Police to tackle fake passport creators as Malta’s global crime rate drops 16%

Minister Byron Camilleri: "Malta is getting more secure"

Malta’s crime rate has fallen for the fourth consecutive year, according to figures released by the ministry of Home Affairs and National Security this morning.

Home affairs minister Byron Camilleri thanked the police and law enforcement personnel for their part in the successful effort.

Addressing a press conference at the Chinese Garden of Serenity in Santa Lucija, Camilleri launched this year’s Malta Police Annual Crime Report, a yearly analysis of crime rates in Malta.

“This year’s report should put the public’s mind at rest,” Camilleri said of statistics compiled by Prof. Saviour Formosa, showing the 16% decrease in reported crimes.

“We shouldn’t get too excited about the numbers,” the Minister said however, citing the COVID-19 lockdown as a strong factor in the declining crime rates.

But Camilleri was also proud of the achievement, saying that Malta is getting “progressively more secure.”

“I cannot forget discussions held at the start of the pandemic with the Commissioner of Police which were about possible increases in criminality. Experienced advisors told us to expect a spike in crime rates. We needed to take decisions.”

One of these decisions taken was the deployment of a larger police presence in public. This was helped by the closure of the courts, which released more officers for patrols, he said. “We are implementing the police plan to reduce criminality, having more police in the streets and not behind desks. Our primary aim is the prevention of crime through increased patrols, be they foot or bike patrols,” Camilleri said.

Despite COVID, Malta is consistently getting more secure, Camilleri insisted. “One of the safest in Europe and the world.”

Thefts were down by 30%, but other sectors of crime had registered increases. The ministry had therefore increased resources to the police to tackle immigration, domestic violence and money laundering offences.

Asked by the MaltaToday about the marked increase in passport-related convictions and the resulting overcrowding in prison, Camilleri confirmed that the report showed a record number of passport convictions. “Police can’t not investigate to save prison space,” he said, adding that the mandatory custodial sentences should act as a deterrent.

The creators of the false passports are the subject of an ongoing  police investigation, he said. “At the end of the day, passport offenders are victims of a system, who committed a crime,” he said. The numbers also showed that border control was working.

Studies are being carried out on increasing the capacity for the Corradino Correctional Facility, he said, measuring the potential impact on nearby residents.

Commissioner of Police Angelo Gafa’ hailed the community policing scheme as a success. The project began in 2019 in Mellieha, and was intended to increase police presence and community relations. “Not just investigating crime, but destroying root causes too,” Gafa’ said. To date, 13 communities have a community policing presence and this will continue to grow, he said.

On the other hand, computer crime is also up 44% and this is a result of people spending more time at home, he said. A 70% increase in manpower has been allocated to the Financial Crime Unit, together with more investment in the Cybercrime Unit, Gafa’ explained. Computer misuse is a growing problem and the police are investigating, prosecuting and leading an education campaign for the public to tackle it, stated Gafa'.

The Commissioner added that an “targeted policing” approach had been adopted, especially with regards homicides. The police had engaged a number of external analysts to assist them in this endeavour. He pointed out that of the 6 murders this year, all had been solved. “Targeted policing is helping,” Gafa’ said.

Leading Criminologist Prof. Saviour Formosa who set up the Crime Malta Observatory in 2008 said that although criminality had fluctuated over the years, it had steadily increased till 2016. In recent years crime had consistently reduced, he said. “The COVID pandemic has helped us identify the crimes committed by locals and not tourists,” Prof Formosa said, adding that while theft, criminal damage and sexual offences and bodily harm had reduced when compared to last year, computer crime, drug related offences, domestic violence and crimes of threats and public violence were all significantly higher.
Globally, however, crime had decreased. 2020 had 25.4 crimes per 1000 persons – nearly half 2015’s 42, he said.

The impact of measures, such as the implementation of GRECO and Moneyval reports, were leading to more results, Formosa said, "although they raise the crime rate in certain areas, as a result of the police's success."

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