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Yesterday was a busy day for the police in Upper Nazareth as National Insurance Institute allowances were paid out - and that prompted an extra police presence in the streets, especially near banks.

Last year, 21 elderly people were mugged in the city after receiving their allowances - which are normally paid on the 28th of every month but were paid early this month due to the Hanukkah and Christmas holidays. This year, however, local police decided to make special efforts to protect senior citizens on NII pay day.

In addition to the increased police presence in the streets, some policemen escorted the elderly home from the bank.

Civil Guard members and students at two local high schools also serve as volunteer escorts.

"It gives me a good feeling when I come home from the bank accompanied by policemen or students," said Grigori Lorner, 85, an immigrant from the former Soviet Union who lives on his NII allowance.

Superintendent Lutfi Fallah, commander of the Upper Nazareth police station, said the project has proven itself "....not only in the feeling of security that the elderly have, but also according to what the data show: They show that over the last year there have been only seven muggings of senior citizens. That is a steep decline. And we're trying to eradicate the phenomenon."

Mayor Shimon Gepso, who enthusiastically supports the program, said the city is also planning to run self-defense workshops for senior citizens. The workshops will cover topics such as how to defend themselves against muggers and how to protect their apartments by installing better locks or window bars.

"We want to give the elderly tools that will help them," Gepso said.