The Bottom Line / Go for the Eggs

1. One of the most interesting statistics here in Israel are those issued by the police. The more crime rises and the more serious it becomes, and the less secure the typical citizen feels, so the better the figures get.

Such was the clear message given by Police Commissioner Moshe Karadi at a press conference this week; He announced that crime had fallen by 5.2 percent. According to police figures, the number of criminal incidents reported in 2005 was 493,000, as compared with 520,000 in 2004. These figures are at once impressive and misleading.

For we already know that there's no point in complaining to the police. The call centers - if you can get through to them at all - ask a citizen to take a snapshot of the criminal, catch the thief, arrest the mugger, and then (maybe, if you're lucky, and if you plead) they may send a police car round many moons later. Only then will a bored police officer inform the injured citizen that very most he can do is tell the insurance company that there was indeed a break-in.

So we have a suggestion for Karadi. Convince the insurance companies that they do not need police confirmation of a break-in. They should be satisfied with the victim's word alone. Within seconds, the crime rate will drop fantastically, because who would bother to call the police when the thief's already gone and there's nothing to be done anyway?

Here's another suggestion. The drug problem is so bad that it has reached the schools. Who said that the problem should be tackled forcefully? Both the trader and user aren't complaining, so if the police bother them a little less, then maybe the drug crimes will drop and next year's press conference will be all the more impressive.

A question: If there has been such a superb drop in crime, then why did Karadi call for thousands of extra police officers and millions more in his budget "in order to fight crime"?

Keep up the good work, and crime will surely disappear.

2. The chief of police in Haifa seems to be a very energetic fellow. He appeared on television this week on a jingly promercial, and announced directly to the camera that the theft of metal pointed to the "daring and impudence" of the thieves.

Why impudence? Where does the daring come from? We are talking about a simple gang of thieves that take security barriers apart and steel metal poles from the sides of the road, that is indifferent to stealing from graves, that removes traffic signs, cuts up electricity cables and steals sewer covers.

It's funny to hear the police talk of daring and impudence when the media was full of these reports over a year ago, and this crime wave could easily have been stopped. There are not all that many metal collection sites, where the criminals have to dispose of their loot. So all the police had to do was pay a visit to these sites regularly and check the contents. If the owner has no proof of legitimate sources, then revoke his business license, close the site, put him on trial for receiving stolen goods. So simple, so efficient. So why didn't the police do this a year ago? Are there economic-political forces preventing them from doing so?

The metal thief saga reminds us of the foreign worker situation. On the one hand, the government founded the Immigration Police to reduce the number of foreign workers but instead of hitting the top of the pyramid with heavy fines and imprisonment of business owners employing illegal foreign workers, they chase after the foreigners themselves, abusing and humiliating them. And are not succeeding.

The number of businesses is, comparatively, smaller. They have clear addresses, traceable bank accounts and property that they would not wish to lose. So why not "hunt" them instead of the workers? Because the employers have a strong lobby in Knesset. So that's why we continue trying to hunt the mosquito instead of drying out the eggs. A true example of Chelm.