Feature Photo via Malta Independent
Sunday’s community meeting in Marsa was attended by disgruntled residents of the town who feel let down by the authorities, and are fed-up of their living situation. In a heartfelt speech, a Maltese woman expressed her concerns to a crowd of residents and supporters showing solidarity with the town’s plight for a safer environment.
“We’re here today to send a message to the authorities, to give us back our dignity. Give us back our security. Give us back a justice system that works. And above all this, give us back our lives, and a decent place where we can raise our children. Because we too have basic fundamental human rights that need meeting. This is the responsibility of you, the authorities, for us and for our children.”
– Julie Ellul, Marsa resident and speaker
Image via Malta Today
Residents expressed increasing concerns about their safety and security, and demanded that these issues be addressed after “years of neglect” in the area.
Lovin Malta spoke to a young female Marsa resident who was scared to walk around in her own hometown, after experiencing the terrifying ordeal of being followed home after parking her car.
“I have now purchased a high-pitched alarm keychain so that if something like this happens again at least I have some kind of ‘weapon’. It is ridiculous that I have come to this but I honestly have no idea what to do anymore. I can’t wait until I can move out of Marsa. But the problems will still be there for my sister, my grandma and other females living here” said Louise Vella, 26.
With police presence being felt more in the area after it has recently been stepped up, there is still huge room for improvement. Marsa residents complained of being left “at the bottom of the pile” when it came to their hometown’s upkeep.
Residents expressed their dismay at not even being able to take their children to the swings for fear they might come into contact with used syringes from heroin usage.
Persons from the migrant community that Lovin Malta spoke to are also pro the arrest of fellow migrants who commit crimes – “Whoever’s bad, arrest them and take them away” said one migrant, when telling us about his experiences of racial profiling in the area.
Reports by women of recurring intimidating behaviour by migrants have been made to the police but still, female residents are bearing the brunt of the issues in the area the most. Here are a few ways of improving security in Marsa for all.
1. Drastically increase street lighting
A simple idea that can make a huge difference. Well lit areas decrease crime. High-crime areas such as parking facilities, recreational parks and derelict areas should be floodlit. This method also helps to combat drug-taking in public places such as playgrounds.
2. Up CCTV in the town
Criminals hate cameras. It is much easier to bring criminals to justice with a clear picture of them. Residents expressed concern about depositing and withdrawing money at the bank. CCTV should also be placed at bus stops to prevent crimes being committed in and around our public transport.
3. What to do in an emergency
Clear instructions on what to do in an emergency which can be issued by authorities and posted out as leaflets. All residents of all genders in every locality should know what to do in dangerous situations and what constitutes a crime. Witnessing a crime happening to someone else should also be firmly addressed.
4. Introduce a specific harassment helpline
Cat-calling can be scary and extremely distressing, especially at night. A hotline will also act as “someone to be on the phone to” just in case a person fears a crime may be committed. No-one should have to tolerate harassment whilst getting to and from work or walking home from a night out.
A text option for this number should be implemented too. Posters of this helpline should be visible on buses, bar and club toilets, public places and around colleges to spread awareness and to ward off harassment.
5. Teach population what is unacceptable behaviour
Cultures vary from place to place. In some cultures, women are not seen as equals. In Malta, this is not the case. It is important for new residents to know what constitutes unacceptable behaviour. This can be done as public talks, in support groups or by police on the beat. Calling out intimidating behaviour by citizens on the spot can work too, even if you are standing up for someone else.
6. Increase community connections
In close communities, crimes are less likely to occur against friends and neighbours. Seeing a community as the enemy – whether it’s the Maltese community or the migrant community – is not helpful in terms of hostility and crime. An active effort to build links between communities can help.
7. ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ Groups
Keeping track of dangerous spots and troublesome groups and faces in the area is important. A “Neighbourhood Watch” community focus group can act as a hive mind for tackling recurring problems in higher risk areas. It’s important to have a good relationship between citizens, the police and the council.
Criminal activity should be reported to the police. Emotional support is available free of charge 24/7 from The Emotional Support Helpline on 21116123.