Israel Sees Jump in Sex Crimes, Domestic Violence Cases Amid Coronavirus Lockdown

The total number of criminal cases opened last month was down 19 percent compared to March 2019, mainly due to a steep drop in property crimes

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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Police on patrol in Tel Aviv.
Police on patrol in Tel Aviv, April 5, 2020.Credit: Meged Gozani
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

The number of cases opened by the police involving sex crimes within the family jumped by 41 percent, from 24 to 34, in March compared to March of last year, largely because families have been sequestered at home due to the coronavirus epidemic, police said.

The Israel Police also reported a 16 percent increase in domestic violence cases more generally in March of this year compared to last, in part due to the fact that adult probation offices have curtailed operations as a result of the epidemic and that some of the groups offering therapy for domestic violence offenders have been shut down entirely.

By contrast, there has been no change in the rate of violent crime committed in public – beyond the domestic setting. Police opened 4,227 files involving violent crimes outside the home in the past two weeks, a pace virtually identical to the 4,243 cases opened during the same period last year.

Haredi leaders learn harsh corona lesson as Israel sends in the troopsCredit: Haaretz

“While the number of people, primarily children and women, who are suffering at home from physical, sexual and economic violence has risen due to the lockdown, the Finance Ministry is continuing to take advantage of the situation to curtail some of the most important services – probation services, services for youth at risk and violence prevention services,” the chairwoman of the Social Workers’ Union, Inbal Hermoni, claimed.

There was a drop in other types of crime, however, and all told the number of criminal cases opened last month was down 19 percent compared to March 2019. This was mainly due to a steep drop in the commission of property crimes, with home break-ins in particular plummeting 45 percent. Police attributed the drop to the coronavirus lockdown as well, as people were confined to their homes and many businesses closed.

UN chief Antonio Guterres has called on governments to take urgent measures to tackle a "horrifying global surge" in domestic violence fuelled by worldwide lockdowns to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Guterres called for all governments to make preventing violence against women a key part of their national response plans for COVID-19. "For many women and girls, the threat (of violence) looms largest where they should be safest: in their own homes," the UN secretary general said in a video.

Guterres called on governments to create safe ways for women to seek support without alerting their abusers, including by setting up emergency warning systems in pharmacies and groceries - among the few places people are still allowed to visit.

Shelters for abuse victims should be declared essential services and investment boosted in online services and civil society organisations supporting victims, he added.

By contrast, the number of break-ins at businesses, which had also declined during the first half of March, increased in the second half, police said in a statement, although they did not provide specific figures.

Drug crimes plummeted in March. The number of new cases opened over the manufacture or cultivation of drugs dropped by a third, to 61, compared to 91 last year, while the number of files opened for importing, exporting or trafficking in drugs plunged by 46.5 percent to 441, from 824 in March 2019.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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