NEWS | Sunday, 14 October 2007

Naxxar arsonists catch
police napping

Karl Schembri

Last Thursday night’s destruction of a Naxxar playground mirrors a similar attack on the front door of the residence of this newspaper’s editor Saviour Balzan in May last year, metres away from the area just targeted.
The council has installed closed circuit cameras operated by local wardens, although police sources said the equipment was more often switched off than on.
The fact that the police stationed exactly across the road were totally oblivious to what is going on in their immediate surroundings raises more questions than answers about the police.
The two arson attacks in fact illustrate that anyone can vandalise the local council building itself – situated in the same area – and get away with it.
Noticed at around 2.30am, the fire destroyed a playhouse, the synthetic floor, bins and swings installed in the playing field in Labour Avenue.
Police sources say the corps is overstretched, with not enough resources to work with, and that demoralisation is now across the board.
Police patrols at district level are limited by an 80-litre fuel quota and have to stop after the threshold is reached, while the mobile squad consists of 10 vehicles that are supposed to cover all Malta.
The extent of the disarray was also exposed in April last year when arsonists torched a car a few footsteps away from the Prime Minister’s residence in Marsaskala, where a police sentry is posted outside on duty.
The arsonists must have known that the guard ends his duty at 5am, with nobody replacing him and no cameras set up outside. In fact, the attack on the car, which belonged to a janitor working for the Jesuits, happened at 5.10am, 10 minutes after the police left his sentry post.
Meanwhile the police have been further debilitated by the judgment handed by judge Philip Sciberras two weeks ago, which banned investigators from getting access to mobile phone operators’ data captured from mobile antennae in the areas where last year’s arsons happened.

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