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Red-light district is getting redder

MP calls for effective police action

Labour MP Adrian Vassallo has called for effective police action against prostitutes loitering in Ta` Xbiex and Gzira, saying the situation was getting worse by the day.

The MP said in parliament that the problem was particularly evident in the lower part of Testaferrata Street, Enrico Mizzi Street, St John of the Cross Street, Giuseppe Cali Street, Sir Ugo Mifsud Street and Msida Road.

Council of Europe Garden in Gzira had also achieved notoriety as a night meeting place of Maltese and foreign gays who did whatever they wanted to do there in the open.

Some nearby residents who lived on social benefits were also renting out rooms in their homes for use for such activities.

While in Amsterdam prostitutes revealed themselves in show windows, there were apartment blocks in Gzira where such people did the same in windows and balconies, he said.

"Prostitution has increased considerably, activity is almost on a 24-hour roster involving female as well as male prostitutes, transvestites and under-aged children", Dr Vassallo said.

It was true that one could not complain if such activities were held in private premises behind closed doors, he said, but much was taking place in public, including harassment of men and women who happened to be passing by, vulgar modes of dress, frequent brawls and obscene acts in people`s porches and common areas of apartment blocks.

Dr Vassallo said that unfortunately over the past four and a half months the police had only arraigned 26 persons on prostitution-related charges from these two areas. This number was far too low.

It was true this was a difficult problem for the police to tackle, but many people felt the police were not doing enough.

Only on Tuesday he had seen a car of the police mobile squad drive past, the policemen looking at the prostitutes without doing anything.

He had also on several occasions seen district police drive up in their cars, stop a short distance away, switch on their lights so that everybody would be aware of their presence, and then when everybody went away, drive up and obviously find no one doing anything wrong.

Dr Vassallo said many of the people arraigned in court were recidivists. Fines imposed by the courts were far too low. These people earned hundreds of liri every day, and a small fine did not make a difference for them.

Gzira and Ta` Xbiex local councils had held meetings with the minister of home affairs and the police, but too little action had been taken by the authorities, Dr Vassallo said.

He felt plain clothes policemen in unmarked cars should patrol the areas regularly.

Some also felt hidden cameras should be installed. The cameras had to be hidden because they would otherwise be stolen within five minutes.

This, Dr Vassallo said, was a social problem which was difficult to control, but matters should not be allowed to worsen, to the detriment of law-abiding residents, shop owners and passers-by.

This problem had to be taken seriously. One could not act against people who did such acts behind closed doors, God would judge those people after this life. But the police and the minister of home affairs needed to protect the residents who were living in fear.

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