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David Cohen is head of intelligence in the Israel Police, and David Cohen is head of intelligence in the New York Police Department. By strange coincidence, two men with the same name occupy a similar post. One is a former senior CIA official, and the other is a former head of the Israel Police Civil Guard. That is where the similarity between the two police departments ends.

Last year, just before Major General David (Dudi) Cohen took up his post as head of the Israel Police's investigations and intelligence department, the police distributed a comprehensive two-volume handbook on intelligence.

Among other things, the tome provides readers with a chart categorizing criminals. An arch-criminal is called a "human target," followed by a "secondary target," "preferred monitored person" and "ordinary monitored person," and so on down the line, to a point where a criminal would be required to climb on top of a pile of bodies to rise up the ladder of criminality.

The book explains the difference between intelligence, which begins with the perpetrator, leads to the evidence and then to the crime, and investigation, which begins with the crime, leads to the evidence, and from there to the perpetrator. Certain sources are not allowed to be used, such as pathological liars, and neither are certain professions, such as the media and lawyers, because "these two sources demand privileged information in return."

The book also mentions the internal ranking in the Israeli intelligence community, clinging in arrogant fixation to its three prestigious branches - the Shin Bet, Mossad and Military Intelligence - while pushing the police and Foreign Ministry intelligence to the sidelines.

All of a sudden, with terror attacks in abeyance, crime and the police have taken center stage. Only a year ago, with the threat of indictment in the David Appel affair hanging over his head, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon appeared at a conference of police officers and publicly presented them as "whining" in their request for additional budgets, telling them with sangfroid to "make do with what you have."

Recently, too late to invest in preventing crimes already committed, Sharon has changed his tune, summoning Police Commissioner Moshe Karadi for a one-on-one discussion, and giving him a platform at a cabinet meeting. With the horses about to escape, Sharon had refused to repair the barn door. Now, in the face of a public outcry, he has the money and the will.

This shows not only a dearth of political leadership, but also a rare opportunity for a change of government. Criminal violence on the streets and in clubs is rapidly taking on the same weight that terror had in the previous elections, for example the knifing of Helena Rapp in 1992. There is almost no debate over Israel's foreign and security policy among the big parties - those in the government and those yearning to return to it, all of whom are tainted to some extent with machinations and corruption. A possible difference between them, perhaps the decisive one, is in the realm of personal safety, which is crying out for new leaders who will change the existing priorities.

It is about the budget, too, which buys quality and quantity in the fight against crime, and in police presence as a deterrent and to catch criminals, but it is not only about the budget. The monetary investment must proceed from policy, from leadership, from strengthening law enforcement and abandoning a forgiving attitude toward criminals.

It sounds simple, but it is the exact opposite of the attitude of the Sharon government and the clerk-run political school of thought, which has resulted in a weakening of the system that is struggling against crime.

In the relationship between law enforcement and crime, undermining the former strengthens the latter, according to the self-righteous argument. New, fair and firm candidates, who will pledge to appoint people to key positions with proven experience in fighting crime, people who will bring a new spirit to the government's representative on the committee for the appointment of judges, have a rare opportunity. It is a chance to sweep from power the knights of corruption and impotence. Then, of course, the new rulers will have to be monitored. It was the longing of the American middle class, threatened by assassinations and riots, that brought the "Law and Order candidate," Richard Nixon, to power in 1968, who without further ado became a criminal himself.