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Malta 2017 Crime & Safety Report

Europe > Malta; Europe > Malta > Valletta

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Valletta does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED VALLETTA AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Please review OSAC’s Malta-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

Crime Threats

Malta is a generally safe country that receives numerous foreign tourists on a yearly basis. However, crimes of opportunity and violent crime do occur. Most street crimes are non-violent and non-confrontational and range from scams to petty theft. Theft of cell phones, computers, money, jewelry, and iPods is common. Visitors should keep these items out of sight and only use them in safe locations. Most street criminals are unarmed and are not prone to gratuitous violence. Victims of street crime are often inattentive targets of opportunity. Women should keep purses zipped and in front of them. Wear the shoulder straps of bags across your chest. Keep your money, credit cards, wallet, and other valuables in your front pockets.

In 2016, crime statistics revealed that theft was the predominate criminal offense, making up over half of the crimes committed in Malta. Assaults numbered under 1,000, with the peak being June, July, and August (height of tourism season).

Nationwide crime rates are higher in areas frequented by tourists to include: St. Julians, Mdina, Valletta, Floriana, Sliema, Saint Paul’s Bay, and Ta’ Xbiex. The areas of St Julian’s, Sliema, Valletta, and St Paul’s Bay – accounted for 55% of reported criminal incidents in 2016.

Paceville’s draw is the nightclub and restaurant scene. This densely populated area is known for excessive alcohol consumption and the heavy-handed tactics of nightclub bouncers. Isolated incidents have been reported by foreign visitors who have been injured as a result.

  • In May 2016, a 37-year old Colombian man was critically injured, and later passed away in a hospital following an attack by two men in Paceville.

There have also been reported incidents of spiked drinks, leading to theft and assault. The Embassy recommends club visitors not leave drinks unattended, be aware of their belongings, especially smartphones, and avoid confrontations by departing the area should an issue present itself. Increased police focus throughout 2016 to combat the high crime in Paceville resulted in a 10% reduction in reported crimes observed from 2015 to 2016.

Ninety-one (91) cases of prostitution were observed in 2016, as well as 112 incidents of sexual offenses, which is in line with the number of occurrences in previous years.

Persons living in Malta are strongly encouraged to upgrade security at their residences to reduce their vulnerability to residential crime. Intrusion alarms, solid perimeter barriers, perimeter lighting, telephone intercom system, and window/door grilles are all part of a comprehensive residential security program.

Violent crime is comparatively lower than in many of its EU counterparts. Armed violence and assaults against the general public or targeting of foreigners remain uncommon. Should you be confronted by an armed individual, immediately comply, avoid making sudden movements, and do not offer any form of resistance. Any hesitation on your part could be perceived as a threat, which may result in unnecessary violence. Give up your valuables and do not make any sudden or unexpected movements.

It is advisable to exercise caution when using any ATM. Attempt to use ATMs inside shopping malls, hotels, and banks since they are normally high-traffic areas and are monitored by security guards/cameras. Before approaching the ATM, scan the area for any suspicious persons or activity. Should anyone approach you while you are withdrawing money, immediately cancel the transaction and leave the area. Should you encounter issues while using the ATM, never accept assistance from a Good Samaritan. Avoid the vicinity of an ATM when it is being serviced. Scan the ATM for any odd or out-of-place device (especially around the area of the card reader), an altered keypad, and/or any other suspicious characteristics.

Malta witnessed an uptick in the use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) in 2016 that caused the deaths of two citizens and the injury of two others. Car bombings occurred in Marsa, St. Paul’s Bay, and along the Marsacala bypass.

  • An IED explosion was noted at an Armier boathouse in March 2016.


Cybersecurity Issues

Computer-related crime continues to be an area of concern for the Maltese, as cybercrimes have risen significantly from a decade ago. Malta saw fewer than 200 computer misuse crimes in 2016, in line with recent year’s figures. The Malta Information and Technology Agency publishes annually their National Cyber Security Strategy.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Road conditions vary significantly depending on their usage, illumination, state of repair, narrow alleys, and inexperienced/irresponsible drivers but are generally fair to good. One should exercise caution, however, while traveling on older roads, particularly in smaller villages. Road conditions can and do deteriorate quickly even with small amounts of rain, creating slippery conditions. Many roads also experience washouts during heavy rains. Consequently, minor and major traffic accidents occur frequently on many roadways, and delays can last hours.

Road construction and road wear also present unique safety challenges. Most secondary roads are pocked by potholes. Vegetation can grow up to and over the edge of the road, particularly during the rainy season, causing a lack of visibility on bends and concealing hazards at the side of the road. Secondary roadways are almost always ringed by stone walls, some of which reach great height and may limit a driver’s field of vision.

The leading causes of motor vehicle and pedestrian accidents involving U.S. citizens are driver error (unfamiliar road signs, unusual driving customs/courtesies) and pedestrian hazards. The former can be directly attributed to unfamiliarity with right-hand drive vehicles and practices in Malta as well as simple confusion by motorists driving in a foreign country. For example, double parking is illegal, but the practice is an everyday occurrence on most streets. It is common for lane traffic to stop abruptly when a delivery truck parks in a travel lane to unload cargo or when a driver places his car in reverse to reach a street-side parking space. Thus, motorists must remain alert and attentive, even when driving in seemingly well-moving traffic. Right-of-way and yield laws are similar to those in rural U.S. cities but can seem awkward and confusing for drivers accustomed to driving in larger metropolitan areas, particularly at roundabouts. Unless you are traveling on a priority road, vehicles coming from the directional right have the right-of-way. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”

The average speed limit is 60 kph (~35 mph) but drops to 30 kph in most residential areas. There are speed cameras, designated by a pictograph of a camera, throughout the island.

Traffic enforcement practices are lax, and the resulting road culture reflects a more cavalier attitude often resulting in fender benders and sometimes serious accidents. Drivers who are involved in traffic accidents should attempt to exchange insurance information with the other party and summon a traffic warden. Local law does not require that operators involved in a road traffic accident remain at the scene until police arrive to make a report if there is no personal injury or if the parameters of the accident are agreed upon by the drivers. This is especially the case in simple front-to-rear end collisions, where it is not expected the police will need to come. Drivers (and rental cars) are required to carry a “front-to-rear” collision form in their vehicle. This form can be obtained from the website of most local insurance companies.

Talking/texting on a cell phone while driving is illegal and highly inadvisable. Fines for the use of mobile devices and other infractions while driving were increased dramatically in 2016 with some reaching over 200 euros for a first offense.

When driving, keep your doors locked and your windows up. Thieves can and do snatch valuables through open car windows. Be aware of your surroundings when leaving or entering your residence and at traffic lights and stop signs. Leave enough space between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you to create an escape route, especially at traffic lights and stop signs. Do not get out of your car if there are suspicious looking persons nearby; instead, drive away. Be suspicious of anyone who hails you or tries to get your attention while you are in/near your car. Do not pick up hitchhikers and wear your safety belts. Carry a cell phone with you and have emergency numbers readily available.

Public Transportation Conditions

The most common form of mass transportation is bus. Although the fleet of buses is new, schedules are somewhat unreliable, and bus drivers drive aggressively and have been involved in multiple accidents.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Malta International Airport is the only airport in Malta and serves the whole Maltese Islands. It is located between Luqa and Gudja and serves as the main hub for Air Malta and a base for Ryanair and several other European carriers. 

General inquiries:  +356 2124 9600
Flight Information:  +356 5004 3333
Passenger Services Department.  +356 2369 6144/6000
Baggage Services:  +356 2369 6063/4
Luggage (24 hours):  +356 2369 6012/6120
Airport Police Station:  +356 2122 2942; +356 2369 6396

Terrorism Threat

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED VALLETTA AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

There were no acts of indigenous or regional terrorism in Malta in 2016.

The Department of State remains concerned about the continued threat of terrorist attacks, demonstrations, and other violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests overseas. All U.S. visitors should be aware of their local security situation, and take appropriate steps to bolster their personal security. There is a continuing threat in Europe from persons planning attacks inspired by major terrorist organizations but conducted on an individual basis. Terrorists may use a variety of means and weapons to target official/private interests. U.S. citizens are reminded of the potential for terrorist attacks against public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructures and should take every precaution to be aware of their surroundings and to adopt appropriate safety measures to protect themselves while traveling. Exercise particular caution at holiday festivals/events. U.S. citizens should also monitor media and local information sources and factor updated information into personal travel plans and activities.

The U.S. continues to work closely with European allies on the threat from international terrorism, including from ISIS and al-Qa’ida. Information is routinely shared between the U.S. and its key partners in order to disrupt terrorist plotting, identify and take action against potential operatives, and strengthen defenses against potential threats.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED VALLETTA AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Civil Unrest

There have been no recent incidents involving politically-motivated damage to people, projects and/or installations, and there are no signs that civil disturbances may become more likely. Nor are there any signs that U.S. investor properties might become targets.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

The most common environmental hazard is heavy rain and flash flooding of low-lying roads, which may become impassable with 30-45 centimeters (12-18 in) or more of standing water. Typically, roads are not well drained. Flooding has been known to impact key infrastructure (emergency services, communications, utilities). The U.S. Department of Homeland Security provides basic safety advice on flooding.

Critical Infrastructure

Malta has a good track record in industrial and transportation safety and follows EU guidelines. The Ministry for Transport and Infrastructure is the lead agency overseeing industrial and transport safety.

Ministry for Transport and Infrastructure
Block B, Triq Francesco Buonamici,
Floriana FRN 1700, Malta, EU
Tel: +356 2292 2000

Economic Concerns

Economic espionage concerns are on par with other EU countries.

Privacy Concerns

Business and banking information tends to be processed professionally, and the Embassy is not aware of any particular privacy concerns arising from widespread misuse of such information.

Personal Identity Concerns

While social acceptance on LGBTIQ issues is still evolving, Malta extended its hate crime laws to offer protection on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. Malta has been recognized for recent efforts, including becoming the first country in the EU to ban the controversial conversion therapy in 2016. Statistics covering actual hate crime offenses are not specifically broken out of larger reporting; however, there is no evidence to suggest that Malta experiences prevalent issues in this regard.

Drug-related Crimes

Drug offenses numbered 217 in 2016, with possession comprising the vast majority of drug-related crime. Illegal drugs (cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, marijuana) are available. The sale and distribution of these and other drugs often occurs near/around nightclubs. While drug-related activity does not usually affect American tourists or business travelers, Americans should be aware that Malta has the same types of drug-related crime as those encountered in any major U.S. city.

The government has made it a priority to arrest and prosecute offenders; persons caught trafficking narcotics can expect severe penalties and lengthy pre-trial confinement (up to or exceeding two years) if a contested trial is expected. Foreign defendants are considered a flight risk and are rarely granted bail.

Police Response

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

While incidents of police detention or harassment have been reported, they are not common. Should an encounter with police occur, respect and cooperation are the best ways to avoid problems. Do not do anything (physical resistance, attempts to flee) that could put personal safety at risk. U.S. citizens are advised to call American Citizens Services at the U.S. Embassy at +356-2561-4000.

Crime Victim Assistance

American tourists are encouraged to contact the local police (112) if they are involved in an accident or become the victim of a crime and the U.S. Embassy’s American Citizen Services for assistance. Authorities often contact the U.S. Embassy regarding incidents involving American tourists.

Police: 112 or 191
Fire: 112 or 199
Ambulance: 112 or 196
U.S. Embassy Switchboard (24/7): +356-2561-4000

Police/Security Agencies

The Malta Police Force (MPF) is the only law enforcement agency in the country. The MPF is broken into several divisions that include: Administration, Criminal investigations, Drugs, Vice/Economic Crime, Protective Services, Special Branch, Forensic Science Laboratory, and Community Policing. The police force is divided into 13 districts, 12 in Malta and one in Gozo. While the MPF is responsible for internal security, maintaining law and order, and enforcing the law, they may be assisted by the Armed Forces of Malta if requested. The appointed Police Commissioner is under the supervision of the Minister for Home Affairs and National Security.

The Armed Forces of Malta are responsible for external defense, with an emphasis on protecting the country's territorial waters and airspace. The Commander of the Armed Forces is also under the supervision of the Minister for Home Affairs and National Security.

Medical Emergencies

The fire department and ambulance service may be reached by dialing 112. Medical facilities are above average and generally offer the standard of care available in most developed countries. There are medical clinic facilities available that provide limited, basic medical treatment and several major hospitals that offer comprehensive medical treatment.

Pharmacies carry most prescription drugs. Many drugs are available without a prescription. However, plan accordingly and bring your needed prescriptions with you. For more information, please refer to OSAC’s Report, “Traveling with Medications.”

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

Mater Dei is a public general hospital and the most advanced in Malta. Located in Birkirkara, the Emergency Room is open 24-hours and provides medical transportation via ambulance and helicopter.

Mater Dei Hospital
Triq Dun Karm
Msida, Malta
+356 2545 4040

St. James is a private hospital located on Gorg Borg Oliver Street in the Sliema district and offers a complete set of medical services to include 24-hour emergency and ambulance services.

St. James Hospital
Triq Gorg Borg Olivier
Tas-Sliema, Malta
+356 2133 5235

Floriana Health Center (Clinic)
Triq Frangisk Saver Fenech
Il-Fijurana, Malta
+356 2124 4340

Available Air Ambulance Services

Medilink: +356 2278 5785
Air Ambulance Services: +356 2369 6276

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Malta.

OSAC Country Council Information

There is currently no active Country Council in Malta. Please contact OSAC’s Europe team if you are interested in private-sector engagement in Valetta or have questions about OSAC’s Country Council programs.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

United States Embassy Valletta
Ta’Qali National Park
Attard, ATD 4000, Malta

Opening Hours:0800-1630 pm, closed on American and Maltese holidays.
For Consular hours and appointments, please visit the Consular Section Website.

Embassy Contact Numbers

Embassy Operator: +356-2561-4000
RSO, Consular, and Foreign Commercial Service (FCS) personnel can be reached through the Embassy operator.
Marine Post One: +356-2561-4150
The Embassy has a duty officer on call during non-business hours. Contact the operator or Marine Security Guard if assistance is required.
Website: http://malta.usembassy.gov/

Embassy Guidance

The Department of State main website provides access to all U.S. Embassy websites, as well as travel warnings and security alerts.

U.S. citizens traveling in Malta are encouraged to register in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP is a free service that helps the U.S. Embassy disseminate information about safety conditions and contact travelers in an emergency.

Additional Resources

Malta Country Information Sheet