The problems plaguing the Israel Police stem from a weak law enforcement system in general, as well as from a lack of resources to deal with an overwhelming number of missions. This is the standard explanation for the helplessness of the police in face of residents' deteriorating sense of security in their villages and neighborhoods, from Rehovot and south Tel Aviv to Kfar Hanassi and Tuba-Zangariya.

This explanation, often accompanied by denials that after further investigation turn into admissions, is only partially correct. So is the familiar argument about how deficient education and light sentences contribute to increasing aggression and decreasing deterrance. When residents who encounter lawbreaking don't get a response from the police, the escalation is liable to lead to disaster.

According to a report by the McKinsey company, which has been studying the work of the police for the past several months, the main problem is the limited ability of local police stations to respond to individual calls. Over the past 20 years, the number of residents in most of Israel's large cities has doubled, while the number of police has remained the same.

The tragic case of Gadi Vichman, who was stabbed to death Friday night in Be'er Sheva while standing up for his right to some quiet at night, demonstrates how serious the problem is.

According to the Be'er Sheva police, that night there were only six patrol cars to respond to nearly 50 calls, including eight brawls and other violent events, and 40 noise disturbances. The patrol car that responded to the first call about noise at a quarter past midnight near Vichman's home didn't see anything and continued to another call, a club where the two sides in a brawl had to be physically separated.

Two hours later, there was another burst of noise near the Vichman home, and when Vichman came down from his home to ask the noisy teens to keep quiet, he was stabbed to death.

The police's version of this fatal event is not very convincing, and although suspects were arrested quickly it certainly does nothing to counter the feeling that life in Israel has become cheap; that anyone - man, woman, teenager or elderly person - could be the victim of a senseless killing by a criminal or young hoodlum.

This sense of contempt for life is also connected to the seeming lack of any deterrent against pulling a knife or smashing a bottle and stabbing someone. Any one of us could have been Vichman.

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