Saratoga Police Respond To Dangerous Prank – What Is “Swatting”?
It started with a chilling 911 call in Saratoga County: that a man had "shot his girlfriend" and was holed up inside his house waiting for police.
By 8p, Saratoga County Sheriff's Deputies and New York State Police had shut down North Milton Road and has response teams ready to swarm the property. The only problem? The call was entirely fictitious. No murder. No bloodthirsty killer ready for a shootout. It was a "swatting" incident.
The more dangerous modern equivalent of the bomb scare prank, "swatting" is where a fictitious, usually extremely violent story is called in to 911 that attempts to have the largest possible police force show up to storm a target's property. The name comes from the prankster's ideal outcome: having a SWAT team accost the unsuspecting victim.
"Swatting" is most prevalent in online communities, and the form of intense psychological harassment has faced growing scrutiny in the last few years. It is a federal crime, falling under the auspices of "threatening interstate communications" and "conspiracy to retaliate against a witness, victim, or informant."
Not only do they take away officers from real threats and work, these grandiose false alarms leech resources, cost a great deal of money to strained budgets, and has an awful human toll.
There have been several fatal incidents of "swatting" in the US. In 2020, a 60-year-old grandfather of six in Tennessee died of cardiac arrest when an armed response team broke into his home. The reason someone called in a false report on his property? He wouldn't sell them his Twitter handle "@Tennessee".
Saratoga law enforcement is now trying to figure out who made the false report and why the victim was targeted in this case.