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A few months ago, three teens from Kiryat Yam broke into a local school, using wire-cutters to get through the schoolyard fence. What they did not know was that the break-in had been captured on one of security cameras installed throughout the city in an effort to both deter vandals and bring about their arrest.

The cameras did not produce clear pictures of the boys' faces, but it did reveal that one was accompanied by a dog of unusual breed. So municipal officials consulted a local veterinarian, who was able to point them to the dog's owners.

Vandalism is a plague in many places, and municipalities spend enormous sums repairing the damage or replacing what cannot be fixed. To fight it, many towns have asked the police to patrol more frequently and embarked on educational campaigns, but neither measure seems to have had much impact.

Security cameras, however, have proved extremely effective, enabling towns to arrest the vandals and sue them for damages. Since installing its cameras, Kiryat Yam has seen vandalism drop by 80 percent from its level of two years ago. As a result, its outlay on repairing vandalized public facilities has fallen from NIS 900,000 to less than a tenth of that.

"We've reached a situation in which hoodlums think twice before trying to cause any damage, because they know every such act is liable to be documented and serve as evidence against them," said Shmuel Siso, mayor of the town.

But Siso said Kiryat Yam's educational campaign has magnified the cameras' impact: Many residents who witness acts of vandalism will now record them and give the film to the city so the perpetrators can be caught. In one case, for instance, a resident's video enabled the city to catch a gang of teens that had vandalized a local playground and sue their parents for the tens of thousands of shekels worth of damage.