The Israel Defense Forces will divert some of its lookout units securing the border with Egypt to keep an eye on local communities in an effort to stem a wave of crime in the area, according to a Tuesday report.
Rather than watching out for possible terror infiltrations from Egypt, these lookouts will provide assistance in countering burglaries and theft, in particular agriculture-related ones, Channel 12 reported.
The units will reportedly be drawn from the IDF’s Faran Brigade, formed in 2018 to defend the border with Egypt.
There are estimated to be around 2,000 marijuana growing sites in the Negev, and criminal gangs steal agricultural equipment to keep them operating, the report said.
Private homes have also been targeted.
The report came a day after the network said dozens of residents of border communities have begun refusing to contribute toward the cost of private security provided by their local authorities in protest over what they see as incompetence in dealing with crime.
Some communities have began organizing their own security patrols, setting ambushes to catch thieves.
In the south, there have been longstanding complaints from officials and residents about crime, much of which residents say originates in Bedouin communities.
On Sunday, Channel 12 aired a recording of a phone call to the national emergency services center from a resident of Giv’ot Bar, a community near the southern Bedouin city of Ramat, in which he could be heard describing “crazy shooting, burst after burst.”
The caller told the emergency center operator that the shooting had been going on for two hours but he could not see any police and that no one had responded to his earlier pleas for help.
In response, the operator was heard saying, “As soon as there is shooting we can’t go in. We don’t have [bulletproof] vests, we aren’t protected like the IDF.”
Children in the community took cover in shelters intended for use when the country is under bombardment, fearing they may be hit by a stray bullet.
On Sunday, southern residents met with Negev region police commander Nachshon Nagler and told him they fear for their children’s lives and are scared to use roads. They also complained of a wave of burglaries and theft of agricultural equipment, Channel 12 reported.
“I understand you, you are right, but we are unable to deal with this,” Nagler told them. “We have a manpower shortage. We need 220 more officers in the area.”
Police responded in a statement saying that Nagler’s remarks were taken out of context.
“The Israel Police is aware of the residents’ needs and will continue to act with determination and zero tolerance to incidents of gunfire and violence,” the force said. “Every residential area brings with it challenges and the role of the security forces is to help deal with them.”
Prime Minister Yair Lapid vowed Monday to boost public security.
“If Israel wants to be a state of laws, it needs tools to enforce the law,” he said at a conference organized by the Israel Hayom newspaper.
“Cars can’t run wild in the south… agriculturists can’t suffer damage to their fields,” Lapid said in a video statement as he listed a range of public security issues facing the country.