Sun | Dec 10, 2023

Police warn against social-media threats after Mandeville kidnapping scare

Published:Wednesday | September 7, 2022 | 12:08 AMOlivia Brown/Gleaner Writer
A 19-year-old man who posted a TikTok video threatening to kidnap women and girls in Mandeville. He was arrested on Monday.
A 19-year-old man who posted a TikTok video threatening to kidnap women and girls in Mandeville. He was arrested on Monday.

Hours after a man aired a video on Sunday saying he would kidnap girls and women in Mandeville, the police have warned that such threats, even under the guise of pranks, do not insulate perpetrators from prosecution under the Cybercrimes Act.

The man seen in the 55-second TikTok video was arrested on Monday, Manchester police chief Superintendent Shane McCalla confirmed.

“I am promising all of you, all of you that lives in Manchester, that on Monday when school returns, I will be taking all girl kids. I will be driving around, and I will be taking your child,” the 19-year-old, who reportedly has a history of mental illness, said.

“... The devil needs them for an experiment.”

The alleged maker of the video was not identified or charged up to press time. He has since been hospitalised.

Head of the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Investigation Branch, Assistant Commissioner of Police Anthony McLaughlin, says the police regard all videos of a threatening nature seriously and will act with urgency.

Under Section 9 (1) of the Cybercrimes Act, a person commits an offence if he or she uses a computer to send to another person any data (whether in the form of a message or otherwise) that is obscene, constitutes a threat, or is menacing in nature; and intends to cause, or is reckless as to whether the sending of the data causes annoyance, inconvenience, distress, or anxiety, to that person or any other person.

“People who make prank videos can be prosecuted under the Cybercrimes Act, because one of the things they do, too, is that they give other people ideas as to what they can do, and we don’t know what is prank, so once somebody makes a video like that, we take it seriously and we have to treat as a threat to public safety,” McLaughlin said in a Gleaner interview.

Section 9 (2) of the Cybercrimes Act says an offence is committed under subsection (1) regardless of whether the actual recipient of the data is or is not the person to whom the offender intended the data to be sent.

First-time offenders can be fined up to $4 million or face a maximum of four years’ imprisonment.

McLaughlin said, however, that an appropriate penalty would be within the purview of the court.

The rise of social media has been credited for the growing influence and access of cybercriminals in making threats.

The senior cop said the trend is worrying for the authorities.

“There are some people that we call social media influencers, and they do have a lot of influence, because they have a lot of followers, but one of the things that we’re doing is we are following these persons as well to see if they are inciting or promoting any violence, then the police will take them in and question them,” said McLaughlin.

“But so far we have not had any problems with most of the social media influencers.”

There were no reports of kidnapping attacks by the suspect on Monday as it appeared to have been business as usual in Manchester.

Custos Garfield Green said it was important not to drive fear into children.

Green added, however, the video should not be taken lightly.

The custos is also imploring parents to be vigilant, and take precautionary measures to protect their children.

“And I ask that children do not trust who they don’t know, and remember to scream and ask for help when they see trouble,” Green said.