Needed: New Police Policies

Crime related to the African migrant community rose sharply and steadily between 2005 and 2012, particularly in the Tel Aviv district.

Amir Oren
Amir Oren
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African migrants look on at police on horseback keeping the peace in south Tel Aviv.Credit: Moti Milrod
Amir Oren
Amir Oren

The Israel Police labs are developing a special new material to prevent scandals and avoid resignations, a skeleton-resistant steel to be used in producing the office closets of candidates for senior positions.

But while the top echelons of the organization look like one long chain collision as the aspirations of the various major generals slam against the sins of their past, at the lower levels the professional work continues. One of the results is an annual journal by the Investigations and Intelligence Branch, entitled Bemahshava Tehila (“With Forethought”).

In one of the seven essays, “Intelligence-Directed Community Policing,” several officers, headed by the commander of the Tel Aviv District Police’s central unit, Cmdr. Gadi Eshed, suggest linking community policing to an advanced model, like the intelligence-directed fighters of the Israel Defense Forces; a system that would expect every policeman, regardless of his job description, to act as an intelligence-gathering agent, developing sources of information from the public that relies on the police.

The advantage of researchers is their access to detailed data, like how many crimes and what type were committed in every district, during every season, on which days of the week and under what weather conditions. This is the basis for an analysis called “Seasonal Crime,” in which we learn that in the winter there are more car thefts and house break-ins, while there is more physical violence in the summer. Similar segmentations can be made between day/night, weekdays/weekends and rainy/clear days.

There are also city-specific characteristics. Even someone who isn’t a senior detective could guess that in Tel Aviv the chances of being beaten or stabbed are much greater in the entertainment districts on Thursday or Friday nights, but only someone searching the police computers would know that there’s a link between the temperature in Be’er Sheva and the types of crimes expected on that day, and when it’s most dangerous in Jerusalem (when rain and Jewish holidays coincide).

Given the public, political and legal controversy over the issue of asylum seekers, it would be tempting – but mistaken – to seek a hidden motive for the study by Intelligence Branch officer Supt. Tal Elimelech entitled, “Infiltration into Israel from Africa – Outlines and Characteristics.” In practice, the police are not a party to the dispute. Even when it is facing protesters from the other side of the barriers, it is actually in the same arena, a helpless victim of policies established elsewhere. Elimelech demonstrates sympathy and compassion for both groups involved – the foreigners and the locals, both of whom are hard up and feeling oppressed – who understand that the police, which is in more direct contact with them than the other state authorities, can offer little relief.

Of the 75,000 infiltrators/asylum seekers, police estimate that some 40,000 are in the Tel Aviv district, 35,000 of them in south Tel Aviv, and some 10,000 in the southern district, half of those in Eilat. Between 1,000 and 3,000 live in Rishon Lezion, Netanya, Be’er Sheva, Ashkelon, Ashdod and Jerusalem. These concentrations make in difficult for the legal authorities to penetrate, and turn them into hotbeds of crime, because “this society is withdrawn and alienated, with high unemployment, characterized by a high crime rate” both internally (men against their wives, Eritreans against Sudanese) and externally, generally as the perpetrators of crimes, but also as victims. Crime related to this community rose sharply and steadily between 2005 and 2012, particularly in the Tel Aviv district, with the strengthening ties to drug dealers particularly worrisome.

“The presence of a foreign population living in distressed conditions in their communities creates – both among themselves and between them and the local Israeli population – social tensions that stem from instances of violent crime, disruption of public order and violent confrontations. The scope of crime by infiltrators from Africa will expand the longer they stay and become established here with no way to make a legal living,” the police intelligence branch warns. The conclusions lie in the realm of policy and are left in the hands of the public and its elected officials, who ought not to bury their heads in the sand.