Police Take to the Water With Naval Patrols

The naval patrol unit of the police conducted special enforcement efforts to stop illegal activity along Israel's coastlines over the weekend. Increased patrols were carried out along the Mediterranean coast, the Sea of Galilee and the Red Sea coast off Eilat.

A force of 65 policemen participated and were joined by volunteers. Four suspected lawbreakers were arrested, two of whom were caught red-handed breaking into cars. 18 boaters were also cited for violations of boating regulations among 100 which were checked. Some of the boaters were found to be operating without a boaters' license.

A man on a jet-ski who thought he had evaded the police off the Mikhmoret beach near Netanya was surprised to be caught after reaching land. The police spotted him within 300 meters of shore, where boating is not permitted. In their attempts to stop him, the naval unit notified their colleagues on the beach in a unmarked jeep with regular license plates, who stopped the man as he left the water.

On investigating the suspect, they found that he was operating without a proper license. He was fined NIS 3,200 on the spot, which is the set amount for such an infraction.

"The goal is ultimately to create a deterrence in the face of ruffians who we see running wild in the water as they do on the beach, and to create a situation in which people think twice before getting involved in hooliganism on the beaches," said Chief Superintendent Meir Namir of the naval policing unit of the Israel Police. "We are working to blur the shoreline, that is, to create an awareness among the citizens that police enforcement which they find on land can also be found on the beach as well as deep in the water, creating unbroken continuity in the enforcement of the law."

Last Saturday, which was the day chosen for increased enforcement, had fewer beachgoers than usual and fewer jet-skiers than usual. "On a normal Saturday," said superintendent Pini Stolasky, who heads the Tel Aviv district police naval unit, "we could see 200 jet-skiers opposite the Poleg beach [in the Netanya area]," but last Saturday, he noted they only found four.

He has been with the Israel Police for 22 years, and began in a naval patrol unit. After serving in a variety of "land-based" jobs, as he called them, nothing made him happier than to return to sea, this time as a commander.

Over the course of a few hours a Haaretz reporter and photographer joined the police patrol boat. Before the photographer began griping about returning to solid ground, the police sailed the boat along the coastline from Tel Aviv to Herzliya, patrolling among the boats as their land-based colleagues would do in a police cruiser, ordering boats to "pull over" and their occupants to prepare seaworthiness documents, boating licenses and proof of insurance.

The boat patrolmen then extend a long pole with a net at the end and asked the boaters to put the necessary documents in the net for inspection, which are then checked on a computer terminal.

"Unlike on land," said Namir, "the level of the fines that we and the people at the Israel Nature and Parks Authority who operate on the beaches hand out is very high, which creates a deterrent factor among boaters. A jet-skier with a 150 liter engine like we have today is exactly like a car, but at sea there are no lanes and a vessel like this can be lethal since it is impossible to stop it on the spot. This is why the presence of a jet-ski within 300 meters of the shore is so dangerous. You see the head of a person behind waves that are going up and down all the time can appear to the skier like a small buoy, but to my regret in no small number of cases, it has ended very badly."

In addition to combating hooliganism at sea and on the beach, the patrol is also involved in rescuing boats stranded due to mechanical problems, identifying hazards or other violations such as illegal fishing or drug smuggling. The shoreline is also patrolled to prevent possible attempts at committing terrorist acts from the sea through booby-trapped boats and the like.

The naval police chalked up a success on shore last Saturday afternoon when they apprehended two suspects in a string of hundreds of thefts at Yardenit, near the Sea of Galilee. After reports of two suspicious young people in the area, the police set up an ambush near a Peugeot that was thought to belong to the two. The two came back to the car, and the police discovered dozens of items that had just been stolen from bathers in the area with them.