Gaming shop operators vent frustration over hold ups

Industry up in arms over police inaction following spate of hold ups

Gaming shop operators are concerned about the police’s inability to break up what they perceive as an organised criminal gang behind a series of hold ups carried out on a number of outlets. 

Moreover, leaked information about measures taken to trace the perpetuators has enraged the operators. 

In recent months, the number of hold ups on gaming shops has risen at an alarming rate, forcing operators to step up their security and take further measures to aid the police investigations.

The latest robbery took place on Monday, when some €5,000 were stolen from a gaming shop in Naxxar, while last week two men were arrested over a hold-up in Mosta. 

One common denominator in all hold ups is that most were carried out by a lone hooded man wielding a weapon.

One particular operator has suffered at least eight robberies in the space of five months. Questions sent to the police on how many hold ups have been carried out in 2015 have not been answered yet.

On Friday, 18-year-old Justin Scicluna was charged with an armed robbery at an Izibet gaming shop a few metres away from his residence in Main Street, Mosta.

However, his alleged accomplice, who was also arrested by police, has so far not been arraigned. Beyond this incongruence, operators are angry and frustrated at the leaked information on how the two men were arrested. 

Following the growing number of hold ups in recent months, operators took their own precautions and inserted a tracking device inside money notes which would have enabled the police to trace the perpetrators and investigate the alleged criminal ring. 

However, this information was leaked to national broadcaster TVM with the enraged operators now having to come up with other measures to locate the criminals and possibly help the police in breaking up what they believe is an organised criminal gang behind the spate of hold ups. 

Last week’s arrests are not necessarily linked to the series of robberies in the summer months, but Scicluna, who pleaded not guilty, was charged with aggravated violence, possessing a fire-arm, covering his face with a mask, holding an employee against his will and stealing €500. 

The police are not excluding the possibility that the two men held in connection with the latest robbery were also involved in another hold up on the same outlet in September in which some €6,000 were stolen. 

On 5 September, a man was held for questioning by the police following a hold-up at a gaming shop in Valley Road, Birkirkara the previous night. 

In June, some €6,500 were stolen by a hooded man wielding a knife at a gaming establishment in St Paul’s Bay while a month later two hooded and armed men made off with €4,500 in cash after raiding a gaming shop in San Gwann.

In June two men were charged with the foiled hold up on a St Paul’s Bay gaming shop. 

Questions sent to the home affairs ministry over whether any further measures have been taken to deal with the increasing number of hold ups have not yet been answered.