Police in Umm al-Fahm.
Police in Umm al-Fahm. Photo by Baz Ratner
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The murder rate in predominantly Arab cities and towns has dropped by 10 percent this year, and the rate of shootings has gone down by 24 percent compared with the same eight-month period last year, Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Sunday's cabinet meeting.

But given the harsh allegations over the years charging Israel Police with failing to put enough effort into solving murder cases in Arab areas, perhaps the biggest signal of change is represented by a smaller number: the 15-percent increase in solved murders that took place in Arab cities and towns. The rate of solved murders in Arab locales is still lower than in predominantly Jewish ones, with 55 percent of murders in Arab cities and towns being solved by police.

Still, the rise in solved crimes indicates a change for the better, said Netanyahu.

"This is a very welcome change," he said. "The continued treatment of this matter is important for the good of the entire Israeli population and the Arab citizens of Israel in particular. It's important for Israeli citizens to know that we have a good police force that is effectively fighting crime."

The murder rate has dropped in the overall population as well, by 20 percent, since last year. But there has been a drop of only 1 percent in the rate of so-called "quality-of-life crimes" like burglary, street violence and theft.

Though there were 40 fewer Israeli Arabs killed in traffic accidents this year than last year, one out of three Israelis killed in a car accident is Arab. Overall, the number of people killed in traffic accidents on Israeli roads so far this year - 194 - has dropped by 28 percent compared with 2011. The number of fatal accidents fell by a similar rate, to 237.

Police say there has also been a significant drop in the number of seriously injured victims of car accidents in the past year. They are attributing the drop in serious accidents to a crackdown on traffic offenses spearheaded by Bruno Stein, who heads the traffic unit.

"The right investment in the Israel Police is in the national interest," said Danino. "The Israel Police's actions in enforcing the law, fighting crime and maintaining public order contribute to shaping the face of Israeli society and assuring its future."

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, who oversees the Israel Police, thanked Danino and the police force for their "excellent work" and thanked Netanyahu for his support of the police.