Special unit to tackle rise in car thefts

Etgar unit successfully reduced thefts when it was first created in 1998.

car theft 88 (photo credit: )
car theft 88
(photo credit: )
Citing a drastic increase in car thefts, Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra announced the reestablishment Monday of the police's anti-car theft unit - Etgar (Challenge). The unit was initially established in 1998 but was dismantled at the beginning of 2004, due to cuts in the police's operational budget, after police succeeded in lowering the number of car thefts from 40,000 to 25,000. Ezra said that there was a connection between the lull in terror attacks and the recent increase in car thefts. The Trans-Israel highway or Road 6, Ezra added, assists car thieves in quickly transporting stolen cars from one part of the country to another part. "Once the car is stolen in the North it can be found within less than an hour in a chop shop in the South," he said. The main reason for the reestablishment of the unit was the partnership the police struck with the National Insurance Association, in which the NIA has agreed pay for 40 percent of the unit's budget. The other 60% will be funded by the police and the Treasury. "Without the National Insurance Association we would not have been able to establish the unit," Ezra admitted. "The police, as everyone knows, have budget problems and we are constantly struggling with our list of priorities according to the money we have. Our [in]ability to solve every problem is problematic." But the funding was not the only reason Ezra decided to reestablish the unit. In 2005 over 34,000 cars were stolen - close to 10,000 more than the last year - 2003 - that the unit was operational. The insurance companies admitted that they have a financial interest in establishing the unit. 10,000 stolen cars, they said, costs them NIS 500 million - a lot more than the 40% of the unit's budget. Head of the National Insurance Association Moni Bar said that the wave of car thefts has brought several car rental companies to the brink of bankruptcy. "When the unit was dismantled two years ago there was a drastic increase in the number of stolen cars," Bar said. "With its reestablishment we are confident that it will succeed in continuing to lower the number."