The Malta Independent 26 May 2024, Sunday
View E-Paper

A different view on making our streets safer

Darren Carabott Sunday, 14 April 2024, 08:23 Last update: about 2 months ago

Last year, through a Parliamentary Question, I obtained statistics regarding the rate of population increase between the years 2021 and 2022, specific to each locality in Malta and Gozo. Subsequently, I compared the increase to the amount of criminal reports registered in the same localities in the same years.

The exercise makes for some sobering reading, as the numbers speak for themselves.

ADVERTISEMENT

The localities with the biggest population increase over the two years were Gzira with 10.45%, St Julian’s with 10.06%, St Paul’s Bay with 9.77%, and Msida with 8.08%. However, this did not reflect in the highest increases in reported crimes, as it was other localities which have been burdened with a disproportionate rise in criminal activity.

In fact, Valletta, Birzebbuga, Mellieha, Paola, St Julian’s, Zebbug and Zejtun, all registered increases in reported crimes, which was not necessarily correlated to the increases in population.  Moreover, localities such as Valletta, Floriana, St Julian’s and Marsa remained in the top five most problematic localities for the 24 months in review. It is evident that certain hotspots, given their busier nature, had a higher-than-average issue with illegality than their neighbouring towns and villages.

With local council elections looming, I am convinced that safety will be a major issue which the electorate will take into consideration, when casting their vote. The characteristic safety of certain localities is long gone, and little appears to be being done, to address it.

When I was spokesperson on behalf of the Opposition for local government, I had advocated for Local Councils that would really function as local governments. Sadly, successive Labour administrations have stripped Local Councils of every ounce of power and responsibility, rendering them as merely glorified customer care centres – but more on that particular subject, perhaps in another article.

While it was a Nationalist Government that dreamt of localities which would be managed by elected officials, who would be close to the people, thus acting in their best interest, in just over ten years, Labour managed to deprive a system from all its momentum and enthusiasm. It is no wonder that both political parties are finding it hard to identify people to put their names in the hat.

Back to the issue at stake, and the safety of our localities, I have always advocated for an empowered local community that acted fast and addressed issues, ideally before they happened.

While the idea of Community Police, a concept which was proposed by the Nationalist party, worked, and I salute all the members of the Community Police for their dedication and sterling work, more still needs to be done.

Local councils should take the lead in coordinating with Police authorities, where the real pain points of the locality lie.

Local councils need more resources to be able to identify such issues before they become threats to the community. In collaboration with all authorities concerned, action would be taken in good time, for everyone’s safety and peace of mind.

Local councils would also take the lead in projects of social integration, especially in localities where a higher-than-average rate of international residents has become a reality over the past years. It is only obvious that when people from vastly different cultures live in close quarters, some friction may occur. We must see this as an opportunity, to create proper prospects for understanding and social cohesion. Our communities will be better off in the long run. Leaving a situation to its own devices is rarely the solution, yet sadly this is what we are seeing in our localities and our Local Councils are powerless to act.

I remain a staunch believer in empowering our local councils, as they hold the key for healthier, safer, and better communities. Unfortunately, however, the way things are, we are very far from seeing this reality in action. We need a change in direction at a local level, now.

I wish the very best to all candidates who have come forward to contest the upcoming local elections. As a former local councillor myself, I appreciate their dedication and love for their localities, and wish them every success.

 

Dr Darren Carabott is the Opposition’s Shadow Minister for Home Affairs, Security and Reforms, and President of the Public Accounts Committee.

 

  • don't miss