Lawmaker seeks to crack down on swatting hoaxes

Friday, December 4, 2015
EMBED <>More Videos

Lawmaker seeks to crack down on swatting hoaxes

MIDDLETOWN TWP., Pa. (WPVI) -- SWAT teams in Southern California charged into danger earlier this week at the scene of the San Bernardino mass shooting.

It is a very real confrontation that has become all-too-familiar for TV viewers.

But on too many occasions, the 911 calls that trigger such police responses are a hoax.

"There are hoax SWAT situations at least 400 times a year across America," said Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Pa.) said during a news conference in Delaware County on Friday.

Meehan is sponsoring a new bill to create uniform federal laws against so-called swatting hoaxes. Local laws are now in place in most jurisdictions, but the claim here is a federal statute is needed to close any gaps.

Every SWAT callout cost taxpayers at least $10,000, officials say.

"That there are people out there, whether it's for fun or whether it's to get back at somebody, will be able to utilize the 911 system in a criminal fashion, and be able to what they commonly refer to as SWAT call," said Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan.

"Imagine the horror on somebody who has no idea, and they wake up in the middle of the night with SWAT officers pointing weapons at them," said Meehan.

A host of Delaware County police chiefs were asked to discuss situations where swatting hoaxes were called in, and full SWAT teams were dispatched to deal with situations that turned out to be bogus.

"We're getting fed information that this person is being held at gunpoint, that there's a bomb in the house," said Marple Township Police Chief Tom Murray. "The law enforcement response is swift and it's a large response."

Whelan said there have only been two or three swatting hoaxes in the last two years, but each time it happens it's dangerous and expensive, especially during these tense times across the nation.