Malta registered the lowest crime rate in more than 15 years last year, according to statistics published on Monday.

With 28 crimes committed for every 1,000 people, 2022 was technically a safer year for the average citizen than any other since Malta joined the European Union.

The one exception was 2020, an anomalous year which saw the entire country temporarily shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Comparisons with years prior to 2004 are difficult, as statistics were not gathered using the same methodology prior to that date. 

Police also saw a significant drop in the total number crimes year-on-year, with 5.4 per cent fewer reports filed than in 2021, despite Malta's growing population. 

The figures were published in the CrimeMalta Observatory Annual Crime Review and made public by Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri and Police Commissioner Angelo Gafà at a press conference at the police headquarters in Floriana.

Launched in 2008, CrimeMalta gatheres statistics on crime rates. It has been publishing the figures annually since 2017.

Around 5,000 fewer crimes than forecast

The figures, compiled and presented by University criminology professor Saviour Formosa, show that in 2022, people filed 14,933 crime reports, versus the roughly 20,000 that experts were predicting. 

Had the crime rate remained at 2004 levels, when there were 45 criminal reports filed per 1,000, then Malta would have had to contend with 24,000 crimes last year, Formosa noted.  

The report also says that theft has dramatically halved - from 11,465 in 2004 to 4,612 in 2022 - and that all homicides between 2018 and 2022 were solved in a matter of days.

Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri speaking at the statistics presentation. Photo: Chris Sant FournierHome Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri speaking at the statistics presentation. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

"The figures render the islands very safe, where crimes declined from 45 crimes per 1000 persons in 2004 to 37 crimes per 1000 persons in 2012 to 28 crimes per 1000 persons in 2022, the lowest on record," Formosa said in his report, adding that last year's record-low figures even include figures for crimes related to immigration, drugs and money laundering, all of which were not included in previous statistics.

The crime report was compiled by University academic Professor Saviour Formosa. PHOTO: Chris Sant Fournier.The crime report was compiled by University academic Professor Saviour Formosa. PHOTO: Chris Sant Fournier.

Theft goes out of fashion

The report highlights a rapidly changing crime scenario. While in 2004 almost two out of every three crimes (62.4%) was a theft, that figure dropped to 55.6% in 2012 and now stands at just 30.9%. 

Apart from theft, incidents of prostitution, arson, attempted offences, forgery and bodily harm have also dropped since 2012.

By contrast, crimes related to drugs, sexual offences, threats and private violence, perjury, fraud and computer misuse have all been on the rise over the past two decades.

Reports of fraud and computer misuse have seen especially dramatic rises, climbing by 876% and 4164% respectively, the report notes.

No major change in homicide rate

Malta's homicide rate continues to hover where it has always been since 2004, according to the report. It remained at a constant 1.7 per 100,000 persons.

Arson is now at a record low, with 73% fewer reports than in 2004. 

Conversely, technology-related crimes are up, with criminal activity increasingly shifting online.

Last year the police registered 470 'computer crimes' the police commissioner said.

There was a 21% decrease in thefts from private residences since 2008, but an increase in fraud reports - from 11 in 2004 to 469 in 2022 - and an increase in drug reports - from 87 in 2004 to 210 in 2022.

Domestic violence reports are up

Domestic violence reports also ballooned, going up from 450 reports in 2008 to 1,830 in 2022. There was also an increase of 5% in the number of domestic violence reports filed when compared to 2021.  

Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri said the government and its advisors believe this is likely because public awareness and police resources have encouraged people to report more, and not necessarily because domestic violence is increasing.

Gafà also said that police saw a significant drop in bodily harm crimes in key hotspots St Julian's and Valletta. 

In St Julian's, the rate of bodily harm crime report was the third-lowest in 25 years, with only 2020 and 2021 - when most bars were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic - registering lower rates. 

"In 2011, there were three times as many bodily harm cases in St Julian's as last year," the commissioner said. 

Valletta also saw a 20% drop in such crime when compared to 2011, he said. 

No locality registered abnormal spikes in crime, but there was a slight increase in reports in Floriana, Valletta, Cospicua and Żejtun.

Crime in Gozo increased by 8%

Gozo, however, registered an 8% increase in crime reports - 73 more reports over the previous year.

But addressing recent reports in Times of Malta over a spike of thefts in Gozo, Police Commissioner Gafà said that figures show that theft on the sister island is also down, with 199 such reports last year, the third lowest after the two Covid years and the high of 332 in 2006.  

Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa attributed the decrease in crime rate to the hard-working police officers. PHOTO: Chris Sant Fournier.Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa attributed the decrease in crime rate to the hard-working police officers. PHOTO: Chris Sant Fournier.

€500,000 more seized from drug trafficking

Gafa also said the police drug squad prosecuted 22% more drug cases last year and seized half a million euro more in cash from drug-related activity - double the amount seized the previous year.

Prostitution down, but pornography up

Over the last two decades, there were fewer prostitution-related crimes but more pornography-related ones.

There was also an increase, of 6% year-on-year, in reports relating to threats and private violence, increasing mainly through blackmail, causing fear of violence, private violence and stalking.

Crimes relating to computer misuse, fraud, perjury and false swearing, abuse of public authority and immigration also increased, while crimes relating to arson, attempted offences and violation of places of confinement decreased.

Minister lauds 'encouraging results'

Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri said that while news of appalling crimes often shocks people to the core and leads them to believe that the country has become more dangerous, it is the facts emerging from these figures that must offer a view of the larger picture and guide government in taking decisions.

"We're not trying to say that the country is perfect, but we are seeing encouraging results," he said.

"We thought that with the growing economy, the creation of more jobs and the increase in population, we would be registering more crime. The fact that we're not means that society is more educated and aware and our efforts are working."

Both he and Gafà cited a drive to shift police work to a community-based model as part of the reason for the declining crime rate. Community policing, which currently covers 75 per cent of the country and will go nationwide by the end of this year, sees more officers assigned community beats. 

People want police on the streets

During the press conference, the National Statistics Office also announced preliminary results of a survey commissioned by the police force.

The survey shows that the majority of people - 80% - prefer police officers patrolling the streets over police officers manning police stations, but the majority - 57% - said they do not see officers in the street often enough.

According to the survey, the majority trust the police and have confidence in their services.

68% are aware of community policing and residents in localities where the initiative has already kicked off are more aware of the concept.

68% of residents in localities with community policing said they saw improvements in security in their locality.

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