SWATing: to make a false report of an ongoing serious crime in order to elicit a response from law enforcement (such as the dispatch of a SWAT unit) Merriam-Webster
You may have heard national news stories about swat teams arriving to homes of unsuspecting, innocent people because of a call reporting a violent crime at the location. The reported incidents seem to be occurring more frequently, with everyone from celebrities to an international video game champion being targeted. Recently, such an incident occurred much closer to home.
Episcopal School Resource Officer Corporal Kristopher Daniels says SWATing is often motivated by revenge as a result of something that has occurred online, possibly during an online video game. He says typically the goal is “to inconvenience the victim in the worst way possible.” To swat someone, a person must determine the victim’s address and phone number and call in a report of an emergency. Daniels says the reports are typically of extremely dangerous situations that would result in the activation of the local swat team. To make matters more complicated, the person doing the SWATing uses a computer program to make law enforcement officials believe the call is actually coming from the victim’s own phone.
SWATing began as a form of cyberbullying among online gamers. Corporal Daniels advises parents to talk to their kids and be aware of what they are doing online. He also reminds students to be careful with what they are sharing online whether through social media or gaming sites. He says it’s all too easy for someone to get personal information. For example, a gamer’s actual name can be determined through searches and making connections to social media accounts. Once the real identity is discovered, the person SWATing then has the information needed to report a fake emergency.
SWATing is serious. Corporal Daniels says due to the nature of the calls, these scenarios result in a very large law enforcement and emergency responder response to the victim’s home. Such an experience can be frightening for the victims and dangerous for everyone involved. Nationally, there have been instances of victims or law enforcement personnel being injured or killed as a result of a SWATing call. In addition, Corporal Daniels says such incidents waste valuable resources and result in fewer law enforcement personnel available to address other concerns because personnel have been pulled away for the SWATing call.
SWATing has serious consequences. Corporal Daniels says people caught SWATing can be charged with everything from filing a false police report or device fraud to conspiracy to obstruct justice or conspiracy to retaliate against a witness, victim or informant. There has even been a call for such cases to be classified as terrorism. Daniels says there is also an effort underway to establish a federal charge specific to SWATing to ensure that those committing the crime are appropriately charged.
You have likely heard reports of local SWATing incidents in neighborhoods near the school. While Episcopal was not directly impacted by the situation, our administrators monitored the event. Because student safety is a top priority for everyone at Episcopal, SWATing and any other risk to students is something we take very seriously.