Not Enough Police Forces Patrolling Israeli Streets, Report Says

Israel lags behind other OECD countries in number of cops per residents, finds report by McKinsey consulting firm.

Yaniv Kubovich
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Yaniv Kubovich

The Israel Police does not deploy enough police to patrol the streets in many towns and lacks personnel in local stations, according to a report by a an independent consulting firm.

The report, written by McKinsey & Company which spent several months examining police activity, also found that Israel lags behind other OECD countries in police deployment with 0.317 beat cops per 1,000 residents, compared to the OECD average of 0.324.

The Ashdod station was found to be especially short-staffed, with 164 police responsible for the 250,000 residents of the city, as well as surrounding moshavim. The quota calls for 180, but budgetary problems have prevented the allocation of additional personnel. The station has six patrol cars and 70 beat cops who are supposed to respond to more than 200 calls a day.

Ashdod Mayor Yehiel Lasry notes that no additional police have been assigned to the city to keep up with the population growth. But he notes that "currently a large police station is under construction in Ashdod and we expect many cops to be assigned there and that new positions will be created." Rishon Letzion, with a population of 350,000, has only 70 patrolmen and six cars that must respond to some 250 calls a day.

Holon has no police station at all, after its station was turned into a police training facility. The city of 200,000 was placed under the jurisdiction of a regional station in Bat Yam. "This situation is unacceptable, bordering on the criminally negligent," says Holon Mayor Moti Sasson.

A single police officer and some volunteers look out for the 40,000 residents of Elad. The town has no patrol car.

In some Arab towns, including Kalansua and Tira, the situation is even worse because there is no local police presence, except during special crime-prevention operations. The towns are under the jurisdiction of regional police stations located elsewhere.

Public is indifferent

A senior police source accused citizens of being either unaware of or indifferent to the problem of understaffed police stations. "Were a Grad missile to land on Rehovot tomorrow, all the residents would take to the streets to demand that the country put an Iron Dome in place to protect the city," he says.

"The fact that the people of Rehovot or of any other city are at risk of being stabbed by a drunk, or murdered, raped or robbed doesn't seem to interest anyone enough to get them to take to the streets to demand more cops," he said.

For years, there has been talk of the inflated police administration, accompanied by demands to move police personnel out of the office and into the streets. Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino cut 20 percent of administrative positions in the force, but that does not seem to have helped boost the ranks of local stations around the country. Instead many police were reassigned to a new "beach district," which was split off from the northern district.

In addition, there are now some 3,000 cops who are not engaged in regular policing of towns, but in elite special forces and units operating on the Israel-Egypt border and in the West Bank. The Israel Police agreed to allow its personnel to serve in these positions, partly because the Defense Ministry pays for some of the salaries; these personnel are therefore not included in the police budget.

Senior police sources have also criticized what they call the disproportionate amount of staff assigned to the Lahav 433 unit. About 1,000 police were recruited to the unit, established during the tenure of the previous police commissioner, David Cohen, to fight organized crime.

While the unit has had some successes and arrested a few crime bosses, the sources maintain that it should be restructured. It is unacceptable, they argue, that Lahav 433 has the same number of police as the forces assigned to Rishon Letzion, Ashdod, Netanya, Petah Tikva and Kfar Sava stations combined.

Police Commissioner Danino already reassigned 200 police from the unit, but sent them to the new beach district and an elite squad, rather than to the towns around the country.

The consulting firm's report was submitted to the police commissioner and the internal security minister.

Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino, right, inspects a police call center in Tel Aviv on May 18, 2012. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum