Prime Minister Robert Abela has linked a drop in crime during the pandemic to increased police presence in the community.

The Prime Minister said on Sunday that a decrease of 2,500 reports filed at police stations was proof that the prevention strategy, employed recently through the deployment of more officers in the streets, was working. 

According to official data, the number of crimes committed last year went down by 16%, however, the government acknowledged 2020 to be an extraordinary year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, though the overall rate went down, crimes related to computer use and domestic violence shot up.

Addressing party supporters on Sunday, the prime minister reiterated the government’s commitment to security, including in areas which he said were under pressure from migration.

He said people had a right to feel safe outdoors, adding he had pledged, months ago, that those impacted the most by migration will not be scared to go out of their homes. 

Abela said it was not right to have areas that “suffer from disproportionate pressure of migration”.

“We sent a clear message. We deployed a strong police presence in the community, particularly those most impacted.”

Abela meanwhile referred to migration as a “yearlong problem”, not just a “summer problem”.

He said the government was working on this “reality” every day and "everyone could see and feel the success". The migration “problem”, he said, created pressure on the community and Maltese society, and the island could not take on more pressure". 

“Contrary to those who said that Malta is not full up, we made our position clear and everyone knows where we stand."

Most difficult year in Malta's political history

The Prime Minister also spoke about the hardships brought about by the COVID-19. In Malta’s political history, 2020 had been the most difficult year to lead a country, he said.

He said that during the pandemic, Malta could implement changes because it had its mind at rest about its health services.

Had the country gone under lockdown, he added, it would not have recovered. Other countries were suffering the negative economic consequences of lockdown, Abela said.

“We had a clear vision – while others went for a low testing rate, we focused on more testing and being transparent about the results.

"We invested in health facilities, and we have also increased the rate of vaccination against COVID-19,” the Prime Minister added, criticising a “hypocritical” Opposition for “attacking” Superintendent for Public Health Charmaine Gauci, who had recommended the reopening of schools this January. 

Launch of tourism strategy, employment policy

Looking ahead to the coming days, Abela said the government will this week launch a national strategy for tourism and consultation on a national employment policy.

The government will also provide details about the aid scheme announced at the end of 2020 for bars and restaurants impacted by COVID-19.

He assured those impacted that the government will remain by their side and support them in the coming months until they can reopen.

Abela also referred to the tabling in parliament of a report into the construction industry, commissioned after the building collapse that killed Miriam Pace last year. During his Sunday address, Abela paid tribute to Pace.

The report was tabled as MPs discussed a law establishing a new Building and Construction Authority to oversee the sector, which, among others, urges those living next to a construction site to employ an architect who will be paid by the developers next door.

Abela insisted that robust regularisation ensured sustainable development and urged both parts of the House to debate ideas, rather than attack each other.

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