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MALTATODAY 19 June 2022

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6 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 27 MARCH 2022 OPINION 2 maltatoday EXECUTIVE EDITOR Matthew Vella Letters to the Editor, MaltaToday, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN 9016 E-mail: Letters must be concise, no pen names accepted, include full name and address maltatoday | SUNDAY • 19 JUNE 2022 Crime-fighting requires resources, not just words Editorial THE announcement of police patrols on the Sliema seafront – following a spate of violent crimes in the area – is on one level a very welcome development; but on another, also a rather sad reflection of the extent to which the Maltese socio-demographic landscape has changed, in recent years. For those who grew up in an less hectic, and more 'peaceful' Malta – where crime was so rare, than (es- pecially in Gozo) many people used to simply leave the front-door key permanently in the lock – the recent rise in reported crimes must indeed come across as a major cause for concern. But there are now entire generations who have no physical memory of that recent past at all. The Malta our younger generations have been brought up in, is n more akin to the hustle and bustle of any internation- al, cosmopolitan city of half-a-million inhabitants, or more. Inevitably, this also means that it is now subject to the same problems of law and order: including social misbehaviour, vandalism, street-violence, and so on. It may, however, be unwise to interpret any individu- al crime from that perspective alone. People were very quick, for instance, to interpret last week's attack on a Sliema jogger as another random act of violence: simi- lar to the earlier, unprovoked attack on former Sliema mayor John Pillow. But while this crime turned to be less 'random', in that sense; it nonetheless underscores the equally wor- rying emergence of low-level organized crime, whereby professional 'hitmen' are available for hire to exact personal vendettas. Admittedly, none of this may be entirely new to the Maltese criminal landscape. But there can be no doubt that, in scale and scope, Maltese criminality has evolved beyond the (altogether more manageable) levels we were accustomed to in the past. Certainly, the general public is justified in feeling 'less safe', than ever before. Meanwhile, not only has the population increased – bringing with it a host of new challenges, especially in those areas where demographics are ethnically mixed – but so too has the prosperity, and the overall commer- cial aspirations of the entire country. As Malta grew from a humble financial jurisdiction in the early 1990s, to the highly-successful financial services hub it is today… the result was not only a radi- cal shift in the overall quality of life; but also, a dramatic evolution in the nature and 'quality' of crime itself. This much was reflected in the Financial Action Task Force's decision to remove Malta from the 'grey-list' this week. Once again, this was a very welcome devel- opment; but it also underscores a worrying new reality, in our fast-changing country. As FATF President Marcus Pleyer put it: Malta had made "significant progress in addressing strategic an- ti-money laundering and counter terrorist financing deficiencies". This in turn implies that – when it comes to financial crime, at least – there was a corresponding (albeit belated) evolution in Malta's law enforcement capability, to counter the rising crime-rate. Can the same be said for Malta's efforts to contain other types of crime, however? Has the Malta Police Force, for example, undergone the same sort of radical 'upgrade', that we witnessed in the financial crimes sector in recent years? To be fair, there has been a discernible effort in that direction, of late. The Sliema patrols, alone, attest to the fact that the police are indeed taking the public's concerns with all the seriousness they deserve. Likewise, the introduction of Community Policing Teams in various localities – to be extended nation- wide, by 2026 – has demonstrably made a difference to the relations between the Police, and local communi- ties. But from an interview with Malta Police Union pres- ident Alexander Schembri, published today, we also get a glimpse into the actual working conditions of Maltese police officers on the beat today. It may be not enough to formulate a clear opinion, of the current state of the Malta Police Force; but it does suggest that – at certain levels – 'policing in Malta' has not sufficiently evolved, to keep abreast of the ev- er-changing demands of the job at ground-level. Clearly, the Maltese police are still beset by the same problems of staff and/or resources shortages, that have traditionally hampered their crime-fighting efforts in the past (even in the days when there was less in the way of 'crime to fight'). And from this perspective, it is manifestly useless for politicians, on both sides of the House, to respond to the growing crime-rate by simply 'demanding more police presence in the streets'. Considering that the Malta Police Force has dwin- dled, from the (already low) 2,200 staff complement it had at the beginning of the year, to just over 1,800 today: that only raises the question, 'Where is all the additional manpower going to come from'? The answer cannot be expected from the police: who have, on their part, already shown a willingness to rise to the occasion. It can only come from the politicians themselves: in the form of a long-overdue reform of Malta's entire law enforcement capability. As such, we can only hope that – unlike the case with financial services – it will not have to take a full-blown emergency, to finally force our politicians to take the necessary action. 19 June 2012 Auditor's report reopens can of worms at MEPA THE Malta Environment and Planning Au- thority's auditor Joe Falzon has lambasted the approval of three villas at It-Tafal tal-Imdina, an area in Rabat, suspected of being approved against policy just a week before the 2008 general elections. The former Development Control Com- mission approved the final permit for the development on 26 February 2008, just 10 days before the 2008 elections. According to Falzon, the two applications are contrary to established policies. The application, submitted in 1998 to build four villas, had been refused by the DCC and the appeal dismissed by the plan- ning appeals board because no development was allowed in the "green belt" under ques- tion. Then in 2002, Joseph Baldacchino – on behalf of the Olive Gardens company – submitted an outline application for two semi-detached villas and a detached villa. That same year, the case officer's report called for the rejection of his application due to the "deleterious effect" it would have on the area. In March 2003, the DCC refused the new application, which again was appealed. Once again, the DCC was advised by the Local Plan Unit that a substantial part of the site was outside the development zone, and that a specific policy earmarked the area to stay undeveloped and retain its rural character. But in September 2003, the DCC held a site inspection to find the area was aban- doned land and finding that no third-party views were affected by the development. This spurred to call for a revision of archi- tectural plans, and in June 2004 it issued an outline permit for the villas. The only justification given was that "the development was less intensive than in the previous application" dismissed by MEPA some years before. According to auditor Joe Falzon, the facts of the case speak for themselves. "On at least two separate occasions the proposed development on the site had been refused for environmental reasons." ... Quote of the Week "People will trust the PN again when they see a 'team of rivals' (to borrow from Lincoln's feat) working together ‒ one party, one goal. Differences will remain but they need to be harnessed to row in the same direction." Public policy expert George Vital Zammit's diagnosis of the PN's ongoing disagreements, The Times, 16 June 2022 MaltaToday 10 years ago

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