Of Hoaxes and Pranks…

Image of GFL Charles Airport

THE hoax that caused the GFL Charles airport at Vigie to be shut down for some two hours is a crime begging for justice.

Anyone who deliberately causes chaos in a public place through a hoax should feel the full weight of the law. At least, that’s the general feeling among law-abiding citizens who abhor the time wastage.

Some cynics argue that the frequency of the hoaxes can be seen as sure tests of the resilience of the bomb squads. But most of that mind would beat a hasty retreat when seriously confronted about not only the man hours lost, but the senseless terror sewn in the minds of persons working in the buildings targeted, who each time wonder and pray that the next time will not be the real one.

Similarly, there’s the understandable possibility that victims of such pranks can, over time, get ‘tired of dat’ and increasingly develop an unhelpful immunity to any future alarm or emergency, whether real or a rehearsal.

It is understandable that we should all be outraged by such hoaxes, which have continued here for too long.

Before the GFL Charles Airport incident, there have been countless such prank calls, especially (though not exclusively) to government buildings. The looks on the faces of the gathered Civil Servants and the frustration of those who seek government services at the targeted buildings tell sad stories.

The thorough searches and related processes followed by the bomb squads each and every time must be acknowledged, as the trained officers just cannot let themselves be frustrated by the repeated emergency calls to search for what just does not exist.

Be all that as it all may, responses to such absurd and dangerous pranks need to be measured above knee-jerk demands that can harm more than help. (See Letter to the Editor on this page)

It doesn’t help either, to simply heap official gubernatorial criticism on the court for its decision in the matter at hand, which will have been arrived at on the basis of law.

More definitely needs to be done than the compulsory emergency drills and increasing expressions of disgust.

It is rather difficult to believe that in this day and age of CCTV and other forms of advanced Information Technology (IT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), prank calls cannot be traced and persons arrested. Of course the technology exists and is available to the service providers. (Apple has just announced, for instance, that it’s about to block the means that have allowed the Police to access iPhones.)

We have the ability, for example, to trace and prosecute persons who indecently expose public figures. In England this week too, it’s been made a crime to engage in the reprehensible act of taking photos up a woman’s skirt without her consent.

Many here (and elsewhere) feel the act of perpetrating a hoax should be treated like the crime that it is and more needs to be done to secure the help and support of the related telecommunications service providers to trace, arrest and prosecute those persons who knowingly make such calls to the police and fire departments or buildings concerned.

For whatever reasons, however, our national security principals don’t yet seem to have been able to convince those with the means to be of more help in tracing, tracking and identifying the prank callers, especially those behind the bomb scares.

There’s no easy way out. Each scare must be taken seriously – and that’s what guarantees the prankster the intended effect.

The ‘French nationals’ were identifiable and arrested on the scene, but the traditional hoaxes come through telephone calls. The laws have been updated to criminalize such acts. It is now for the crime fighting agencies and the related communications service providers to show they can better cooperate to start to make it possible for intended pranksters to think twice before acting.

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