The false alarm that sparked a major police operation on Friday at Ubisoft’s Montreal offices has all the characteristics of a swatting, practice which consists in trapping the police force by telephone hoaxes. This growing phenomenon in the United States is even pushing some American cities to take special precautions.
“While we deploy dozens of police on these operations, they cannot do their job elsewhere. In the worst case, it can cost someone’s life, ”laments former Canadian Security Intelligence Service agent Michel Juneau-Katsuya.
The Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) has not confirmed that the incident on Friday resulted from a case of swatting. However, preliminary clues seem to point in this direction.
“The phenomenon that we have seen at Ubisoft is dangerous and of a certain magnitude”, indicates Michel Wilson, former commander of the Tactical Intervention Group (GTI) of the SPVM. This elite squad, which specializes in the most critical interventions, including hostage-taking, is akin to the American SWAT.
Dozens of GTI police were deployed to the scene on Friday. An important security perimeter has been established on Saint-Laurent Boulevard.
The police can’t take any chances. You can’t tell the difference between a hoax and a real call.
Michel Juneau-Katsuya, former officer of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service
According to the FBI, the number of reports of swatting in the United States has grown from 400 per year to more than 1,000 in 2019.
Part of this increase is attributable to the growing popularity of online video games. The swatting There is a popular practice, especially to harm rival players.
In 2017, a Kansas man was killed in his home by a SWAT policeman. The police had received a call to report a false hostage-taking to the supposed address of a video game player, following an argument during a game of Call of Duty.
The phenomenon has grown to such an extent that some cities have adopted an anti-swatting. In Seattle, people who fear they will be victims of swatting can register their address with the police. If an agent is sent to this address, they will proceed with greater caution.
“It can be practical for a company that has laid off an employee who took it badly and who made threats,” explains Mr. Juneau-Katsuya.
According to him, such an initiative could become an interesting solution in Montreal. However, the administrative efforts involved in such a project must be justified.
“For now, I don’t think it’s still a big problem here,” concludes Mr. Juneau-Katsuya.