Thursday 06 October 2022

A police force stretched to its limits

This article first appeared on Malta Today 

If it seems to you that in the last few weeks there has been an explosion of crime, violence, deaths and traffic accidents, you are not imagining things. (On second thoughts, perhaps “explosion” was not the most felicitous choice of words, given the car bombs we’ve had this year).

No, I repeat, you are not imagining things, because when I sifted back through two weeks’ worth of news stories, this is what I found:

Violent crime/murders

Libyan man forces Moroccan wife to have an abortion

Maltese man stabbed to death in Hamrun by another Maltese man, allegedly in dispute over child

Serbian man smashes beer glass into Maltese man’s face, causing him to probably lose sight in one eye

Maltese man stabbed in Birkirkara, who later dies of his injuries. Another Maltese man arrested for the murder.

Man of Serbian nationality found dead in sea, with blow to the head

General crime

Digital fraud crime ring broken up

Revenge porn video leaked

20,000 Euros worth of jewellery stolen in house robbery

Spring hunting law breached, eight protected birds shot

Serious traffic accidents, one fatal:

Man dies after his car crashes into pole in Marsa

5 accidents involving motorcycles

2 accidents involving trucks and other vehicles

Car plunges two storeys at car park

Pedestrians injured/killed

Elderly man run over and killed

3 other pedestrians hit by cars

Possible arson

Two cars catch fire

Fire at Park Towers supermarket
As I was compiling this list, another story came in of a dispute between two brothers which ended up with one man receiving a blow to the head with a glass object.

The statistics read like those of a major inner city, which is what Malta feels like it has become, as towns and villages edge closer to each other with barely anything to distinguish where one urban sprawl ends and the other begins. The different nationalities are often indicated in a lot of the headlines and stories, further perpetuating the fear that we have not only become a cosmopolitan society to live in, but also cosmopolitan when it comes to crime. In some stories, such as the digital fraud crime ring, the men of Greek nationality had literally come to Malta for a few days to carry out the criminal activity and were due to leave just before the police raided their hotel room and arrested them. With our jails already teeming with prisoners, I think that where possible, non-Maltese nationals caught breaking the law should be deported at once to serve their sentence in their home country. Having said this, it would be unwise to try and look for scapegoats and make this all about the influx of foreigners: Maltese nationals are just as guilty when it comes to violence, criminal activity and breaking the law (not that it is any consolation).

The stories point to a culture which is teeming with an underbelly of criminal rings, ruthless violence, aggression, drug abuse and reckless driving. It is no different to any other country, but it also cannot be ignored that for the size of our country, the crime rate is becoming alarmingly high.

Dealing with all this is a police force which (to me), seems to be woefully inadequate in terms of sheer numbers. With every news story I read there is always added that final line, “the police are investigating” which always makes me wonder how on earth they are managing to investigate all that is happening on a weekly basis. From the most petty crime, traffic accident and neighbourhood squabble to the most violent assaults, tragic fatal accidents and heinous murders, our police force has to somehow stretch itself to its limits to cover the countless times it is called to try and restore order when the law has been broken in some way. It is a gargantuan task because no matter how much one tries, it is physically impossible to be everywhere at once or to anticipate what might happen. Ideally, we should have the comforting security of policemen “on the beat” to ensure that our streets and homes continue to be safe, and as a deterrent to further crime, but that is impossible. As communities lose their identity because people move around so much, it is even dubious whether one could even realistically set up neighbourhood watches in areas where no one is really “from there”. That feeling of looking out for one another is also being eroded as family homes are torn down to build high rise apartment blocks where no one knows your name.

When it comes to the daily road accidents, there too, I sense it has a lot to do with a lack of concern for one’s fellow man. Who cares if I knock over that old lady or that guy on a bike? I’m in a hurry, so get out of my way. Again, it would help greatly if there were more traffic police permanently on the road, not driving by, but waiting to pull drivers over for breaking the law. Proper law enforcement and sentencing is something we are all begging for because getting drivers who are a menace off the roads is probably one of the country’s most important priorities.

The way things are going, with so much of our moral fabric being torn apart; with a whole generation of children growing up in seriously dysfunctional families, and a lack of direction and purpose being sowed in many teenagers, leading to further alienation and anti-social behaviour, the future of the country depends on establishing more law and order and discipline. That can only happen through example, from the top down, and from having a strengthened police force which has enough human and material resources to cope with all the situations they must face every single day.

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