Police: Violent offenses down, murder rate rises in 2010

Outgoing chief says he's 'most disturbed by possibility of ideologically-motivated murder'; criticizes state prosecution.

Police Insp.-Gen. David Cohen 311 (photo credit: YAAKOV LAPPIN)
Police Insp.-Gen. David Cohen 311
(photo credit: YAAKOV LAPPIN)
Overall violent offenses in Israel dropped by 22 percent between 2006 and 2010, according to police statistics revealed on Tuesday, but the murder rate rose by 10% over the past year.
The figures were unveiled at an annual police conference held in Ganei Tikva. The event represented the last time outgoing Israel Police Insp.-Gen. David Cohen was presenting annual crime stats, and he used his speech to defend his term as police chief, citing polls by the University of Haifa and the Public Security Ministry to back his claim that “the public’s confidence in the police has risen by 3% to 5%.”
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Cohen’s combative appearance also included direct criticism of state prosecutors and the Attorney-General’s Office over what he described as “too long a period” between the police investigation of ex-president Moshe Katsav on suspicion of rape, and his indictment.
He described the lengthy period as “harmful” to the legal process and to deterrence.
According to police figures, 139 homicides occurred in 2010, compared to 126 in 2009. At the same time, since 2006, an overall decrease of 7% was recorded for murders, according to the police figures.
Since 2009, overall recorded violent offenses dropped by 6%, from 30,447 cases in 2009 to 28,441 cases in 2010.
However, an unprecedented number of knife-possession cases – 12,223 – were opened in 2010, compared to 11,302 in 2009, a rise of 8%.
“Compared to other societies, Israeli society is not violent. We have violence, but we are not a violent society,” Cohen said, comparing the figures to those of other OECD states.
“Compared to OECD countries, the crime rate in Israel is a little over the median rate,” he said.
He added, however, that the phenomenon of threatening public officials was on the rise.
“Today in Israel, there are over 100 people being threatened, most of them police officers, judges, lawyers and public officials. Threatening public officials is equivalent to threatening the rule of law,” Cohen said.
“One of the things that most disturbs me is the possibility of an ideologically motivated murder. Our policy is clear on this. Anyone who threatens a public official is arrested, investigated and tried,” Cohen declared, referring to the recent arrest of a man who released YouTube films calling for the murder of public officials.
“This morning there was another attempt to threaten a public official, Nissim Marom, the Central District prosecutor. Here, too, I suggest no one test our ability. We will reach anyone who threatens public officials,” he asserted.
In 2006, 7,760 knife-possession cases were investigated. The number of cases rose by 255% between 2006 and 2010.
Police added that 85% of knife-possession cases involved individuals who had criminal records.
Police said they initiated 3,252 illegal arms investigations in 2010, compared to 2,888 in 2009. Last year, 569 suspects were arrested and kept in custody until end of legal proceedings in arms-possession cases, compared to 544 in 2009.
Car thefts, meanwhile, dropped 41 % between 2006 and 2010, police said. In 2010, car thefts went down by 8% compared to 2009, from 22,113 to 20,254.
Israel ranked a bit above average for car thefts among OECD countries.
Break-ins at homes were also down. In 2009, 29,400 home robberies were reported, compared to 27,171 in 2010.
Property offenses decreased by 12% between 2009 and 2010, from 155,681 to 136,389.
“Is this not a cause for pride for the officers of the Israel Police?” Cohen said during the conference.
In 2010, police opened 5,846 drugoffense cases, a rise of 14% compared to 2009, which saw 5,127 drug cases. The statistics represent the highest figure ever for narcotics cases, police added.
Specialized units tasked with intercepting drug smugglers were credited with the rise in narcotics seizures, including the Lebanon Border Unit, the Magen unit in South, the Jordan Border Unit and the 747 Ben-Gurion Airport unit.
In 2010, 4,899 kilograms of marijuana were seized and 1,218 kg. of hashish were intercepted by police, compared with 648 kg. and 2,377 kg., respectively, in 2009. In addition, 471 kg. of heroin and 71 kg. of cocaine were confiscated, compared with 392 kg. and 64 kg. in 2009.
Police also noted a drastic drop in the number of Ecstasy pills seized, going from 6,823 in 2009 to a mere 1,448 in 2010.
Police said this past year saw the lowest rate of reported crime, with 50 complaints for every 1,000 citizens.
Last year also witnessed the largest number of indictments ever against organized crime suspects – 89 – compared to 40 the previous year, and 31 in 2008.
Two aims guided the war against organized crime, police said: to harm the leadership of organizations, while also attacking their economic assets.
“Organized crime is a cancer in the heart of society that has gained in strength,” Cohen said. “It threatens the rule of law, and therefore all of our resources have been directed at tackling it.”
Eighteen crime organizations have been mapped out in recent years and monitored closely, Cohen said, but noted that “crime organizations won’t disappear with the wave of a magic wand. Vacuums are filled.”
Police remained concerned, meanwhile, about corruption of public figures.
Local authorities and tenders were the largest focal points of corruption, Cohen said. One hundred-eighty bribery investigations were opened this year, and 36 complaints were lodged against mayors and heads of local authorities – 32 of which resulted in investigations.
There were also 69 investigations against public officials by the National Economic Crimes Unit in 2010.
Intelligence played a larger role than ever before in investigations and indictments, police noted. According to Cohen, over 2,300 electronic eavesdropping operations were launched in 2010.
Addressing the issue of inadequate police numbers, the annual report said there were 3.17 police officers for every 1,000 civilians – one of the lowest rates among OECD countries. At least 900 new officers need to be recruited in order to reach the OECD’s median officer- to-civilian ratio.
Increased police ranks could lower crime rates by 10%, which would in turn save the country up to NIS 3.4 billion a year, police claimed. The most costly crimes were fraud, violence and property offenses.
Police also expressed frustration with judges for handing down lenient sentences, and took the unusual step of releasing figures on the issue.
The vast majority of convicted criminals in 2010 received no more than 25% of the maximum legal penalty, according to the figures. While assault and battery carry a 20-year maximum sentence, 78% of those convicted received only up to 25% of that. In addition, 92% of those convicted of domestic violence, which carries a four-year prison sentence, received a quarter of that or less. Robbery carries a 14-20-year prison sentence, but 90% of those convicted received up to 25% of that time.