Increased police presence in Paceville is not enough and the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Organisation is proposing the setting up of an empowered agency to do what needs to be done.

The MHRA believes there should be an effective management structure in the form of a government agency representing various interests and jurisdictions. The agency, it adds, must have sufficient powers to deal with the situation in Paceville, otherwise it will become just another talk shop and nothing will take place.

“Paceville has become the Mecca for undisciplined youths bent on causing disorder, where uncontrolled behaviour, often fuelled by excessive alcohol and drug consumption, is turning the area into a shambles to the detriment of the community, tourists and investors,” MHRA president George Micallef said. Calls for a safer Paceville were sparked off by a series of violent events in which people were attacked in and around the area. A pressure group has also been set up. The Swieqi local council and the federation of English language schools demanded more police officers on the roads and for a “zero tolerance” policy.

While welcoming the initiative to set up a pressure group and saying it deserved support, Mr Micallef insisted that the lack of police presence was only “one issue affecting the area”.

He said the MHRA was concerned that Malta could no longer be promoted as “an absolutely safe place, free from muggings and similar crimes” if the situation remained unchanged.

“Increased police presence needs to be a well thought out process because we can’t have an entertainment and holiday resort looking like a police state,” Mr Micallef said.

Police officers also had to have the support of the law because, in some instances, existing penalties did not constitute any deterrent, Mr Micallef said. A number of rules had to be revised including, for example, those governing the sale of alcohol, which had to be properly regulated and then the regulations enforced. Earlier this year, the government published a revised legal notice – issued in 2006 – to curb such abuse.

The MHRA noted that it had been suspended for further revision but remained pending, missing another season.

Mr Micallef called for a complete overhaul of the noise emission laws, saying it was possible to follow successful examples of other entertainment places in Mediterranean destinations.

Turning to the “so-called” gentlemen’s clubs, the MHRA called on the authorities to regulate them, not to drive them out of business but to eliminate all forms of abuse. “A clear policy has to be established because, if more clubs open, the area runs the risk of being turned into a red light district, which is certainly not desirable,” Mr Micallef said.

The MHRA believes laws regulating the employment of bouncers “are now well overdue and need to be enacted and enforced as soon as possible”.

While Paceville benefited from various investment projects, it was not matched by adequate zone-management policies, especially in regulation and enforcement, upkeep, cleanliness, traffic management, noise pollution, building works and aesthetic control, which left a lot to be desired, he added. Such issues were discussed with the authorities over and over for years but very “little success has been achieved”.

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