Election day passes smoothly for police

Police reported drop in number of election-related arrests compared with previous polls.

Despite dozens of warnings of planned terrorist attacks, Election Day ended quietly for the police as almost no violence was reported. The police also reported a drop in the number of arrests connected to the elections compared with previous polls. By Tuesday evening, five people had been arrested for fraud and nine taken in for questioning and then released, said spokesman Miki Rosenfeld. "This is very low compared with the last election in 2003," he said, adding that there were very few disturbances of public order. More than 22,000 members of the security forces were deployed at polling booths and on the streets across the country, with their job being to maintain public order and prevent any attacks. There was a particular emphasis on the Green Line and in the Jerusalem area. The police were at "D" alert, the highest possible, although they had no intelligence of a specific attack, said Ch.-Supt. Yoram Ohayon, the head of the operations section of the national operations department. Police chief Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi said the day had gone smoothly and according to plan. "All of the booths opened more or less on time and they were all filled with security personnel," he said during a visit to a polling station in Jaffa. "There have been no problems, I am very satisfied." Karadi spent the day traveling from district to district, visiting polling booths and receiving briefings from the commanders about how the day was going. "[I want] to meet the policemen and to give them a good word. They have a hard job and they work a lot of hours," he said. Inspector Lior Matsrafi of the Ashkelon police, who spent the day on patrol, said he started at 6:30 a.m. and was due to work until about 11 p.m. "Our job is to tour the polling stations and ensure that everything is in order, that the public is voting quietly and that the police and stewards are there doing their work," he said. In keeping with the low voter turnout, two polling stations the patrol visited in the morning were quiet, with only a handful of people there to cast their ballots. "It seems that today there will be calm. People are a little indifferent about the elections," said Matsrafi. He and his partner, FSM Arnon Flum, were in charge of an area that had eleven polling stations, and it took them about an hour to visit all of them, Matsrafi said. Despite the long day, they didn't find the work boring. "It's part of the job. It's a day that's out of the ordinary - it only happens once every few years," he said. Election Day was also one in which the police received a better feeling from the public. "They see that the police are at the booths and that the purpose is to guard them. They feel more secure," Matsrafi said. The police coordinated their activities on a national level in the underground operations room in the national headquarters in Jerusalem, which is equipped with seven screens attached to the walls, as well as advanced computer systems and police radios. Ohayon said the control center received information about every incident almost immediately after it happens. "With our systems, I can see every police force that is deployed in the country. I can see every event that occurs and which policeman is dealing with it," he said. This allows him to coordinate with the local police when they need assistance from national headquarters, whether this means sending up helicopters or diverting police from other districts. By Tuesday evening, none of this had been necessary, although Ohayon declined to say whether there was less crime on Election Day. "However, on a day when there are more than 20,000 policemen on the streets, it's very difficult to carry out crime," he said.