Long Island, NY - April 27, 2015 - U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced legislation to crack down on an alarming new nationwide crime trend called “swatting” that has recently emerged as a problem on Long Island. Schumer explained that “swatting” is an incident in which a fake phone call is made in an effort to have police SWAT teams respond to an unsuspecting resident’s home or business. Schumer said these false alerts are not only terrifying residents, but they are also costing law enforcement departments thousands of dollars and putting at risk both first responders and innocent bystanders. Because these false threats often precipitate SWAT responses that require the deployment of armed SWAT teams, bomb squads and other police units, “swatting” calls can often lead to temporary street closures that result in local business loss, terrifying experiences for residents and bystanders who fall victim to the attacks, and can cost police departments thousands of taxpayer dollars. Schumer said that there have been nine Nassau County “swatting” attacks so far in 2015 and 10 incidents in 2014, including one last week in which armed police officers evacuated an office building in Garden City, nearby the Roosevelt Field shopping mall. In Suffolk County, there have been 13 “swatting” attacks so far in 2015 and 21 incidents in 2014. Schumer therefore discussed legislation he is introducing that would increase penalties for perpetrators, make criminals pay restitution to police, and close a loophole in federal law that would make it illegal for these wrongdoers to evade the law by disguising their identity by making “swatting” calls through Internet platforms like Skype.
“These dangerous pranks are, in fact, not ‘pranks’ at all – 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. 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 fake alerts. That's why I am introducing legislation that will increase the jail time for ‘swatting’ perpetrators, force them to pay restitution for the cost of investigating fake calls, and close the existing loophole on internet phone calls to make disguising your caller ID to law enforcement a crime,” said Schumer. “We need to make sure that every time a 9-1-1 dispatcher answers a call that it is a real emergency, and we need to swat down this disturbing trend before it is too late and someone is seriously hurt.”
“Swatting is a crime with many victims that terrifies those involved and ties up law enforcement resources,” said Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano. “Senator Schumer's legislation is needed to protect homeowners as it increases penalties for perpetrators and makes criminals pay restitution.”
Schumer explained that “swatting” is an incident in which a false report is made in an effort to solicit a police response where emergency teams, including SWAT units, are dispatched to an unsuspecting resident’s home. These kinds of episodes often result in the deployment of bomb squads, crisis negotiators, multiple SWAT units, and additional police units, among others because the perpetrators allege circumstances such as bomb making and hostage situations. Schumer explained that, because these accusations are often so serious and have the potential to be highly dangerous for responders and those involved, multiple emergency teams and units can be dispatched. These responses can also call elicit the evacuation or temporary closing of schools and businesses. Because police have a duty and obligation to respond to these threats, they take them very seriously. That is why, Schumer said, it is incredibly dangerous for bystanders when area police departments respond to these presumed dangerous situations and why Schumer is introducing this legislation to deter would-be perpetrators from making a swatting call.
Schumer said that there have been 53 Long Island “swatting” attacks since 2014 and communities will continue to be at great risk if nothing is done to stem this scourge of perpetrators. Schumer said that is why he is introducing legislation that would seek to reduce the number of swatting attacks.
On April 22, 2015, Nassau County police swarmed 200 Garden City Plaza in response to a caller who claimed there was a man inside with a gun, explosives and hostages. Over 100 individuals were evacuated from the 5- story office building, nearby Roosevelt Field shopping mall. In April 2014, police in Long Beach as well as Nassau County police and MTA police—including over 70 first responders-- responded to call from a man saying he had shot his family members and threatened to kill others. The call turned out to be a prank aimed at a 17-year old boy who was playing “Call of Duty.” According to Long Beach, this prank alone cost approximately $100,000.
In light of the recent uptick in “swatting” attacks on Long Island and around the country, Schumer announced that he would introduce new legislation that will increase penalties for wrongdoers who call police forces to falsely accuse innocent residents of participating in illegal actions. First, this legislation would have convicted swatting perpetrators serve a maximum of 8 years in prison, an increase from the 5 year maximum currently in place. Second, the legislation would also ensure perpetrators pay restitution to the police and cover any damage inflicted on the house by the SWAT team. The first responders include the police force, K-9 unit, bomb squad, crisis negotiator, county sheriffs and any party that wasted time, energy and resources as a result of a swatting incident. Finally, Schumer is support a bill, the Anti-Spoofing Act that would close loopholes to make it illegal for perpetrators to disguise their caller ID over Skype or Internet phones, as that is typically a means in which perpetrators escape the law. Collectively, Schumer said this would reduce swatting calls, save taxpayers money, and make local New York communities safer.