In the wake of a surge in sexual harassment in Be'er Sheva neighborhoods, a resourceful student has developed an interactive online map that enables victims to chart the location of the incident and pass this information on to the police anonymously.
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The map, developed by Ben-Gurion University student Israel Kariti, also enables victims to provide a description of the perpetrator, thereby aiding police in their efforts to combat the phenomenon. Because the system is anonymous, it is thought that many women who would otherwise hesitate to contact the police are more likely to report such incidents.
The recent increase in sexual harassment, including indecent exposure as well as a few cases of assault, have been concentrated mainly in three neighborhoods known by the Hebrew letters Bet, Gimmel and Dalet; all are near Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
The interactive map that Kariti developed plots where the incidents take place, thereby warning women of potentially dangerous areas.
“Since the map was inaugurated, students have contacted us and reported that there are more patrol cars in areas that have been designated as problematic,” said Be’er Sheva community policing officer Dudu Levy. “The map provides another parameter that can be relied on and another tool to help us determine the location of harassment [incidents]. But it’s important to note that the fact that a place was marked on a map doesn’t mean that a crime was committed there. We are not only combating perpetrators of harassment, but also enhancing the sense of security.”
Kariti said he recently met with Be'er Sheva police commander Moshe Ivgi to provide him with information about what he said was a substantial number of sexual harassment cases in the affected neighborhoods. Levy said that he believes the incidents are localized rather than a widespread problem. Ivgi echoed that view, dismissing the suggestion that the neighborhoods around the university are dangerous. "One or two deviant people are enough to create all the problems there," he said, adding that whenever an incident is reported on the map, his department responds immediately.
"The police were surprised at the number of incidents, for the simple reason that they were not reported to the station," Kariti said. "The number of cases that I personally disclosed to them is much higher than what's on Facebook [where women often divulge incidents of harassment] and certainly more than what the police have." Many female university students choose not to contact the police directly because of the emotional burden of doing so, noted Kariti, but they can report what happened on the map with a few clicks of a computer mouse. In addition to providing the information to the police, the map warns female students about locations in which they should be particularly careful.
As a result of the number of reported incidents, one female university student, Lihi Almog, has put together a neighborhood watch group of students and other residents in cooperation with the police. It is expected to begin operating shortly with foot patrols during the nighttime hours.