THE PREVENTION OF CRIME AND THE TREATMENT OF OFFENDERS IN ISRAEL: 1995 REPORT

CRIME PREVENTION BY THE ISRAEL POLICE: RECENT ADVANCES

Supt. Malka Sofer,
Investigations Dept.,
Israel National Police

Introduction

The Police Ordinance (New Version) 1971 states that the Israel National Police (INP) will prevent and detect crime, apprehend criminals and bring them to justice, keep prisoners in secure custody and maintain public order. In 1974, the responsibility for internal security (anti- terror) was added.

The work of the Investigations Department (ID) of the INP to realize the above objectives has been much influenced by recent trends in Israeli society the 1991 Gulf War and its effects on crime and internal security, the Peace Process and the Agreement on Principles with the Palestinians, the influx of immigrants from the former USSR and Ethiopia

all these required heavy investment in internal security and the maintenance of public order.

In the sphere of crime fighting and prevention, there have been developments in criminal identification, in intelligence gathering, in work with young offenders and in the prevention of illegal drug-abuse.

We shall also describe INP actions with respect to the victims of sexual crime, minors and the helpless, domestic offenses, and other categories of victims.

The Division of and Identification and Forensic Science

The last five years have seen significant technical and scientific advances in the fight against crime especially in the spheres of forensics and identification:

* The acquisition of a computerized fingerprint identification system (AFIS);
* Chemical methods for detecting fingerprints on different surfaces and at the scene of the crime;
* The development of advanced methods for identifying shoe-prints at the scene of the crime;
* The collection of photographs and identikits of criminals has been computerized;
* A U.K.-developed method of identifying persons by means of their DNA profile (taken from tiny quantities of organic material) has been introduced;
* A kit has been developed for identifying drugs (intended for the public’s use as well).

The courts’ tendency to rely strongly on technical and scientific evidence for conviction makes such innovations all the more important. (See article by P. Bergman for further details.)

Intelligence Gathering

Significant progress has been made in computerizing intelligence work, thus making data absorption and access much easier and quicker. Special effort was put into computerizing the data on persons crossing border points, to permit real-time use of information.

Drug Abuse and Drug Trafficking Prevention

* Officers from the Drugs Section have been stationed abroad at source points for drugs imports to Israel in Germany, The Netherlands, France and Turkey these in addition to the regular INP representatives in the USA, Ukraine and Russia. Drugs Section representatives are also to be posted in South Africa, USA and the Far East;

* The practice of confiscating the assets of drugs offenders has been expanded and formulated. Legislation on money laundering has been pushed forward;

* Drug detecting dogs have been brought into use at airports;

* In collaboration with the Division of Identification and Forensic Science, projects have been set up to establish a profile of heroin, to measure the purity of the drug and to estimate the size of the average dose taken by an addict.

Young Offenders

In this context, the INP operates specialist units that investigate and interrogate offending minors (under 18 years of age), locate minors in distress and refer them to social agencies. Together with other agencies, they also work to prevent crime in this age group. In conformity with the law applying to this age group, punishment is combined with, at times replaced by, therapeutic measures. Among the special projects which the INP operates or participates in are projects to prevent drug abuse

(lectures, instruction and guidance, instructional films, etc.) and to cut down violence in schools and other settings.

The basic approach of the INP in dealing with a first offender is to avoid long-term stigmatization and help the minor, in collaboration with the caring agencies, quit a criminal lifestyle. Immigration to Israel has increased in recent years and the process of immigration and acclimatization often puts extreme strain on minors. INP youth units play their part in, as far as possible, preventing these strains turning into long-term criminality.

The issue of sexual offenses by adolescents deserves special mention. The Youth Probation Service together with the voluntary organization ELEM

(Association For Youth) and the National Council for the Child administer a project whose aim is to secure these offenders the correct treatment compatible with putting a stop to their offending. The project puts the emphasis on the youth taking responsibility for his/her rehabilitation, using the threat of legal sanctions to keep him/her in the treatment program.

Treating the Victims of Crime

The 1992 Annual Report of the INP states that its two high priority objectives are:

* To match police services to the changing needs of the population;
* To strengthen police-community relations.

Recent legislation has been designed to extend protection to population groups at greater risk than others from particular offenses, or who feel threatened by these offenses. INP policy with regard to the victims of crime is:

* To react to and deal with the situation as quickly as possible;
* To protect the dignity and privacy of the victim at all stages of the investigation and trial;
* To keep the victim informed of progress in the handling of his case and of the general way in which the law enforcement system works;
* To inform the victim of his/her rights in different areas (e.g. compensation) and to represent his/her interests where necessary during the criminal process;
* To make the investigation compatible as far as possible with the needs of the victim and their usual daily routine;
* To put the victim in touch with medical and other therapeutic agencies. In every police station, Officers have been designated responsible for the treatment of victims of crime and been given appropriate instruction and supervision.

Overall, INP policy in this regard has two goals to help the victim cope with the effects of the crime and to increase public confidence in the INP and, thus, its readiness to cooperate with the investigative and judicial process. Within this overall approach, the INP has modified the way it deals with certain crimes and their victims. We give here a short description of the major changes of the last few years:

Sexual offenses

In recognition of the fact that the victims of sexual offenses require very careful treatment by the police, the INP has declared its policy in this regard and given special training to police officers.

The sensitivity required when taking the victim’s statement and interrogating him/her is given particular emphasis. The investigation will usually be conducted by specially trained investigators (mostly women officers) who will protect the complainant’s dignity and privacy (taking evidence in a separate room, maintaining maximal confidentiality of information about the complainant and the accusation, etc.) and put the complainant in touch with helping agencies such as centers of assistance to sexual crime victims, municipality social workers, etc.

Legislation protects the victims of sexual crime against unfair questions, publicity, etc.

Hospital emergency staff have been trained to conduct the physical examination of such victims using a kit developed by the INP for the purpose of providing it the samples of biological material needed to identify the offender and for use in the judicial process.

The INP Community Relations Unit and the Sexual Abuse Crisis Centers have collaborated to draw up an information and guidance leaflet in Hebrew and Arabic.

Offenses against Minors and the Helpless

(See also articles in this context by Y. Kadman and T. Morag on the legislative process.)

In 1989, the Penal Law was amended to create the special offenses of the molestation and maltreatment of minors and other helpless persons (the mentally or physically disabled). Severe penalties are laid down, especially where the offense is committed by a person legally responsible for the welfare of the victim. The same amendment also obligates every person knowing of such a crime to report it to the authorities, including professionals encountering suspected offenses in the course of their work and the spouse of the perpetrator.

The law now even requires and defines the collaboration of welfare and law enforcement agencies in dealing with such cases.

The INP responded to the new legislation by issuing instructions on the form of collaboration with welfare workers to the youth workers in its Domestic Violence and Sexual Offenses section.

It should be noted that children under the age of 14 involved in sexual offenses (as suspect, victim or witness) and children who are the victim of an offense against them by a parent are questioned by youth investigators who are not police officers, but belong to the Juvenile Probation Service of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. The Law on Evidence (Child Protection), 1955, states that these investigators may present the child’s testimony to the court in cases where obliging the child to give it himself/herself would cause them harm. Such cases demand careful coordination between welfare workers, child investigators and the INP.

Domestic Violence Against Women

Another group of offenses calling for special attention and reorganization comes under the heading of "battered women" and other domestic offenses against women. INP awareness and policy in this regard have undergone considerable change, which needs to be taken still further to ensure that the new policy is applied at station level.

In principle, the main change has been that the police sees itself, no longer as a negotiating force, as in the past, but rather uses its authority to release the offender – suspending the criminal justice process – on condition that he go for treatment.

Furthermore, the police-officers are being provided with appropriate training in order to learn their roles and react properly to the victim and to the offender.

(See other articles in this Report on this topic – in the Workshop Topics).