138 Israelis being investigated for violating quarantine
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138 Israelis being investigated for violating quarantine

Police have made 20,000 visits to check on those who should be in isolation, spokesman says; force also ‘fully prepared’ to patrol streets with army if full lockdown ordered

Israeli police at the Tel Aviv beach promenade on March 23, 2020. Police were dispatched all over the country to keep people from gathering in public spaces in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Israeli police at the Tel Aviv beach promenade on March 23, 2020. Police were dispatched all over the country to keep people from gathering in public spaces in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

One hundred and thirty-eight Israelis are currently being investigated for violating quarantine rules, the police said Tuesday.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that police are working across the country to enforce existing coronavirus restrictions, especially the prohibition on people in quarantine leaving home.

He said growing numbers of people are calling to report neighbors for violating quarantine, accounting for some investigations, while police have started others based on their own information.

“We have made 20,000 visits to people who are in quarantine and have to be in isolated areas,” said Rosenfeld. “We call them up and tell them to come to the window or balcony.”

He stated: “We are using different database systems to reach individuals, to check they are in. They are Israeli police databases, the Health Ministry data system, and the data system from border crossings.”

Israeli police officers close shops at the Mahane Yehuda Market on March 22, 2020 in Jerusalem. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

On Tuesday, police were out in force in one of Israel’s most coronavirus-ridden neighborhoods, Avnei Hoshen in Modiin.

A quarantined 44-year-old resident, who asked not to be named, told The Times of Israel: “The officer called and said to come to the balcony. I replied that we don’t have a balcony, so he instructed me to come to the front door and said he would stand at a distance.

“He checked all five of us were here, and said there is a fine for violating quarantine.”

Israel Police Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

When the policeman inquired whether he has been observing the rules, the resident pointed to the pile of trash by the door, and said he hadn’t even left to go to the dumpster. “The officer then took our trash for us and left,” said the resident.

If Israel’s cabinet approves a full lockdown, the population will see police — and possibly army — patrolling streets to check they are indoors, Rosenfeld noted.

“We are fully prepared for a full closure across Israel, with officers in streets to prevent people from going outside. If necessary the IDF will add extra manpower,” he said.

IDF spokesman Hidai Zilberman has announced that unarmed soldiers will act as an auxiliary force to the Israel Police. The IDF is preparing to assist the police if a full lockdown is declared, dedicating eight battalions — over 2,000 soldiers — to the cause, with the potential for more.

Some criminologists are concerned about what the burden on police during a full lockdown will mean for general law enforcement.

Arye Rattner, criminologist at Haifa University, said: “Police manpower is limited, so if they are occupied with a special mission this may well cause them to neglect crime and domestic violence.” Ability to respond to domestic violence is a serious issue, he said, as cases are likely to spike during a time of enforced confinement.

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