The Monitoring Center
The "City Without Violence" program operates a number of Monitoring Centers across the country which provide law enforcement personnel with live coverage of problematic areas, ensuring the public's safety and helping to fight crime and violence.
By Gil Horev and Dan Tyomkin. Excerpted from the new Ministry publication, 'Public Security,' Issue 1, June 2012.
A boy and a girl, both 17-years-old, were recently saved from robbery and rape in a north Tel Aviv parking lot due to security cameras that had been installed on the premises. An operator who was watching the camera monitors alerted the police, and the suspect was apprehended before he had a chance to have his way with the two teens.
This could have been the way the terrifying saga the two teens went through in Tel Aviv last May ended, had the security cameras been connected to the monitoring center where events are monitored in real time. In 40 of the 98 municipalities participating in the "City Without Violence" program, there are cameras posted throughout the city, monitored 24-hours-a-day. Currently, an additional 22 locations are in the process of joining the list of cities monitored by security cameras.
One year ago, a 17-year-old girl from Netivot was rescued from kidnapping and a likely rape thanks to an operator at the municipality's "Monitoring Center" who was watching the camera monitors and saw a man forcefully push a girl into his car, and speed away toward a location where he planned to commit his crime. The operator alerted the police, and when the man stopped his car he was immediately arrested and the girl was saved.
The Municipal Law Enforcement Department and the police map out the city’s “hot spots” – areas with the most incidents of crime, vandalism and noise – and determine the need for a camera installation. Next, the exact location of where the camera is placed is examined, since according to law, security cameras cannot monitor homes, medical clinics, or any other sensitive facility.
"The installation of cameras is done in total compliance of the requirements of the Ministry of Public Security's legal department, in order to minimize, as much as possible, any potential harm to citizens’ privacy," says retired Brigadier General Dani Shahar, Director of the "City Without Violence" program. According to Shahar, the cameras are only installed in public areas, and the municipalities are obligated to put up clear signs notifying the public of their existence. Only police officers and the municipality security officer are allowed to view footage from the cameras.
More than Preventing Violence
According to many municipality heads, in addition to preventing violence and solving crimes, the cameras have also saved millions of shekels that would have been spent repairing damage from vandalism. More importantly, the cameras have increased the sense of personal security among the residents.
"The presence of cameras and patrol cars in the municipality deter teens from committing acts of vandalism, making noise, or committing more severe offenses; and aid the Israel Police in solving crimes. But the cameras alone cannot totally prevent violence from occurring,” says Shahar. "For that reason, most of the funds provided by the government to 'City Without Violence' are invested in crime prevention programs conducted in kindergartens and elementary schools." According to Shahar, during the summer months, when the potential for violence is greater, “City Without Violence” program directors across the country have made special preparations to keep teens occupied with productive activities.
A New Youth Center
One of the flagship programs of "City Without Violence" is the establishment of a giant youth center near the Nahariya shore, which will be able to hold over 2,000 people. The center will be managed by youth counselors who have been specially trained, some of whom are soldiers from the Nahal military program who live nearby. "The goal is to keep teens away from residential neighborhoods during the summer nights," says Tami Hatzuel, Director of the "City Without Violence" program in Nahariya. "The center will have music, 'headphone parties,' movies, and games such as Ping-Pong and backgammon. We’ll do anything to keep the teens from feeling bored.” According to Hatzuel, a municipality-funded transportation service will be at the teens' disposal at all hours of the night, transporting them from their homes to the center and back.
Teens and Alcohol
There are also dozens of "Parent Patrols" that were established through the "City Without Violence" program that are operational throughout the country during the summer. Lilach Tal-Nir, Director of the "City Without Violence" program in Rosh Ha'ayin, met with local police officers, municipal inspectors, representatives of the law enforcement division, and youth counselors, and discussed the increasing rate of violence among teens as a result of alcohol. At the meeting, the staff formulated a system of responses for volunteers and staff members to use should they come across a drunken teen. If the teen has drunken a small amount, he or she should be warned about the dangers of alcohol and given the mobile phone numbers of Parent Patrol staff members. In more serious situations, the teen should be escorted home by volunteers. In extreme cases, the parents are notified and a municipal patrol car or a police car is called as well.
“Contrary to popular belief, the majority of teens actually respond very well to adult concern for their well-being,” says Asaf Kegan, a Parent Patrol and youth counselor instructor. “Teens feel secure when they know that adults are present and can be contacted for help in emergencies. Many times it's the teens themselves who contact the ‘Parent Patrol’ and ask for help getting out of trouble."
Spreading the Program
In light of recent incidents of violence across Israel, a call for additional municipalities to join the “City Without Violence” program was recently published. A professional committee from the Ministry of Public Security will determine which municipalities are selected to join the program, based on various criteria such as the size of the municipality, the extent and severity of violence and crime in the area, characteristics of the at-risk population within the municipality, and the municipality’s socio-economic ranking.
It is widely understood today that the fight against violence cannot be conducted by the police alone, but that there must be cooperation from the municipalities and various government ministries. Such cooperation has already proven itself by increasing the residents’ sense of personal security and by significantly reducing the amount of violent acts within the municipalities participating in the “City Without Violence” program.
cameras, violence, youth, City Without Violence, municipality, alcohol, crime, crime prevention, parent patrol, public security, ministry of public security