'Raising alcohol prices would reduce youth crime'

Increasing the cost of a

Welfare and Social Services Ministry Director-General Nahum Itzkovitz called on the Treasury Wednesday to increase taxes on alcoholic beverages in an attempt to fight rising levels of violence. Speaking at a University of Haifa conference entitled "Violence: From the Headlines to Reality," Itzkovitz presented the latest data from the ministry pertaining to violence and also drew on international studies showing the link between alcohol consumption and violent behavior. "It is clear that when the price of alcohol is high and young people are not able to purchase it, then the level of violence is reduced," said Itzkovitz, in a statement following the conference. Among the main statistics highlighted by the ministry at the conference was that Israel has experienced a significant increase in violence, both domestic and in the wider community, over the past two years. According to Itzkovitz's figures, more than 50 percent of those referred to the ministry-run probation services faced criminal violence charges. In addition, the service saw a rise of 10 percent in the number referrals for general street violence. In the home, the picture painted by Itzkovitz was equally disturbing, with an increase of 84% in the number of children placed with welfare services after falling victim to domestic violence and abuse from family members. The ministry said that some 8,716 children had been interviewed over the past year on suspicion that they were victims of violence and more than 500 had already received assistance. The Social Workers Union has continually complained that Child Protection Officers have not been reaching enough victims fast enough. "There has been a notable rise in violence over the past few years," commented Itzkovitz, adding, "It is becoming clear that no one is immune from this violence and anyone can be a potential victim." Referring to several recent incidents outside nightclubs and places of entertainment, Itzkovitz added: "There is a direct link between the increasing violence and alcohol consumption. If we increase the cost of alcohol then it is less likely that young people will be able to obtain it." Earlier this week, the National Council for the Child called on the government to address the growing phenomenon of alcohol abuse among teens. The nonprofit organization claimed that lack of a national campaign and failure to enforce laws governing the sale of liquor to minors was the main problem. While the government did not respond directly to these claims, a spokesman for the Public Security Ministry, which runs the Israel Anti-Drug Authority, said several measures had already been undertaken to improve law enforcement, increase information among youths and generate further legislation to protect minors.