Israeli, PA police team up to improve West Bank traffic safety

Police from both groups spoke in Hebrew and Arabic, sometimes switching mid-sentence.

car crash 298.88 (photo credit: ZAKA)
car crash 298.88
(photo credit: ZAKA)
With deadly crashes a weekly occurrence on West Bank roadways, Israel Police and Palestinian Authority Police met Wednesday to try to share data, techniques and technology and improve the situation on the roads. There are currently no figures available to conduct even the most basic research on traffic safety, due to a lack of ongoing discourse between the two bodies. Even a statistic as simple as the number of people killed in West Bank crashes remains elusive. Traffic data from the Judea and Samaria District is frequently not even included in Israel Police statistics. But Colin Smith, head of mission for EU COPPS (European Union Coordinating Office for Palestinian Police Support), was optimistic that Wednesday's meeting at the Neveh Ilan Resort Hotel would help pave the way for more efficient and productive future partnerships. "We chose traffic as the first topic because it is among the least politically charged topics," he said. "The success of this conference will be to have another one." Smith said part of the inspiration to hold the conference had come from reading about the daily death toll on Israel's roadways and understanding that this was an area of concern to both parties. Approximately 60 traffic and District Coordination Liaison officers from the PA Police and the Israel Police's Judea and Samaria District took part in eight hours of workshops. Police from both groups spoke in Hebrew and Arabic, sometimes switching mid-sentence as they sought to describe their concerns to their counterparts. Police also participated in two of what Ch.-Supt. Dani Poleg described as "open conversations," in which officers from each organization fielded questions about the day-to-day operations in their ranks. The Israel Traffic Police displayed their road safety enforcement technologies, including Breathalyzers and red-light cameras. Police discussed collision investigation and the nuts and bolts of road infrastructure improvement - a hot topic in an area where most of the roads are undivided and consist of one lane in each direction. Israel Police officers at the meeting said they hoped a subsequent conference would be held to discuss forensics. Smith - an expert in policing in conflict zones, having previously worked in both Northern Ireland and Iraq - said he hoped to see future collaboration on other topics, including fighting organized crime, drug trafficking and vehicle theft.