Areas synonymous with night-life, such as Buġibba and Paceville, have become more dangerous than ever before, with daily occurrences of brawls, drugs, and prostitution now normalised, sources familiar with the nightlife and entertainment industry have admitted to this newsroom.
Discussing the situation in entertainment hotspots, concerned sources familiar with the industry told The Malta Independent on Sunday that the number brawls and the drug situation ‘has gotten out of hand’.
These elements always existed to some extent, especially when it comes to nightlife; however, over the past five years, and especially the last two years, the situation has deteriorated to the point that nightly brawls, and extensive drug dealing and abuse have become something of the norm.
“I have seen brawls involving up to 16 people on the streets of Buġibba in the early hours of the morning. I spoke to someone the day after once such incident and he told me that these things are normal and that they often involved money,” one person said, shaking his head.
Another explains that he has seen people with large knives and even flashing pistols inside establishments.
It is not uncommon for brawls in places such as Paceville and Buġibba to make the news, and many news outlets report such fights when they occur; but these reported incidents are only the tip of the iceberg.
The source explains that some 90 per cent of all the incidents are handled by the establishment’s own security team and go unreported. Only when the incident involves serious injury is the matter generally reported to the authorities.
The person notes that if all these crimes were actually reported to the authorities by establishment owners, then the figures would show that Malta’s crime rate is not on the decrease, as was claimed by Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar some months ago, but on the increase.
Such groups have become organised. In places like Buġibba, the person explains, it is well known that some areas are considered the ‘territory’ of certain groups, which are normally segregated by nationality.
This is not the first time that such segregation has been indicated – last March lawyer Joe Giglio said in court that racial tension between Serbians and Albanians have now also spilt over into Paceville.
This is not, however, a question of race, the source insists. He notes that even Maltese have involved themselves in the illegalities that are now rife in entertainment areas, especially when it comes to drugs and prostitution.
“The drugs situation is out of control,” the source says. “Years ago, people used to approach you and say ‘Can I get you a drink?’, but today people approach you and say ‘Can I get you a line?’ – it is rampant.”
The source laments the alarming increase in cocaine use. The assertion fits with what has already been said in the public sphere; sources within the police drugs squad and leading narcotics experts have all indicated that there has been a ‘boom’ in cocaine use across the country, while customs officials are seizing record amounts of drugs – especially cocaine – which are being smuggled into Malta through the Freeport.
Just last June, three people – one Maltese and two Serbs – were arrested in Marsalforn over the discovery of a substantial amount of cocaine and cannabis. Six days later, another three Maltese nationals were arrested in a raid in Gżira after sachets of suspected cocaine were found.
The source notes that the most worrying aspect is that such crime is organised; back-up in the case of a fight or drug supplies are just a phone call away.
Prostitution, meanwhile, is also rife. One source explains that at a particular establishment, a person even has his own corner near the bar and is accompanied by two women – sometimes the same, sometimes different – and effectively looks to ‘rent’ them out to people at the establishment.
How has the situation deteriorated to such an extent? “There is no control,” replies one of the sources. “A sheer lack of enforcement,” replies another. Things have long been deteriorating, they say, but the situation is now dire, yet nothing is being done about it.
This may be due to a lack of police resources, one suggests, although the person later notes that he has never been stopped in something as simple as a roadblock to check for drunk driving – which is also on the rise and, consequently, making roads all the more unsafe.
The sheer lack of breathalyser tests have been lamented upon in the past; this newsroom reported that only two inspections on drivers were carried out on St Patrick’s Day, which is synonymous with alcohol consumption, despite the fact that tens of thousands of revellers had descended on the entertainment hubs. Judge Consuelo Scerri Herrera also called for more tests to be carried out, noting that officers were misinterpreting the meaning of the term ‘reasonable suspicion’.
A driver can only be administered a breathalyser test if the police have ‘reasonable suspicion’ that the driver is under the influence of more alcohol than the prescribed limit.
A factor which also contributes to the current situation ‘being ignored’, one source says, is that business is currently booming. With business at its peak, many are ignoring these prevalent and increasing problems, as exposing them may affect business.
“All that matters is that the wheel keeps turning; that business is booming – that’s all people care about nowadays,” the person lamented.
All this has created a situation where it is unsafe to be in certain areas and establishments. Nightlife areas such as Buġibba and Paceville have, as a result of all of these issues, become dangerous places – with Paceville the most dangerous.
“As a person who knows the scene, I cannot imagine having children reaching the age where they start to go out and wanting to go to these places; I do not know what I would do,” one explained.
“It has truly become survival of the fittest,” another lamented.