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'Youth Violence Threatens the Fabric of Israeli Society'

State Comptroller reveals inadequacy in helping at-risk youth. Task forces struggle to deal with scope, severity of problem.
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 1/22/2014, 7:31 PM

State Comptroller Yoseph Shapira
State Comptroller Yoseph Shapira
Flash 90

The State Comptroller's report has revealed an immense upswing in juvenile delinquency and violence, and that police efforts to reduce the phenomenon are ineffective, Walla! reports Wednesday. 

The report calls the increase in "violence, alcohol consumption, and anti-social behavior" a "threat to Israeli society" and notes that in the past several years, the Ministry of Public Security has had difficulty dealing with the phenomenon. 

The report states that the guidelines which regulate security cameras in urban areas, to allow authorities to supervise public spaces, are deficient. The criticism specifically refers to the Netanya Municipality, because its members did not report every month on the events observed through security cameras installed throughout the city - contrary to the requirements for the Ministry's "City without Violence" program.

Cities most at risk include, Netanya , Haifa, Gan Raveh and Kfar Saba - where no guidelines exist for security camera monitoring.

"Private citizens' rights to privacy, while constitutionally protected, will be affected if more effective measures to monitor municipal security cameras are not taken," the report warns. In the case of Gan Raveh, the Comptroller's office notes that youth-related incidents have risen dramatically - but a meeting on the subject has not been held for at least 3 years, nor has a document been released updating security and municipal personnel on the situation. 

The report also slammed the State's ability to help high school dropouts, specifically in providing alternative means of education and assessing the root causes behind the dropout rate.

The audit covered three cities - Ashdod, Baqa Al-Gharbiya and Petah Tikva - and followed the educational statistics for dropouts there during the 2012-2013 academic year. The youth studied are either not enrolled in the educational system, the report explained, or attend very infrequently - and tend to gravitate toward criminal groups and behaviors. The latter two cities were found negligent for not submitting written reports to the task forces responsible for high school dropouts on students who show signs of being at risk. 

The Ministries of Education and Social Welfare have dedicated 3 task forces to solve the problem: a unit of officers assigned to youth truancy cases, a unit for the advancement of teenagers and a task force of social workers for teenagers and young adults. All 3 have been tasked with finding youth who have fallen through the cracks of Israel's education system and bringing them up to speed through alternative means. 

The report criticized the conduct of truant officers in the municipalities surveyed. For example, the units in Ashdod and Petah Tikva did not check attendance logs which schools are obliged to manage, and have not used their resources at all to locate students who have already dropped off the educational radar. In a middle school in Baqa Al-Gharbiya, attendance logs were not kept at all, and there was no information on who skipped school frequently. Also, truancy officers in Ashdod and Petah Tikva have not visited any students who, according to the ministry's data, were not registered in any official school system.

Worse, the units have been lacking in how quickly they assist dropouts, the report notes. In Baqa Al-Gharbiyeh, 15 students who dropped out of school were often approached months after they left the system - with cases of a 3-month, 6-month, 1-year, and even a 3-year gap between detection and intervention. 

Units in Ashdod and Petah Tikva were also criticized for not keeping track of the thousands of students who live in those cities but decide to attend school elsewhere. The report faulted the Ministry of Education, which has apparently neglected to instruct officers how to do their job outside their own municipalities.