A young girl calls the police while hiding in a closet to say that her father has just killed her mother and is looking for her to kill next. The police immediately respond with overwhelming force anticipating a violent confrontation. The homeowner answers the front door, is thrown to the ground and surrounded by high-powered rifles locked and loaded.
The homeowner has been a victim of “swatting,” which is the act of reporting a crime using techniques that fool the “caller ID” system into believing that the call originated in the home and using voice modification equipment to make the dispatcher believe that a young girl made the call.
If you believe the Los Angeles Times on November 28, 2012, California is again leading the nation in a new type of crime which may not even be punishable given existing laws. While others may run to the Legislature to create a new law, I say it’s easy to use existing laws to deal with this problem.
Most police agencies have existing fees on the books for responding to a false alarm. Rather than a fixed fee which most agencies have, a full-cost fee similar to the “loud party response” fee is appropriate. The existing false alarm fee can be generalized to make it the responsibility of the party making the call and the fee equal to the cost of responding. This takes care of the cost.
The other issue is the risk of injury or death. The Los Angeles Times made a good case for this being very dangerous. It is identical to driving under the influence. Today’s paper also ran an article about a drunk driver who hit and killed a pedestrian. That driver is to be prosecuted for murder. Likewise, in case of death at the hands of officers, the “swatter” should be prosecuted for murder. And, if there is no death, the “swatter” should be prosecuted for attempted murder. This takes care of the punishment – no new laws needed.
The only issue that remains is how to catch the persons doing the “swatting.” Unfortunately, the answer to this question is beyond the scope of this article.