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The public thinks their personal security has been consistently worsening, says a multi-year research project that examines how Israelis feel about their safety. The study has been conducted since 2005 by researchers from the College of Management in Rishon Letzion with pollsters from the Smith Research Institute. The survey examines the level of fear from crime.

The research reveals that 30 percent of those surveyed said their feeling of personal security was lower than the previous year, and this trend was consistent for each of the past four years. Only 5 percent of those questioned said they felt their personal security had risen during the last year.

Home break-ins and thefts were the form of crime that most affected the quality of life, said the respondents, followed by violent crimes and the threat from organized crime.

The number of citizens who said they feared from crime in their homes rose 10 percent last year.

Kfar Sava suffers

To take one example from real-life crimes, the residents of Kfar Sava have been suffering. A few days ago unknown criminals broke the windshield of the editor of a local paper. Two months ago there was an attempt to torch the car of another journalist from the same newspaper, but that was blocked at the last minute. Months ago two people were attacked by masked assailants and one was stabbed; but the event that had the biggest effect on most Kfar Sava residents was a series of harassing incidents that included the throwing of fragmentation and stun grenades at the house of the operators of the Kankafe coffee shop in the city park. They announced they would close the coffee shop due to the threats from criminals.

Guy Ben-Gal, a city council member, said many people have told him about their fears and the pressure from criminal elements. He said extortion and demands for protection money are no longer uncommon in Kfar Sava, the Kankafe incidents being by far the most shocking. "You see a businessman who won a tender legally and is being extorted and pressured by criminals, and in the end gives in and closes the business. Where is the police? What does that signal to someone who wants to open a business in the area in the future?" said Ben-Gal.

Irit Mark, the editor whose car windows were broken this week, is convinced that someone is trying to warn her off. She says she will not let criminals dictate to her what to do.

One resident, who asked to remain anonymous, described how he saw people shoot at a building near his home. A senior organized crime figure used to live in the building, and his family still does.

According to the researchers, the crimes that seem to least worry the public or affect their quality of life are terror attacks, prostitution, bank robbery, family violence and violence at school, report the researchers.

As to the government's commitment to fighting violence and crime, 68 percent of those surveyed feel the state is ineffective in battling crime.

Six months ago the Public Security Ministry conducted a similar survey, with similar results relating to the public's faith in the police in 2007. By coincidence, the ministry's survey about a loss of faith in the police and its efficiency came out very close to the police's announcement that crime rates were continuing to fall.

As for Kfar Sava, the police said residents' complaints were unfounded, and Kfar Sava is one of the quietist cities as far as crime goes. On the Kankafe affair, the spokeswoman of the police's central region said: "The decision of the owners of Kankafe to close the business were based on their own considerations, and the police are working intensively to handle the complaint."