violence

Among the programs to be highlighted is the City of Non-Violence program, whose pilot implementation has greatly reduced violence in Eilat.

More than a thousand cabinet ministers, MKs, mayors, city council head, social workers, police experts, professors and other professionals will gather this week in Eilat for the third annual conference on causes and prevention of violence in Israeli society. Among the programs to be highlighted is the City of Non-Violence program, whose pilot implementation over the past two years has greatly reduced violence in Eilat. "Our goal is to eventually expand this program to the entire country," Hani Hecht, director of the City of Non-violence program and one of the conference's organizers, told The Jerusalem Post in an interview Thursday. Violent crime has dropped by 39 percent in the town since the program started in 2004, according to figures released last week by Hecht, a former social worker. The town has seen a 51% reduction in spousal violence; a 35% drop in teen violence; a 14% fall in physical violence and 30% less property damage, according to police reports. Hecht said that the clear success of the City of Non-Violence program has caused similar projects to be adopted in 10 other towns - Tiberius, Nazareth Illit, Acre, Hadera, Netanya, Bat Yam, Ramle, Rahat, Ashkelon and Ma'ale Adumim. Inaugurated by Eilat Mayor Meir Yitzhak Halevy, the project aims to confront violence in the home, school and on the street, whether it be between adults or youths. Already in place are a community policing unit that cruises the streets and identifies trouble spots, guidance for parents on youth issues, an in-school program to create a calm environment and a bridging forum to help individuals work out their differences peacefully. The project receives funding from the local and national government, as well as a range of nonprofit agencies. Other topics to be raised at the conference include combating violence at sporting events, society's role in elder abuse, and the media's influence on violence. Defense Minister Amir Peretz, Public Security Ministry Director-General Roni Pelek, Labor MK Ophir Paz-Pines, and Dr. Sara Alon, director of programs for the elderly at Eshel, are all scheduled to speak at the two-day event.