'Fighting crime in Arab sector will be a national priority’

Aharonovitch vows to deal with shooting incidents, illegal weaponry, murders and threats against public officials in the coming year.

The Public Security Ministry and the Israel Police are making fighting crime in the Arab sector a national priority, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Israel Beiteinu) said on Tuesday.
Aharonovitch said 2009 “was not a good year [in the Arab sector] in terms of dealing with shooting incidents, illegal weaponry, murders, threats against public officials, and shortcomings in law enforcement. In 2010 we will change things, through placing priority on enforcement and providing a service to the community.”
Aharonovitch called police relations with the Arab sector one of the central focuses of his ministry, adding “We cannot just sit back and take the difficult cases of violence, crime, shooting, and arson [in the Arab sector]. These problems must be reduced.”
In late February, a report compiled by the Knesset Research and Information Center and presented to the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee showed that violent crime in the Arab sector has risen steadily in recent years, even as it has decreased among the Jewish population. It also found that Arabs are far more likely to be victims of violent crime, making up 60 percent of murder victims even as they are only 20% of the population.
One of the methods Aharonovitch cited for reducing crime in the Arab sector is incorporating Arab communities into the Israel Police’s “city without violence” program.
Aharonovitch said 61 Arab communities have signed up to take part in the program, and that nationwide the ministry is  giving preference to the Arab sector in regard to its incorporation within the program.
Aharonovitch called the program a breakthrough and spoke of the importance of fighting the problem of youth violence and drinking, saying “We realize that the connection between alcohol and violence is a lethal connection.”
The minister said he has proposed stiffer legislation dealing with the hours in which alcohol is sold as well as enforcement of laws against the sale of alcohol to minors. In addition, he said he supports a ban on open containers of alcohol in public.
Aharonovitch’s statements came during a speech he gave at the Tel Aviv police district’s annual meeting in Tel Aviv, held before Pessah to assess the district’s success in fighting crime over the previous year. On Tuesday morning, Aharonovitch attended a similar event held by the Central District police in Kibbutz Givat Brenner.
During his look back at the previous year, Aharonovitch praised the waron organized crime waged by police, which has seen over a dozenorganized crime organization heads put behind bars, saying “The battleagainst organized crime has sent a clear message – the party is over.”
In his comments Tuesday, Aharonovitch called for a greater allotment ofresources to Israel’s police, saying he is “very ashamed” at the lowsalaries given to police.
“With the money they receive, police officers are unable to provide fortheir families. I find myself embarrassed of police salaries,”Aharonovitch said.
“There is a serious problem in Israel with the allocation of resources,and as a minister I am saying to the government the police and theMinistry of Public Security do not receive what they need, and this hasan influence,” Aharonovitch added.