Teenagers to Join Tel Aviv Municipal Inspectors, With Limited Authority

Tenth-grade junior staffers to be city's 'watchful eye' in pilot program; will patrol streets of Tel Aviv wearing special uniforms, sometimes on their own, sometimes partnering up with municipal inspectors

They won't issue parking tickets, or fines over noise, dirt or other nuisances. Dozens of teenagers are about to join the ranks of Tel Aviv's municipal inspectors, but without the enforcement authority of their more senior colleagues. It's all part of the city's vision of recruiting 10th-graders to its inspection division.

The teens taking part in the pilot program, associated with the "Personal Responsibility" program, will patrol the mean streets of Tel Aviv wearing special uniforms, sometimes on their own and sometimes partnering up with full-fledged municipal inspectors. Some of the program's legal and safety wrinkles are still being ironed out, but city officials say efforts will be made to give the plebes a wide berth from potentially explosive situations.

graffiti - David Bachar - September 21 2011
David Bachar

Doron Hadad of the municipal inspection division stressed that the students would not take part in "heavy enforcement" activities. "They'll be more in patrol positions, information, locating and preventing nuisances - let's call it a watchful eye," Hadad said, explaining that the students will be exposed to all aspects of municipal inspection and that in every patrol team one inspector will be assigned to supervise the high-schoolers.

The project is the brainchild of Alon Solar, a city councillor from the Rov Ha'Ir faction. He said the main goal is to assist the inspection division in carrying out its task. A second aim is to improve the image of the department, which Solar said is largely - and wrongly - associated with parking tickets.

"It often seems that to the public the entire inspection division is unimportant, that its only aim is to fatten the city's purse at the residents' expense," Solar said, adding that after three years on the city council he understands that the division plays a crucial role in maintaining public order.

"If, instead of an inspector, there's a sweet, nice 10th-grader who explains things, the result will be very different," Solar said. "Most of the hazards and nuisances that people create are not a result of malice but rather of ignorance or misunderstanding," he said, adding that the city will make an effort to make the project attractive and challenging for the students.

Idan Gavish, head of the municipality's youth department, explained that one way to make the program attractive to teens is to offer night patrols. He said the city hopes to eventually expand the pilot program to the scope of the teen volunteer programs operated by Magen David Adom and the firefighters. "If things go well this year we'll have to offer a program for the 11th and 12th grades, too," Gavish said.

He emphasized that the city wasn't simply hoping to get more workers on the cheap. "It's not that we have a personnel shortage in the inspection division and that we're begging," Gavish said. "What interests me is educating for social involvement, for action. We're trying to break the barriers of the scouting movements and to offer additional opportunities."