Drug trafficking in Gozo is not getting out of hand, according to a senior police officer, who downplayed Gozo Bishop Mario Grech’s claim that drug abuse at village feasts has become rampant.

Mgr Grech made a direct appeal to the authorities during his homily in Victoria on Tuesday, the feast of the Assumption of our Lady, saying drugs are a “serious wound” on Gozo and have cast a wide net that is catching youths and underage children.

However, a high-ranking police officer, who spoke to this newspaper on condition of anonymity, said such claims should be made with caution.

“From our perspective, we cannot say that things have become worse. Of course there is a drug problem in Gozo, it would be a lie to say that there isn’t, but I cannot say that we have noted the problem getting bigger in recent months,” he said.

The drug situation in Gozo was no worse than that in Malta, he said, but he could not say it was out of control, as the Bishop claimed.

One worrying trend involves the use of private yachts to traffic drugs but this is a phenomenon seen on both islands, he added.

And while there had been specialised operations that required the assistance of the Vice Squad in Gozo, this was all standard procedure.

“From time to time, yes, the police in Gozo do request our assistance, however not because there’s some boom in drug use but because different cases require different degrees of effort.”

Neither were the police aware of the phenomenon of underage children taking drugs as suggested by the Bishop.

As for the comment that drug trafficking was rampant during village feasts, the police had not noted anything out of the ordinary, the officer said. There had been some drug seizures over the past few months but they did not occur during feasts.

While being careful not to dismiss the Bishop’s claims outright, the officer pointed out that when speaking about such issues it was important not to make “sweeping statements” that could have the opposite effect. He encouraged those speaking out to do so with caution.

Contacted for a reaction to these comments, Mgr Grech told this newspaper that he was sticking by what he said during his homily.

In a curt reply, he pointed out that the comments by the police “confirm the gravity of the issue”.

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