Police pressed to address street violence, car theft

The State Comptroller's Report called on the police to improve its efficiency in dealing with minor offenses and citizen complaints, saying that failure to address these issues would lead to a crisis in public confidence in the force. The compilers of the report checked in particular the efficacy of the "gating" policy of addressing citizen complaints, a concept designed in the 1990s to enable police to better consolidate such complaints. Narrowing their scope to the investigations departments of the Tel Aviv, Central and Southern districts, the compilers checked the frequency of cases being closed due to lack of public interest, and the use of alternatives to criminal investigations in cases of minor complaints. The report also examines policy formulation toward such complaints, verification of facts in complaints about non-illegal offenses, how these complaints are filed and their inclusion in police databases. Additional clarifications, particularly on topics of closing cases and punishing offenders, were later made through the State Attorney's Office and the Attorney-General's Office. The report noted that the increased roles of the police and the increase in crime added to the police workload, preventing police from being able to investigate every complaint filed. The complaints are then frequently archived without any investigation and without any punishment meted out. In 40 percent of cases in which complaints were archived, Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss found that no announcement was sent to the complainant, who was also not told he has a right to appeal the decision to relegate the case to the archives. Furthermore, the report found that in 61% of the cases in which the complaint was filed without investigation, the suspect named in the complaint was never informed of the complaint's registry, a particularly problematic situation, as the suspect's name remains in police files without any investigation carried out as to his guilt or innocence. Lindenstrauss took a harsh tone throughout the report, warning that lack of police response to offenses harms the preventative ability of the force and hence the quality of life. Lindenstrauss called on police to generate clear criteria for what cases might be filed immediately and which must be investigated more deeply. His warnings were echoed in a December 2005 missive, included in the report, written by Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz, which stated that both he and State Attorney Eran Shendar "see a great importance in ensuring that, alongside the struggle against corruption and serious and organized crime, attention will also be given to 'lighter offenses,' such as street violence, club violence, burglaries and vehicle theft, appropriation of public lands and illegal building." Mazuz also echoed Lindenstrauss' emphasis that it is important to determine a centralized policy of investigation and punishment.