The Malta Independent 16 May 2022, Monday

Community policing team effort making Marsa a safer place

Sabrina Zammit Sunday, 16 January 2022, 08:00 Last update: about 5 months ago

In 2019 community policing was introduced in Mellieha as a pilot project. By March of last year, there were already 12 localities that were benefiting from such a scheme.

Marsa was one of the localities that was next on the agenda for community policing.

In March of 2021, when speaking about Marsa and Hamrun, Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri said that one only needs to speak to the residents of the two localities to come to terms with the issues they face because of the large presence of irregular migrants.

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Today, seven months from its implementation, The Malta Independent on Sunday met with the Marsa Community Policing Team, who spoke about the challenges they faced along the way and the solutions they have come up with.

Inspector Mark George Cremona (above) said that, in the last seven months, the Marsa Community Policing Team has been present on the ground in the locality, and was able to identify specific areas which needed attention.

The results of an Impact Community Assessment for residents have been immensely encouraging, the inspector added. He said that although they could see the problems themselves, they wanted to involve the community in the process to make sure that the “real” issues of Marsa emerge.

"We are saying that to remove problems one by one, we have to involve different entities, not only governmental but also NGOs that can assist us to finally get rid of the problems."

He added that to solve current problems in Marsa, there needs to be a long-term approach.

From information gathered from the Marsa community, several problems have emerged. These have been categorised into priorities. Currently, there are three that the Marsa community policing team is focusing on: illegal littering, the problem of drugs and homelessness.

When asked about the prostitution problem, Cremona said that the police have been working on the issue for a long time. He added that prostitution should be targeted from a social aspect as another issue that follows is homelessness. Emphasising the concept of partnership, he said that it is futile to try and solve such problems with only an enforcement approach, as the problem will only be solved for a short period.

He added that present problems in Marsa cannot be solved by the police alone, but rather as a collective effort with the aid of other entities such as NGOs, whose help is much needed.

 

Increased patrol hours

"The Marsa team has identified areas where patrol hours have been increased and we are targeting them specifically to make sure we instantly tackle such problems."

Cremona said that the level of reported crimes has decreased this year because the Marsa community is benefiting from a personalised service provided by the community policing.

"This is the success of the community policing, not only for the community in Marsa but also in other localities where this concept has been introduced as the personalised service has been targeted for the needs of the people. We are seeing what the real problems are and targeting them accordingly."

Mentioning a problem that was solved thanks to the Marsa policing team, he said that there were 29 abandoned vehicles in total in a specific area, which were removed. The ideology behind such an approach is that if the site is cleaned, it is very unlikely to attract further illegal activity.

Since December, 800 hours have been invested in police patrolling, done either by bike or on foot.

 

Engaging with other entities

He added that although many individuals might not consider this a primary police role, participation together with other entities in making Marsa a better locality is the ultimate goal for them. They consider this just another step towards the future approach the Police Force wants to achieve.

A new concept of community safety partnership will be introduced in the coming months. The Police Force is currently meeting with other participating entities where they will come up with a long-term plan for existing problems in Marsa.

Explaining the concept behind community policing, police advisor Christopher Michael Bull (above) said that the initiative's priorities are to engage with every community member to listen to their needs and concerns and to work on issues that affect the quality of life across towns and villages in Malta.

“My main function is to train, guide and motivate the officers in their areas, to make sure we get the best product, in order to improve the quality of life of our residents,” Bull said.

Explaining the approach taken, he said that after listening to the views and concerns of the community, the police work together with other partner agencies to resolve community problems.

He said the feedback received along the way has been very encouraging. "People are seeing a difference within our communities. They like to see the police out and about. It makes them feel safe and reassured."

This has been taken as a positive outcome, as one of the objectives of community policing is for citizens to build trust and confidence with the police.

 

Working with the local council

Interviewed by The Malta Independent on Sunday, Sergeant Shaun Borg Axiak said that as a team leader, his role is to ensure that his team is present where there are the most complaints from the community.

Such complaints are either received while doing street community engagement during their patrolling or through the constant communication kept with the Marsa Local Council.

He said that it is a privilege for him to help every individual residing in Marsa.

Speaking on behalf of the Marsa Local Council, the locality’s executive secretary Edward Spiteri Audibert, said that they see the Community Policing Team as a point of reference.

"The fact that we have a direct contact with the police when receiving complaints from residents has facilitated our job."

Mentioning a problem solved, he recalled how the police were patient in explaining procedures to individuals who did not know when to take the trash out because they did not know how to read in Maltese or English.

Constable Shelly Buhagiar, one of the community police officers in Marsa, said that there were many problems in the past that were solved thanks to the local council.

Mentioning the most recent as an example, she said that the area she is in charge of has a playing field, which was not being used for its assigned purpose and was in a dilapidated state. In this situation, the local council provided the necessary tools and materials for it to be covered to ensure that children have a safe space where to play.

A shop owner said that he feels safer with the frequent patrolling by police officers. He added that although they had a challenging start, the community police team in Marsa has always helped him when there was a need.

 

 

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