Vandalism of a tribute bench and a bus stop have drawn attention to Mellieħa, and a local councillor has linked the problem to the recent closure of the town’s police station.
Mellieħa’s police station recently closed down shortly after the northern town became the first in Malta to launch a community policing scheme, which means four officers are on the beat, solving any problems that may occur.
Ivan Castillo told Lovin Malta that the scheme has been a roaring success, that crimes such as pickpocketing, theft and littering have declined, and that officers have managed to build bonds of trusts with Mellieħa residents.
However, he warned that their shift ends in the evening, effectively leaving the town without any police presence until the following morning.
“I’m 101% in favour of community policing, but it’s a big problem when they’re not here and most vandalism takes place at night,” he said.
“We’ve witnessed a rise of vandalism, including graffiti at Paradise Bay, and police officers have told me the the COVID-19 situation has led to frustrated youths meeting up at night.”
“It makes a difference if people know there’s an officer in the station. What if a woman needs to escape her abusive husband? Will she now have to run to Qawra, fill in an online form, or speak into the intercom outside the Mellieħa police station while everyone around can hear her?”
He suggested manning the police station with retired police officers willing to put in a shift or even recruiting people from outside the force.
“A lot of the work inside a police station is secretarial; some training is required but you don’t need to be a police officer to work there. It’s a potential job niche.”
After its initial launch in Mellieħa, the community policing scheme was recently extend to Mdina, Dingli, Floriana, Valletta, Marsaxlokk, Birżebbuġa, Pembroke, Swieqi, Fgura, Rabat and Mtarfa. In its Budget for 2021, the government confirmed it plans to extend it to the “challenging” towns of Marsa, Ħamrun, St Julian’s and St Paul’s Bay.
Lovin Malta has asked the police whether police stations in these towns will be closed down too but has yet to receive a response.