A recent spate of “swatting” incidents has put a strain on law enforcement and emergency response resources and has and could continue to affect the level of important services available to the public and to those who truly require it.
In one recent case, a 21-year-old man was arrested on a criminal complaint charging him with felonious swatting in Connecticut and other U.S. states.
“Swatting” refers to the making of a hoax call to an emergency service to get a response based on the false report of an ongoing critical incident. Such false reports can involve the deployment of SWAT units, bomb squads, and other police units, as well as the evacuations of schools, businesses and homes.
As one prosecutor involved with the Connecticut case pointed out, such incidents cause emotional distress for victims and waste the time and money of responding agencies.
According to the criminal complaint, the young man charged was a member of a group primarily consisting of Microsoft X-Box gamers who used the Internet communication service Skype to make hoax threats involving bombs, hostage taking, firearms, and mass murder. The man charged has been named as a participant in at least six swatting incidents, including a bomb threat to the University of Connecticut and bomb threats to schools and other locations in New Jersey, Florida, Texas and Massachusetts.
The bomb threat to UConn’s admissions department resulted in a multiple hour, campus-wide lock down, causing distress and inconvenience to thousands of students and university employees, not to mention the wasted efforts of the responding units.
It is believed that three members of the swatting group live in the United Kingdom and have made swatting calls from the U.K. The FBI is working with authorities in the U.K. to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice.