Against the background of the recent spate of bomb threats at several of the country’s institutions, the Government is moving to introduce harsher penalties for cybercrimes and provide additional resources available to treat with the issue.
Addressing Wednesday’s (November 15) post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Security, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, said Jamaica’s legislative framework is being examined with a view to strengthening it, given the increased number of threats over the past four days.
He said this will also support the Government’s crime-fighting strategy.
“The Cyber Security Act covers the cyber side of it. But what we are looking at now is the conduct and behaviour of individuals involved, and whether we should not amend and strengthen the Public Mischief Act and also bring this under any new legislation. But that will come from the advice of the legal teams involved,” Dr. Chang said.
The Deputy Prime Minister informed that the various emergency operating teams will be expanded, given the increased threats.
“The teams in place have demonstrated an extremely high level of professionalism, from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), Counter Terrorism and Organised Crime Investigation Branch (CTOC) and others. But we will have to expand that team and be prepared for any eventuality,” he informed.
Dr. Chang said the procurement process for the acquisition of more explosive-detection dogs will commence, to boost the numbers already available on the island.
“We will have to get some additional resources, in particular the dogs that are very effective in identifying if such explosive is in place. We will have to continue training and sensitising our institutions – schools, hospitals, courts and commercial and public institutions – that may be recipients of such threats to ensure that the response can be proportionate, mature and sober and, at the same time, ensuring some level of confidence,” he stated.
The Deputy Prime Minister emphasised, “We will have to work with both the private and public sector in dealing with this new activity by the criminal players.”
Dr. Chang said the JCF supported by the JDF, Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB) and elements of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) will take steps to educate and sensitise institutions to update the standard operating procedures when such threats are received.
These, he added, regarding communicating with the required authorities as well as how they respond throughout their institutions.
Meanwhile, Dr. Chang said the police, who have been monitoring and responding to the reports of bomb threats, have indicated that based on the nature of these, they were designed to disrupt and create a level of confusion in the society.
“However, they are being pursued aggressively and all the required resources in the security forces have been mobilised to identify and apprehend the perpetrators. We also have the support of our international partners, that include the FBI (US Federal Bureau of Investigations), which have been active in support from day one,” he stated.
Dr. Chang said various teams, including the JCF, JFB, JDF and ODPEM, have responded effectively and provided effective support.
Approximately 84 institutions, including schools, one hospital, a courthouse, a commercial shopping centre in New Kingston, the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, and Kingston Wharves Limited reportedly received bomb threats.
One person has been apprehended in relation to the threats, reports of which first surfaced on November 9.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Fitz Bailey said the police are pursuing several leads and are committed to ensuring that those involved are brought to justice.
“Our resilience was tested over the past four days in terms of our ability to respond to these types of major incidents. We have the resolve and commitment to ensure that those persons who are responsible are brought to justice. Both the JCF and Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) are working together with our international partners to ensure that these persons, who we believe are quite savvy in the cyber world, [are apprehended],” he said.
DCP Bailey noted that the methods used to issue the threats were via the Instagram platform, emails and telephone calls.
Minister of Education and Youth, Hon. Fayval Williams, said a directive has been issued to school administrators to take all threats seriously.
She said trauma response strategies have been formulated for both students and staff at various institutions.
The Minister indicated that the threats, which started in schools on November 9, have resulted in significant disruptions across the education sector.
“Our end of day report on Thursday showed that 16 schools across six of the seven regions received the email. St. Catherine, which is region six, reported the highest number of schools [impacted]. On Friday, November 10, the bomb threats continued. Our end of day [report] showed that 55 schools received the threat, with region one, which is Kingston and St. Andrew, reporting the highest number of schools [affected] that day,” she informed.
“It must be noted that of this number, there are two schools that received the email with the bomb threat twice. On, November 13, one school in region two, which is St. Thomas, reported it received a bomb threat, while on Tuesday, November 14, two schools reported to us that they received a bomb threat via email,” Minister Williams further advised.