from the April 2010 issue

Big brother may be watching as Israel embarks on CCTV project

The Public Security Ministry will be placing surveillance cameras and sensors in urban public areas, as part of its City without Violence program, a statement released on Sunday said.

The ministry said it had released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a tender for firms who would oversee and advise the project, which would see the deployment of cameras and sensors in public areas.

Last August, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unveiled details of a five-point plan to combat violent crime and alcohol abuse in Israel. The plan included stiffer penalties for violent crimes, greater regulation of the sale of alcohol and the use of CCTV cameras in dozens of cities.

According to the statement released Sunday, cameras would be placed in commercial and residential areas, as well as in educational institutions, public facilities, major junctions, parks, and any location the ministry said would be prone to vandalism, violence, or any kind of criminal activity.

The ministry statement claimed that the system would not hurt citizens' privacy and would comply with relevant legal standards.

The project is meant to deter and supervise, the statement said, as well as a control and enforcement tool to be used by municipal and national law enforcement.

Another aim of the new system, according to the Public Security Ministry, would be the gathering, analysis and distribution of information, as well as providing photographic evidence that would enable real-time intervention and crime prevention.

Netanyahu stated last August that Israel's "justice system is the best in the world but we can stiffen the penalties on violent criminals...criminals need to stay longer in jail, there shouldn't be a revolving door for criminals."

The plan also calls for adding special anti-violence education to school curriculum, as well as greater leeway for administrators to punish violent students.

In order to combat rising youth drinking rates, the Netanyahu plan would bring widespread limits to the sale of alcohol, including a ban on selling alcohol after 9 P.M.

Netanyahu said Israel will "limit the sale of alcohol after 9 P.M. We will legally ban the sale of alcohol in kiosks as well as in gas stations. Whether it will be a general ban or just to those of a certain age is yet to be determined, but presenting an I.D. will be insisted on. We will also stiffen allowed drivers' blood-alcohol levels. Alcohol is a national epidemic. We are relatively low in alcohol consumption and violence, but we are on the rise and that trend must be stopped."

The plan also includes the affixing of CCTV security cameras in 50 cities, connected to a grid of cameras. Netanyahu referred to the plan as the "city without violence" initiative, and invoked the example of the U.K. to show that such efforts have been successful in the past.

"In Britain, the birthplace of democracy, there are more cameras than in any other country and violence rates are going down...countries that have adopted the principles I am describing here have been able to reduce violence within a short span of time. This is practical work, and I have no doubt that we can do it.

Reprinted from the Israel High-Tech & Investment Report April 2010

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