The latest form of prank calling has grown into a very dangerous form of play. “Swatting”, as defined byWikipedia, attempts to direct response units of different types (police, fire, even SWAT) to a false incident location. The serious prank gets its name because more often than not, SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) teams are dispatched to the scene. In most states, it is a misdemeanor or felony to report a false incident to EMS authorities. The trouble is, with this new pranking system: (1) the perps are hard to find and (2) a good majority of the time, they are children. With the kid scenario, we run into the problem of proving just how much the parents knew prior to the incident.
As with most things, when it affects Hollywood, the rest of the world hears about it. Lately, we have been hearing how SWAT teams have been swarming homes of the stars following calls purporting to report emergencies. Chris Brown, a R&B singer, has been the latest victim. Tom Cruise, Ashton Kutcher and Justin Bieber have also been targeted.
Swatting has hit close to home in St. Louis County, Missouri incident recently. A local police department was called regarding a home invasion. Several officers were sent to the reported address only to find that the family was safe and that the call was a video game prank gone wrong. Luckily no one was hurt in this incident but that isn’t to say that will be the case next time. A popular video game, Call of Duty: Black Ops, has been under fire lately for what appears to be a ridiculous feature of the game. The game permits other players (worldwide) to talk to each other in chat rooms via headsets. The chat room is susceptible to hacking into the players’ personal information. In Lewisville, this video game feature led to guns drawn on a home in February of 2012. The hacker managed to obtain personal information about the child player and then call the Lewisville police using a hearing impaired service. The hacker reported that someone was shot and that the offender was still inside the house. Again, luckily no one was hurt. This is not what our police forces are trained for. I can’t imagine how scared the family was when the SWAT team showed up.
The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) has picked upon this new phenomenon. The FBI discusses the seriousness of calling 9-1-1 authorities and faking an emergency. The FBI reports incidents of claimed bomb threats at sporting events, armed visitors at hotels, threats against public parks, fake home invasions, etc. With the recent rash of violence we continue to hear about in the news, this is scary stuff. As always, the authorities have to take such calls seriously and respond with sufficient manpower and force, if necessary. Imagine the potential complications if SWAT forces are sent to the residence of a claimed home invasion when in fact, nothing is wrong. Imagine, too, the danger these callers are placing our police officers and other agencies in. Of course, if the police resources are being used for a fake call, what if a real emergency occurs? What if the departments start hesitating when calls come in – wondering if it is real or fake?
I remember when I was young, the thing to do was to call a pizza delivery service and send a pizza to a friend’s house. Man, kids got in a lot of trouble for doing that – it wasted employee time and resources and then the receiving individual usually had to pay! But that was nothing compared to this. These hoax callers need to go back to the good ol’ days where callers innocently prank their friends.