'Fighting crime is important, but it isn't everything'

Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh explains how he is changing Israel Police from enforcing the law to preventing lawbreaking from happening.

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Tzvi Lev, New York,

Alsheikh at Bar ilan University
Alsheikh at Bar ilan University
Yoni Kempinski

Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh laid out his policing philosophy at Bar Ilan University's Hoshana Rabbah Torah study event, describing how he intends to shift the police from being enforcement-focused to preventing lawbreaking.

Alsheikh said that while fighting criminals "is the stuff movies are made of", it is a very narrow view of policing. According to Alsheikh, the police need to focus on preventing crimes from happening in the first place. "Fighting crime is important, but it isn't everything," he said.

"We have to ask what bothers the average citizen," Alshiekh clarified. "We need to reduce lawbreaking in the average citizen's immediate environment. You can indict everyone and fill the prisons and still not contribute anything to the community. You didn't change anything on the ground. The citizen feels over-policed, and the salary we pay policemen goes to waste."

The Commissioner explained that the focus should be on prevention: "We don't measure how much we enforced the law, or how many people got arrested - we teach the police to prevent crime. Our view is 80% prevention, 20% enforcement."

"Should the law be enforced, of course, but in the end, the test is in the outcome - whether the average citizen commits fewer criminal offenses - yes or no."

Alsheikh illustrated his approach by explaining how police waged war on drunk driving. According to Alshiekh, police used to focus on arresting as many drunk drivers as possible. Currently, police stand outside bars and parties and check revelers' blood alcohol level before they get behind the wheel.

Alshiekh turned to the audience and asked them to guess how many drivers got behind the wheel despite being unfit. After several attempts, Alsheikh surprised the audience and said, "The answer is zero. We checked it out, and not even one got behind the wheel. "

"The conclusion," Alsheikh said, "is that you can change people's behavior."

Alsheikh also revealed that policemen themselves update the popular traffic app Waze and warn that there is a policeman in the area in an attempt to influence a driver to drive safely. "We need to cause fewer people to break the law, not to enforce the law," he concluded.



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