St Julian’s residents have branded Spinola Gardens a ‘no-go zone’ as the area has become characterised by drug dealing and unsavoury acts of public indecency.
Residents who spoke to Times of Malta said that a group of men frequently loiter outside the garden after dark and approach people on the street to sell drugs.
“I have been offered drugs while walking in the early evening, others have said it goes on till late at night,” said Steven, who spoke to Times of Malta anonymously.
“I have even witnessed a drop-off with a supplier, it was quite brazen, I cannot imagine the authorities are not aware of this.”
Another resident described a run-in with one of the alleged drug dealers ending menacingly after he told a member of the group off for disrobing and urinating in public.
“He climbed onto one of the large planters, undid his trousers and started urinating for all to view, while I was walking past. I politely told him the garden was not the place but the rest of his gang gathered around and told me to ‘f*** off’.
Every morning we gather large quantities of cans, bottles, syringes and drug-related paraphernalia
“This is not acceptable and uncivilised behaviour shouldn’t be tolerated.”
St Julian’s mayor Albert Buttigieg told Times of Malta that both himself and former mayor Guido Dalli had been offered drugs in the area.
“Residents have been putting up with this situation for several years. We were promised tourism police or community policing for the area, but this has yet to materialise,” Buttigieg said.
The St Julian’s local council has invested in new lighting, a security officer and even started locking the garden overnight, but this has done little to deter those who jump over the fence to use the space for illicit purposes.
“We have a cleaning problem in the area, every morning we gather large quantities of cans, bottles, syringes and drug-related paraphernalia from the garden. It’s clear that a police presence is needed in Paceville.
“It is worrisome to think that people, particularly young tourists who don’t know the area, who are out to enjoy themselves, can quickly find themselves in a dangerous situation.”
Buttigieg also noted a new trend was emerging with revellers who became too intoxicated habitually running around in the nude on the area or having sex in public.
“It is happening far too frequently to ignore. This is not a matter of policing morality but basic public decency, he said.
“St Julian’s is the window dressing of Maltese tourism and allowing this behaviour to go on unchecked undermines other efforts to court tourists to the island.”
The council is lobbying to transform the currently unoccupied Spinola Palace (which is adjacent to the gardens) into a community centre that will incorporate a police station into it.
“The idea is that a stronger police presence in the core of the entertainment area will deter unsavory behaviour in such a public space,” Buttigieg said.
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