Police are preparing for a potential spike in crimes as the economic hardship due to the coronavirus crisis begins to bite, Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri confirmed on Friday. 

Speaking during a virtual press conference, Camilleri said the police’s work had already ramped up due to the spot checks being carried out on people under mandatory quarantine. 

Replying to a question by Times of Malta, the minister assured the police were preparing for a potential increases in criminality, with contingency plans in place.

He said with the work focus shifting away from police stations, more officers could be mobilised to carry out foot and vehicle patrols in their localities. 

The government was committed to protecting those most vulnerable due to the crisis, he said. 

Crime rates down 10 per cent

Prior to fielding questions from journalists, Camilleri said a new report showed that crime rates in Malta had dropped by 10 per cent in three years, putting Malta well below the EU average. 

“Malta is still one of the safest countries in the EU. This reflects well on the work being done by the police”, Camilleri said. 

The minister hailed a community policing project in Mellieħa as a success and announced it would be extended to a myriad of other localities, including Rabat, Dingli, Swieqi, Pembroke, Valletta, Floriana and Fgura. 

He said criminality in St Julian’s, an entertainment hotspot, was at its lowest levels in 15 years. 

Shift in types of crimes

Camilleri said the police had to adapt to technology-based crimes as well as economic crimes. 

Police CEO Angelo Gafa said there had been heavy investment in predictive crime analysis.

He too emphasised how crime had moved from the physical environment to the virtual one. 

Gafa, a former financial crime investigator, said the police were conscious of the “problems” in the department tasked with investigating financial crimes.

He said work was under way to bolster this department’s efforts. 

Criminology professor Saviour Formosa, who drew up the crime report, said crime levels in 2019 had fallen by 2.1 per cent when compared with the previous year. 

Formosa said the incidence of pickpocketing, while still high, had been greatly reduced. 

The criminologist noted an increase in vehicle-related crimes such as hit-and-run incidents. 

Theft comprised 42.5 per cent of all offences reported to the police, up from 41 per cent in 2018. 

Domestic violence decreased slightly from 1,341 cases in 2018 to 1,326 the following year. 

However, stalking incidents increased by a significant 61 per cent, according to the report. 

On what day is a crime most likely to take place? 

Most crimes are committed on Monday, followed by Saturday. 

Nine per cent of offences reported occurred between midnight and 3am. 

Crimes reported between 8.00am and 12.00pm have seen a steady decrease, whilst the rest of the time periods have remained stable. 

Reports lodged between 3.00am and 8.00am have experienced a 2 per cent increase, the report says. 

Which crimes have increase or decreased? 

Crimes that increased (in descending percentage change order): violation of places of confinement, crimes against public peace, sexual offences, money laundering, arson, pretended rights, bodily harm, attempted offences and theft. 

Crimes that decreased (in descending percentage change order): perjury and false swearing, infanticide/abandonment of child, prostitution, drugs, abuse of public authority, crimes against public safety, homicide, immigration, forgery, fraud, computer misuse, violence against public officers, pornography, threats and private violence and domestic violence.

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