On Tuesday morning, I attended the day-long First International Safe Cities Conference, at Tel-Aviv’s David International Hotel. I was officially there on behalf of the Guardian Angels: all decked out in my red beret and jacket and black multi-pocketed pants filled with information pamphlets. One of the burning questions of the day was whether Israel should reform the current system of policing to allow municipalities to have their own police departments.
Hagai Peled from Israel’s Internal Security Ministry represented the point of view of the National Police. In short, no one is as qualified as they to do the jobs of both crime prevention and dealing with anti-social behavior, that public concerns about crime are not consistent with the rate of crime reflected in police statistics and that municipalities have to deal with too many “local groups” whose pressure could influence the conduct and use of the police. He recommended improved cooperation between police and municipalities, laws that would allow increase police effectiveness, changes in the courts to make them tougher on crime, increased use of anti-crime technologies and increased use of local patrols but without police powers.
Shlomo Buchbut, Mayor of Maalot Tarshiha and chairman of the Union of Local Authorities, pointed out that when more that 62% of the population ranks fear of violence and crime as their number one concern, it’s time for the police to take a second look at their statistics. I would have loved to have offered him the example I saw on The Day of Struggle Against Violence Against Women last week, when, despite the fact that the police report that there have been only seven domestic violence-related murders in Israel this year, we read a Memorial List consisting of 15 names. That is apparently because the police only consider it a “domestic violence-related murder” if the relationship between the two is that of a couple. If a son kills his mother or sister or a grandparent kills a grandchild, for example, that isn’t part of the count.
Avi Naim, Chairman of the Security Committee and mayor of Beit Aryeh, pooh-poohed such examples of the effectiveness of the National Police as the reduction in car thefts (which he attributed to the building of the separation wall) and said that the National Police have failed in their mission when it comes to all kinds of crimes that hurt citizens’ quality of life.
He criticized current law enforcement, i.e. the “culture of laziness” among police officers and the light sentences given to criminals and, even more so, the lack of effective prevention.
In response to Mr. Peled’s concerns about “local influences”, he said that, unlike the national parliamentary system in which representative are selected indirectly, mayors have to pass a test of public confidence every five year called an election, which decreases the chance of politicization of the police. He said local governments must be the nerve center for both day-to-day life (personal security) and large-scale emergencies (public safety) but that they must also understand the level of responsibility involved and provide the training and integration with the National Police to make the system effective and efficient.
There were several other fine presenters. I especially enjoyed hearing Joyce Kaufman of WFTL in South Florida and her refreshingly Right Wing, outspoken First Amendment, pro-Israel and anti-crime rhetoric.
For me, the contrast between Joyce’s emphasis on personal responsibility and the Israelis’ relative paternalism was really striking. Do we, as citizens, play no part in the fight for personal security? What about our spirit of activism, of volunteerism, of making a difference in their own communities? In order to effect change, efforts like the Hebrew University Students “Take Back The Night” March (see article below) rely on getting people up, out and angry enough to DO something . The police, whether national or local, may be essential in the fight against crime and violence, but they cannot be everywhere and do everything— and they should not be expected to. It’s time we “armed ourselves”, not with guns, but with knowledge, skills and a “can do” spirit, to refuse to allow our communities or ourselves to fall victim to intimidation, crime and violence.
The police can assist us, but they cannot empower us. That is something we must do for ourselves.
Students want to stop fear in Jerusalem
Students at the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus protested against the growing phenomenon of sexual harassment and attacks in the area. To increase awareness of the problem of “paralysis”, they organized a march along the path associated with incidents of harassment.
Eli Mandelbaum and Shlomit Sharvit
YNet 02.12.09, 17:05
“Leaving the dormitories on Mt. Scopus and French Hill in the evening is a very difficult decision for any woman”, explains Hamutal Cohen from the organization ALEH (College Without Harassment). ” When walking back to the dorms from the university, women generally have to prepare themselves to absorb degrading and humiliating catcalls. Many students prefer to take the bus just to avoid the expected encounters with the men that show up in the area every night.”
The procession, that took place under the slogan “Women Want The Night Back “, was held out of a desire to restore the security of thousands of individual students living in dorms in the area adjacent to the university and to place the issue of sexual harassment on the agenda in order to find a solution to the situation.
Women Want The Night Back
“The current preventive actions by the municipality and the civil guard are important, but not sufficient to prevent incidents. The feeling is that the university is not doing enough to tackle the problem. There is a wall of silence around the issue,” says Cohen. “We hope that raising awareness will encourage women to join the Civil Guard and to defend themselves as a way of empowerment and coping with the fears that accompany us as women.
She said that violence against women is a broad social problem that is not restricted to a particular sector and does not remain only within the house, as most people mistakenly think.
“It accompanies women on their way to university and on their way home, in their workplaces and in their classrooms, “she explained.” Its manifestations are not only physical but also verbal, mental and emotional. Violence will not go away unless we fight it, men and women together, and women’s safety and security cannot be assured unless we stop all elements and aspect of these hate crimes. “
Hebrew University sent the following response: “The university administration is aware of the problem and has taken steps to drastically reduce the number of complaints. The University’s Security Department has added security patrol vehicles that move along the axis of movement of students at night. In addition, the Security Department has asked the Israel Police to increase the number of patrols in areas under their supervision in the area in question. The Jerusalem Municipality has also increased the lighting in the area. The University requests that any female student that is harassed issue an official complaint with the Security Department to help them eradicate these incidents.