As this potentially deadly prank call increases in frequency, the FBI announced Thursday that it has begun documenting occurrences of “swatting” in a nationwide database.
Calls to the police reporting a violent individual, kidnapping, or mass shooting in an area usually result in a swat team being dispatched to the scene.
Online personalities and live streams have been the primary targets. This year has also seen an increase in swatting events at educational institutions.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) requested increased FBI monitoring and prevention efforts after the wave of hoaxes. He said students, faculty, and parents in Western New York should know that “swatting attacks” are harmful, upsetting, and horrifying.
He said he called the FBI to say the issue needs to be a top priority, and he will push for more funding and data to counter these threats.
An FBI analyst, Jennifer Doebler, has called swatting a form of terrorism.
In 2021, a 60-year-old guy from Tennessee had a heart attack during a police swatting raid on his home. The threat resulted in a five-year jail term for an 18-year-old.
This year a swatting call at Harvard University said four students kidnapped a lady. Just after 4 a.m., campus police stormed the students’ residence, pointed their weapons at them, and took them into temporary custody.
Just this Monday, at about 8 a.m., police were called to a home in the Brookline neighborhood on reports of a murder and possible suicide. As they neared the house, they recognized it as belonging to former police chief Scott Schubert and concluded that the call had been faked.
Artificial intelligence has made it harder to apprehend swatters. Callers can hide their identities by using computer-generated voices.
The precise number of swatting instances has been unknown since there has been no central database to track them until recently.
The consequences of making violent threats online are real. Targets, responding police, and other community members risk harm or death when swatting is used.