The RCMP and Montreal police ignored cybercrime while demanding new powers to fight cybercrime

The “David Mabus” case raises serious questions about law enforcement’s interest in catching online criminals

Canadian cops claim they need new “lawful access” laws to deal with online crime. But the case of Dennis “David Mabus” Markuze shows that when it comes to the Internet, our police are reluctant to use the powers they already have.

Markuze has allegedly been spamming atheists and scientists with online abuse and death threats for over 15 years. Here’s one example among thousands:Lots of people say lots of offensive—even illegal—things online, but Markuze lent his comments a chilling credibility when he showed up in person to an atheist event in Montreal in October 2010. One attendee snapped this now infamous picture:
Markuze’s many accusers filed complaint after complaint with both the Montreal police and the RCMP, citing emails and tweets Markuze sent that represented credible threats to their safety. But our cops ignored them. Undaunted, these online sleuths worked together to build an extensive case that linked “Mabus” to Markuze. They pieced together his identity, his address, his tactics, and they compiled his many alleged offenses. All of this information was presented to the police, and all of it was ignored (for a detailed account of the process, read Tim Farley’s extensive blog post).

Only when Markuze’s accusers began their own spam campaign, targeting the Montreal police, did they get results. An online petition titled “Montreal Police: Take “Mabus” death threats seriously” was engineered to send the Montreal cops an email each time it was signed. It was signed over 5000 times. The sheer annoyance factor, in combination with growing media attention, finally elicited a reaction. Dennis Markuze now faces 16 counts of uttering death threats. More will surely come.

As Markuze is brought to justice, questions linger. Why did our cops ignore this case for so long? Was it because the (initial) accusers were not Canadian? Or was it because the alleged crimes took place on the Internet, and therefore were not taken as seriously as if they had been yelled on the street, mailed through Canada Post, or whispered over the phone?

And finally, how can we take police seriously in their demands for new powers to link online avatars to their real world identities without court oversight, when they ignore international cyber criminals whose identities are matters of public knowledge?

Jesse Brown is the host of TVO.org’s Search Engine podcast. He is on Twitter @jessebrown




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The RCMP and Montreal police ignored cybercrime while demanding new powers to fight cybercrime

  1. This is strange to be sure, not to mention inexcusable.

    No one would have been allowed to send death threats via snail mail for 15 years!

    It is beyond the pale that the victims had to make the case themselves, and then push and shove the police into action….heads need to roll on this one.

    • As one of the many people who received Mabus’ death threats on twitter and as one who is friends with some of those who received the death threats email, unfortunately I have little faith that the RCMP and SPVM will be called to account for their inaction until provoked by the media. :-(

      • Then I hope the media provokes the hell out of them…this is outrageous.

        And I’m sorry for your experience…it should never have happened. 

      • I’ve been on the recieving end of a ‘David Mabus’ screed, but I admit I didn’t take it at all seriously at the time. As time marched on and I learned about his constant and increasing threats against higher profile atheists, I was glad that I never got on his radar lest he someday escalate beyond just threats.

        I’m glad Jesse took the time to bring attention to this.

  2. I think it’s clear evidence that we shouldn’t take the police seriously.

    • “Question authority and the authorities will question you.” – bumper sticker from the 1960s.

      • If pointing out authority’s questionable actions mean they won’t jump as quick to help as they would to a more servile citizen’s defence, then you have the beginnings of a fascist police state.

        “Question authority and you keep authority accountable.” – that would be my bumper sticker.

    • Police, like all public servants, are not particularly interested in serving the public.

  3. A third possibility is that police ignored initial complaints because the threats were made against atheists. A great many people see openly atheist people as deserving whatever they get as a result of their beliefs.

    • Yes, christian terrorism against atheists and scientists would be acceptable to a lot of people…and may well be why this was ignored.

      • Oh get real! You think there aren’t plenty of athiests and agnostics on police forces? You and Jesse sound like paranoid conspiracy theorists.

        I’ve seen far more abuse online by athiests against the religious than the other way around – yet you make it sound like you’re an oppressed group.

        Is there incompetence here? Sure sounds like it. Is there a cabal of Christian fundamentalist cops plotting to bury complaints against religious crackpots? Not a chance.

        • Have a nice cup of tea and calm down eh?

          I’m an atheist, and I know exactly what kind of feelings about us exists out there. Not to mention hatred of scientists.

          It’s entirely possible this was backburnered on purpose.

          15 years of incompetence?  Really?  No, really?

          • Yeah really. I’ve seen from past posts that you have a real problem with non-athiests; didn’t know you were paranoid about it. Off your meds again?

            If a police dept has only a small unit devoted to cybercrime, and a heavy caseload, they may have looked at the evidence they had, decided the guy was not a serious threat, and went after others they thought ranked as more serious criminals. I’m not excusing that behaviour, assuming it’s what happened; I’m just saying it’s a more credible scenario than a bunch of religious-zealot cops burying the guy’s actions and silently cheering him on.

            Cops don’t always do what we want; they have limited resources and make choices about how to allocate them that we, when victimized, are often unhappy about. In my own case, we had a breakin a few years back but because the value of good taken was low, no one was hurt and damage was minimal, they refused to take the clearly visible prints on one of the windows where they tried to gain entry. Was I p!ssed? You bet. Still am, whenever I think about it. But I don’t think they were in collusion with the punk; that’s just daft.

          • No you haven’t, and no I don’t….so if you’re attempting to start an argument….forget it.

            If you can’t discuss a topic…personal attacks are not a default option.

          • Emily: As a regular user of the personal attack yourself, aren’t you being just a wee bit hypocritical?

            The second and third paras are 100% on topic. Feel free to address those and ignore the first.

            As for the first paragraph, it is on topic as far as your comment (and credibility) goes. I’m sure you remember our past exchanges where you went from rational discussion to accusing Christians of being behind all the world’s problems, past and present. (If I knew how to get to the old IntenseDebate stuff I’d link to some.)

            Anyway, I’m done on this one. Moving on…

    • I’m not an atheist and I received threats from this man; both via email and Twitter. I’m also Canadian. When I phoned the RCMP about it, they told me that as my life wasn’t in immediate danger and that it looked like just insane ranting, they couldn’t do much. I was told to call them if I ever felt that my life was in immediate danger. Until then, their hands were tied.

      Yet, under the Section 264 of the Criminal Code, this is clearly illegal.

      Personally, I don’t think law enforcement could be bothered. By now with the high profile suicide of Amanda Todd, they are trying to make it look like they will take these matters seriously.

  4. These are all very interesting questions, I hope they will be pursued. One of the things we were repeatedly told was that the police needed a local plaintiff (i.e. a threat victim in their jurisdiction). It raises the question: if someone knew this but wanted to threaten various folks in a subgroup, could they specifically target their threats to non-locals, simply to avoid prosecution?

    Thanks for the link to my blog! Much appreciated.

    • I’d hope that if someone from Montreal threatens someone in Toronto. The person in Toronto can go to the Toronto police; then the Toronto police would work with the Montreal Police to catch the criminal. Surely, jurisdiction is not completely impractical…. I hope.

    • I’m surprised they didn’t refer you to the Surete du Quebec.

      Quebec has a somewhat confusing system of overlapping jurisdictions. While the Montreal Police are responsible for investigating almost all crime within the city, the Surete (the provincial ‘gendarmes’) seem to have wider jurisdiction over things like cybercrime and cybersurveillance. The latter is considered a ‘level 6 service’ under Quebec’s Police Act and no municipal police force is entitled to deliver it.

      In my admittedly cursory search, I can’t find any statutory or policy reason why the SPVM would need a local complainant to investigate criminal activity that is alleged to be occuring within their jurisdiction. However, even if such a reason existed it doesn’t explain why it wasn’t ‘bumped up the chain’ to the provincial force.

      That said, it does seem that in appealling to the RCMP and SPVM you may have actually missed the force with the best actual jurisdiction – the SQ.

      • Interesting indeed. As an American, I had no idea of the existence of Surete du Quebec. It is interesting that SPVM, when they were putting us off, didn’t send us there.

  5. youtube.com/watch?v=gHbYJfwFgOU

    which WORLD-VIEW will not exist, sh*thead?

    ______________

    5000 whining atheists vs the Great Prophet

    how the divine pen of Michel N. crushed the international atheist movement

    sguforums.com/index.php?topic=43121.0

    youtube.com/watch?v=s3lwG4MytSI

    one applicant right here…

    get the POINT, Randi….

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