Police: Gun crimes up in Arab towns in country's center

Gun-related crimes rose by 20 percent in 2008 in the police's Central District, with most of the offenses taking place within Arab communities, police figures released on Tuesday showed. In 2008, 631 firearms-related offenses were recorded, compared with 524 in 2007. Police recorded a 39% increase in the firing of guns, and a 19.5% increase in illegal firearms possession. An increase in armed exchanges between criminal organizations and clans in Arab communities was noted, as was an increase in the theft of firearms and the production of improvised explosives. Addressing a Central District conference on Tuesday in Givat Brenner, near Rehovot, Israel Police Insp.-Gen. David Cohen welcomed the attendance of Arab council heads at the meeting. "Your very presence shows good cooperation," he said. "But incidents of shooting and firearm offenses in the Arab sector must fall in 2009. They will be tackled on the station level and the regional level as a priority." In general, crime in the central district fell by 7.3%. A total of 88,928 offenses were recorded in 2008, compared with 95,964 in 2007. This decrease continues a downward trend - in 2006, 105,460 offenses were recorded. Property crime fell by 13.5%, while break-ins were down by a significant 20.8 %. Break-ins to vehicles also dropped in 2008 by 12%. Violent crimes remained static in 2008, with 10,100 incidents recorded, compared to 10,072 in 2007. Police in the district said violent feuds between organized crime families had fallen by 86%. On the other hand, there was a 100% increase in both street violence and domestic violence. Netanya held first place in crime rates among cities in the district, with 22% of the offenses recorded there. Rishon Lezion came in second with 15%, and Petah Tikva was third with 13%. Overall crime in Netanya dropped by 5.4%. In Petah Tikva, crime fell by 12.4%, and in Rishon it was down by 9.5%. Cohen said that "2008 was a year of setting priorities." He praised the drop in break-ins, but said police "did not succeed in lowering violence in 2008. We will do this in 2009."