Swatting – the act of making deliberately false calls and alerts to law enforcement that cost police departments time, money and man hours – has become a “national scourge,” according to New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who introduced legislation to increase penalties for perpetrators accused of making the phony phone calls.
On Monday, Ramapo police responded to the area of Route 202 and Cottage Lane, where they advised residents to stay in their homes, away from windows and doors as they investigated what may have been a hoax phone call. Rockland County REACT and SWAT teams were dispatched to the area to assist local officers.
This is the third swatting attack in the region in the past few months, including incidents in Westchester and Putnam County that prompted responses from SWAT teams.
When introducing his legislation in Westchester earlier this year, Schumer said that swatting incidents create panic in the community, drain police resources and cause a general nuisance for the entire area, as nearly municipalities are often needed to properly investigate a situation.
“When there is an incident, it’s not just one car that investigates; it’s the entire squad, and that costs a lot of money,” he said. “People get frightened and fear that their lives are in danger. This is a serious issue, and so much more than just a prank call.”
Under Schumer’s proposed legislation, perpetrators accused of swatting would see a maximum prison sentence rise from a maximum of five years to eight. It would force criminals to make restitution for the money and time wasted investigating the false incidents and would “close a loophole to make it illegal for perpetrators to evade law enforcement” by disguising phone numbers through the Internet.
“These dangers are not pranks. These swatting attacks are serious incidents in which our emergency responders use up their time, energy and resources responding to false threats when they could have been elsewhere protecting the community from real ones,” Schumer noted.
“What the perpetrators of these calls see as a practical joke is actually a terrifying experience for innocent bystanders, a business detractor for local commerce and a costly crime that forces our local emergency responders to use up thousands of taxpayer dollars on false alerts.”
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