The Malta Independent 17 July 2019, Wednesday

Managing safety and security

Rachel Borg Saturday, 13 April 2019, 09:56 Last update: about 4 months ago

Back in the period prior to 2004, when Malta joined the European Union, our industry and commerce had to face several new laws and systems to conform with EU policies, conventions and treaties.  At the same time, it still ran a parallel system which had been in place since decades.  Today, many EU laws have been transposed into Maltese law and have become integrated into business and civic life. 

But whilst that transition was taking place, it fell into a kind of law of convenience, to decide on whether the new regulations would apply or the old ones.  There was an overlap and some decisions were left to the discretion of the agency involved, or so it seemed.


The same is happening today, where health, safety and security in Malta and Gozo is concerned.  On the one hand, we have the tolerance to immigration on large scale and the complications, benefits and changes that this brings with it and on the other hand, we have a parochial mentality, still adjusting to more congested urban and cosmopolitan landscapes, presenting all their challenges.  The conflict needs to be made clear urgently and the necessary measures, law enforcement and criminal agencies put in place before we face complete decay.

The areas currently under the spot-light of safety and security are so many that a Board should immediately be set up to come up with the right response and action plan and method to implement it and fund it and bring it in line with modern realities.  Demographics need to be studied in detail and sustainability of each town to provide the right conditions for the safety of citizens should be the subject of indepth study.

Councils are just like a thin film of fat over a cold soup.  Easily peeled away to reveal the pot and its murky contents.  The way they are currently set up, they are so impotent and backward in dealing with the level of crime and regulations required to manage the growing issues, that the sense of fear and insecurity around us increases rapidly day by day.  Even, for a really basic example, a big van parks on the wrong side of a busy residential street in a narrow road, in front of a house façade, just after the front door, from early morning till late at night as though that is perfectly normal.  There is even the telephone number of the owner printed over the side of the van. 

We know we have a very high number of different nationalities that have come to Malta, all trying to find affordable living or bringing their special talents with them and finding a hospitable environment for their varied activities.  This is more than a reality.  It is transcending the norm in the way that only Malta can afford to those intent on developing their illicit business and market here.

A symbol of the ineptitude and decline around us is that omnipresent graffiti scribbling on the walls and buildings, everywhere, all over the island, in even the most inaccessible spots.  How on earth is it possible that the culprits are still at large?  They have spoilt and vandalized so many buildings. They must be really sad people having to compulsively write and re-write their name over and over again in that way.  Have they no better way of expressing their identity?  But it seems that we are complacent enough to allow this go on unchecked and under our very nose.  The issue is not even mentioned by authorities.  Every morning, on our way to work, we see the same scribbling on each side of the road and in front of us, sprayed onto clean surfaces, garage doors, parapets and abandoned buildings.

Rabat is facing a regular chain of burglaries.  15 in the last month.  Surely the inhabitants are not feeling very safe and I also imagine that there are a good number of senior citizens in Rabat.  There is an order to the robberies, victims have said.  We find that professional thieves study an area and find its weak points and then have a field day in plundering it. 

The other day I had to pop in to the police station to see about collecting a bag that a very kind person had found and taken to the station, having informed the owner about it.  Good people still exist!  While I was there, a really emotional foreign lady was asking the police to file a report about her neighbour who was causing her grief.  She was in tears and looked frightened.

Cars burning, drug hauls from off our streets, knifing and broken bottles as weapons. Driving through one of our towns around Sliema, the other day, it felt abnormal.  There was something off with the place.  Besides the double -parked cars on both sides of the road, forcing drivers into one lane and pedestrians walking all over the place like it was a pedestrianized area.  It felt like the far west.

The sniper shooting of an innocent man from the Ivory Coast and the injury of the other 2 persons, was simply awful.  And still no word or address by our officials on the situation.  As though there can be some motive to make it acceptable.  We must wait, we are told.  Compare to the way the terrorism was handled in New Zealand.  An immediate outcry, no empty excuses and direct action and solidarity with the victims.  We don't care if it was a Maltese person or a foreigner who carried out the crime.  That will not alter the gravity of the crime.  Someone did it and whoever it was needs to be brought to justice. 

Many foreigners have died in Malta in road accidents or other accidents and their families have not had proper justice for what happened to their loved ones.  They struggle to get information about the event, the investigation and are left without communication.

Over and above all the impunity, is the umbrella of political crimes.  The environment of protection and the ability to get away with it is like a cloud of smog over us that won't move.  Even though all the rot has been revealed it is allowed to fester and multiply like a cancer. 

On the street, we start to see people sleeping outside or in inhuman conditions.  There are those who have become immersed in a criminal life, with drug trafficking, contraband and money-laundering replacing the previous unemployment or social welfare culture. Now its every man to himself.  Help yourself as others do. 

In the middle of all this, we remain with a weak police force, themselves sometimes behaving in a way that they are meant to prevent, in an out-of-date culture of inadequacy.  The standard of education, the poor service attitude, the mentality of blaming the victim and taking refuge in the way things have always been done, having the protection of an administration clearly lenient on those who support them, is not going to provide the assurances we seek.

We have seen many successful arrests in these past months, especially where drugs are concerned and that is very welcome and shows how effective the force can be when they apply themselves to the job.  But this must extend to all levels of security, including cyber-crime.

The other factor that has become a regular concern is the health of our children, aged and well, adults too.  The pollution is getting worse every day and nothing being done about it.  The pollution that comes with cruise liners berthed in our harbour is simply unacceptable and steps should be taken to either force them to turn off their generators or really limit the calls of the liners.  Of course, these cruise liners are accompanied by a lot of traffic of coaches and taxis which continues to add to the damage.  I really cannot understand why Gozo would be keen to have cruise liners come to their coast. 

The time has come to deliver a significant shift in strategy to prevent crime and ensure the safety, security and good health of all.  Education all around is needed.   If we want all the fancy influx of commerce and increased population, we must be prepared to handle it professionally and not like some 20th century village in the remote country-side.  Or haven't we noticed that Malta is not the place that it was?



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