As incredible as it sounds, it seems that for the last few months someone has been using two children's playgrounds in the Ramat Beit Hakerem neighborhood at night to train attack dogs, resulting in serious damage to playground equipment and creating a potentially dangerous situation for passersby.
Although no eyewitnesses are currently available, the city's parks department is convinced that attack dogs were responsible for the extensive damage done to swings and other playground equipment in both Gan Hanagid and Gan Hashavshevet.
In its July issue, Et Hakerem, the newspaper of the Beit Hakerem community administration, published an article on vandalism in the Ramat Beit Hakerem playgrounds. The newspaper wrote: "Lately, deliberate vandalism of playground equipment in Gan Hanagid and Gan Hashavshevet has increased, due among other things to the training of dogs to attack playground swingsâ€¦ It doesn't take much to imagine what could happen if one of these dogs would attack a child or adult in the park."
The newspaper went on to ask neighborhood residents with information concerning the vandalism to contact the community police officer, Ami Lieberman.
Shortly afterwards, the paper received an e-mail from a neighborhood resident who signed her letter as "Leora." She claimed to have witnessed this training and wrote that the dogs "are in the neighborhood almost every nightâ€¦ between 9 and 10 p.m."
Leora suggested that if the police want to catch the perpetrators in the act, they should stake out the playgrounds some night between these hours. She also complained that when she tried to call the community police officer, she received only an answering machine, which referred her to another number, which also turned out to be an answering machine. As a result, she was unable to contact the police in real time.
But when the newspaper tried to contact Leora, they fared no better. Her e-mail address, it turned out, was invalid.
The community paper published Leora's letter in its September issue, asking her to contact it again. But to date, nothing has been heard from her.
"We put the original item in the newspaper after having received complaints about damaged equipment and vandalism in the Ramat Beit Hakerem playgrounds," explains Sonia Bakal, editor of Et Hakerem. "This was very serious damage. And even though the person or persons have never been caught, you can see the results. I don't remember exactly who told us that the damage was caused by dogs. I think the city parks department pointed this out to us."
And in fact, the city parks department is certain that the damage was caused by dogs. In response to an inquiry from In Jerusalem, the municipal spokesman's office wrote, "The equipment was torn apart by dogs' teeth. The owners came to the playgrounds and incited the dogs to attack the equipment."
According to the parks department, the damage has totaled tens of thousands of shekels.
Furthermore, over the past few months, department crews have been dispatched to the parks three times to fix damaged equipment. In Gan Hanagid, a footbridge with ropes was completely destroyed and had to be removed. In Gan Hashavshevet, another piece of equipment had to be removed.
Both the parks department and the community administration have filed complaints with the police.
The police, for their part, are not at all convinced that the dogs are the culprits.
"It is not clear to us whether this is the case," stated the Jerusalem police spokesman's office. "It is one of the directions we are exploring. We opened an investigation two months ago. So far, no witnesses have come forward. We are still looking into the matter."
Visiting the playgrounds, IJ found evidence of irregular gnawing along the edges of the seats of the swings at Gan Hashavshevet. This would be consistent with dogs being goaded into attacking moving seats by grabbing them and then holding on to them with their teeth, according to the parks department.
Unfortunately, the period of the attacks (and complaints) coincided with disengagement from Gaza. Early this summer, the police warned citizens that due to the need to assign massive numbers of officers to deal with disengagement, its forces would not be able to deal with many cases of "petty" crime in the country.
But now that disengagement is over, maybe finding out who (or what) is vandalizing the playgrounds in Ramat Beit Hakerem and potentially endangering the lives of children and adults will be a bit higher on the police agenda.
"We are hoping that the police or the Mishmar Ezrahi [Civil Guard] will follow up on this and catch the culprits," says Bakal.