Bomb threat is serious offence, police say
Man seeking publicity from Sunday's hoax now in custody
BAILEY... think about the cost to the country when resources are deployed to respond to a prank

THE police warned Monday that issuing a bomb threat as a prank is a serious offence, with grave consequences.

The warning from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) followed a bomb threat hoax on Sunday — originating in Ocho Rios, St Ann — with the man who claimed responsibility for the prank via social media platform TikTok now in police custody.

The man, who has not been named by the police, posted two videos, one taking credit for the threat and stating that a particular gas station was going to be bombed and the time when the bomb was going to be detonated, and the other stating that it was a mere prank cooked up by him as he is an up-and-coming artiste who was seeking publicity.

On Sunday the JCF said the threat led to significant disruptions in commercial activities and placed undue stress on residents of the town.

Speaking with the Jamaica Observer on Monday, Fitz Bailey, the deputy commissioner of police in charge of crime and security, said the police took the threat seriously and deployed a "significant amount of resources" — including personnel from the Jamaica Fire Brigade and Jamaica Defence Force — in response.

Bailey stressed that the action of the individual, who was arrested Monday, was not a mere prank but public mischief that caused the business place where the threat was received to close its doors as the security forces carried out their investigations.

"Think about the cost for the country when you have so many resources being deployed [to respond to a prank] where they could be attending to real emergencies [instead]," Bailey said.

He stressed that the police will pursue these types of investigations "with all our energy and apply the appropriate laws. So, people are advised to discontinue the practice".

In a column published on page 14 of today's Observer, titled 'Public mischief in the digital age — the case for a modernisation of Jamaican law', Dennis Brooks, the JCF's senior communications strategist, pointed out that public mischief, traditionally associated with physical disruptions to societal peace and order, has migrated to the digital space.

He said that the bomb threat in Ocho Rios, made via a TikTok video, "underscores the potential for digital platforms to be weaponised as tools of public disruption. While this incident may be presented as an isolated prank, it is part of a growing trend that exposes the gaping chasm in our legal protections".

"The existing public mischief laws in Jamaica were created for a world where threats to public order and tranquillity were tangible, readily identifiable. Today, mischief-makers operate from behind the veil of the Internet, an arena our current laws are not fully equipped to address. The issue at hand is no longer about mere pranks causing public panic but extends to harmful activities such as cyberbullying and the rapid spread of misinformation. The law must expand its ambit to cover these scenarios," wrote Brooks.

In a release Sunday, the JCF said it is committed to maintaining public safety and order, and will take all necessary actions to ensure that those who disrupt this order are held accountable.

"Making a bomb threat, even as a prank, is a serious matter, and it will be treated as such. We therefore strongly urge everyone to refrain from engaging in these types of disruptive behaviours, whether online or offline," the police said.

It added: "These so-called pranks are not harmless; they have considerable implications on public order, economic activities, and social harmony. As evidenced by [Sunday's] incident, they can disrupt lives, affect livelihoods, and incite unnecessary fear and confusion among the populace."

BY ALECIA SMITH Senior staff reporter

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