HomeEntertainmentNo hiding in the shadows for drug dealers in Paceville

No hiding in the shadows for drug dealers in Paceville

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The heart of Malta’s entertainment capital, St George’s Street in Paceville, is synonymous with nightclubs, strip clubs and revellers.

But it is now also home to a new kind of niche product, that has been corralled by a small organisation of drug dealers during weekdays targeting foreign partygoers.

Laughing Gas

As a MaltaToday investigation shows, with a journalist standing in as an interested buyer, the street that spans the distance starting from the Burger King establishment is now a small bazaar for drugs – dealers approach punters with drugs, but now firmly in the mainstream, also nitrous oxide (N2O).

This newspaper was informed of the proliferation of N2O, being sold openly in Paceville during the week, to be consumed for its short and immediate high that also gives users a sense of relaxation, euphoria and detachedness for a few seconds.

But apart from this high, N2O can also bring about dizziness and disorientation, loss of balance, decreased memory and cognition, and limb weakness: accidents such as tripping and falling may occur while intoxicated; even asphyxia has been linked to tragic incidents involving the substance.

The gas is commercially available in small canisters, which are then used to inflate balloons, for users to inhale the gas from.

A correlation does exist between drugs that are addictive and drugs which give the user an immediate and short-lived high,” Mike Orland, community services manager for national drug agency Sedqa told MaltaToday about the mainstream use of nitrous oxide, whose legality makes it relatively easy to purchase all around the world, including Malta.

An unchecked marketplace

This MaltaToday journalist paid a visit to the entertainment mecca, posing as a partygoer in search of the laughing gas vendor.

Surprisingly, the search was short-lived as it was a dealer himself who came up to sell his wares – N2O was however not on the menu: “Brother, do you want coke?”

While speaking to the dealer and asking about the availability of nitrous oxide, two club promoters walked up to the journalist and the dealer to ask for a lighter and tried to promote a club to this journalist.

Another older dealer stepped in to stop the promoters from poaching his colleague’s customer; a “friend” was referred to the journalist to buy laughing gas. “Peace and love,” he said, shaking the journalist’s hand.

After the exchange, the drug dealers in the street became easily noticeable, as they communicated between themselves, loitering outside the various clubs where young adults constantly walk by.

The first dealer later walked back to this journalist, introducing him to another friend, with negotiations for a balloon of laughing gas.

“Three balloons for €10,” said the salesman after hearing that the journalist only wanted to buy one balloon. Ultimately, the two agreed on a price of €5 for one balloon. The journalist followed the vendor to what he thought would be a secluded area: the dealer instead sat down at a table of a bar on the Paceville plaza, joining an oblivious tourist who was enjoying a drink at the same table.

The dealer proceeded to fill up the balloon with laughing gas and exchanged it for cash. “Do you have Snapchat or WhatsApp?” asked the dealer, informing the journalist he was only a message away.

After the sale, walking back down St George’s Street, and now packed with young foreign punters and English-language students, a pack of dealers were busy plying their trade with the revellers: “Hash? Coke?”, they offered.

No uniformed police in sight

All throughout the night, no uniformed police officers could be seen near the densely packed area, leaving ample opportunity for dealers to take control of the popular street.

Paceville is no stranger to violent episodes, as the issue of a lack of police presence has been raised multiple times in previous years.

Glass bottles, knives, barriers, and other objects all feature in brawls that sometimes dominate headlines following violent incidents in Paceville.

One can only wonder if uniformed-police presence in Paceville during weekdays, especially during summer when the party hotspot is at its peak, can prevent the drug-running situation at the very centre of Malta’s clubland.

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