Tue. Jul 16th, 2024

A spate of swatting incidents has plagued Republican politicians this holiday season. Lawmakers want stronger penalties.<!-- wp:html --><p>Swatting involves prank-calling 911 to get a heavily armed SWAT team to show up at the home of an unsuspecting victim.</p> <p class="copyright">Ted S. Warren/Associated Press</p> <p>A number of prominent Republicans have been targeted by recent swatting attempts.Swatting involves false reports to the police, who then show up at the victim's home.Lawmakers are mulling legislation to strengthen penalties for swatting and better trace the callers.</p> <p>A recent spate of "swatting" incidents across the country — largely targeting Republican politicians — has flummoxed police departments and endangered victims this holiday season, prompting lawmakers to call for stronger legislation against swatting and harsher penalties.</p> <p class="p1">Swatting involves making a false report to a law enforcement agency, usually claiming that a violent crime or hostage situation is unfolding at the address of the swatter's intended victim. Typically, a heavily armed SWAT team will show up at the unwitting victim's home and burst through the door, guns drawn. <a target="_blank" href="https://www.insider.com/fatal-call-of-duty-swatting-incident-20-years-sentence-convicted-2019-3" rel="noopener">Sometimes, the outcome is deadly</a>.</p> <p class="p1">This month, swatting victims have included Republicans including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost. Democrats have not gone unscathed, either — Boston Mayor Michelle Wu was swatted on Christmas Day. Multiple officials in Georgia, including the lieutenant governor and at least four state senators, also reported being swatted within the last week, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.ajc.com/news/swatting-calls-target-politicians-in-georgia-and-across-the-nation/X5REZNXNXVBBRPS4SVJODZE63A/" rel="noopener">according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution</a>.</p> <p class="p1">Greene even wrote on X (formerly Twitter) that both of her two daughters' homes were <a target="_blank" href="https://twitter.com/RepMTG/status/1740461050900681196" rel="noopener">targeted by swatting attempts</a> on December 28. On Christmas Day, Greene wrote that she has been personally swatted approximately eight times.</p> <h2>The FBI has been aware of the 'phenomenon' of swatting since at least 2008</h2> <p class="p1">An estimated 1,000 swatting incidents occur across the United States each year, according to Kevin Kolbye, a former FBI assistant special agent who investigated swatting crimes. Kolbye, who died in October, told Business Insider in a 2017 interview that <a target="_blank" href="https://www.insider.com/police-solutions-swatting-prank-calls-2020-10?_gl=1*mq23lh*_ga*MTgyNTk4MDA4Ny4xNjk5NDYxODAz*_ga_E21CV80ZCZ*MTcwMzg1OTI5NC45My4xLjE3MDM4NjAwOTcuNDYuMC4w" rel="noopener">swatters are often difficult to trace</a> because they mask their identities and use falsified phone numbers.</p> <p class="p1">Kolbye said police are often unable to distinguish between a swatting call and a true emergency in the heat of the moment, because the crimes being reported are so severe that police are forced to react swiftly.</p> <p class="p1">"As the information is going out, police and SWAT teams are rolling out to these things thinking they've got a real-life crisis situation," Kolbye said.</p> <p class="p1">The FBI first drew public attention to swatting in a <a target="_blank" href="https://archives.fbi.gov/archives/news/stories/2008/february/swatting020408" rel="noopener">2008 press release</a>, calling the practice a "new phenomenon" of increasing concern to local authorities.</p> <p class="p1">"The community is placed in danger as responders rush to the scene, taking them away from real emergencies. And the officers are placed in danger as unsuspecting residents may try to defend themselves," the FBI wrote.</p> <h2>Swatting has turned deadly in the past</h2> <p class="p1">The residents, too, face immense risk when the SWAT teams arrive. As Business Insider previously reported, Wichita man, Andrew Finch, was <a target="_blank" href="https://www.insider.com/police-solutions-swatting-prank-calls-2020-10?_gl=1*mq23lh*_ga*MTgyNTk4MDA4Ny4xNjk5NDYxODAz*_ga_E21CV80ZCZ*MTcwMzg1OTI5NC45My4xLjE3MDM4NjAwOTcuNDYuMC4w" rel="noopener">killed by police in 2017</a> after they arrived at his door due to a swatting call. In 2020, another swatting victim, Mark Herring, died of a heart attack after heavily armed cops converged on his Tennessee home. His daughter <a target="_blank" href="https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/tennessee-man-targeted-his-twitter-handle-dies-after-swatting-call-n1274747" rel="noopener">told NBC News</a> she believes Herring was "scared to death."</p> <p class="p1">In both cases, perpetrators involved in the swattings were caught and sent to prison. Finch's swatter, Tyler Barris, was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison, and one of Herring's swatters, Shane Sonderman, received five years.</p> <p class="p1">But oftentimes, swatters use temporary burner phone numbers and voice changers. So far, amid the recent spate of swattings against lawmakers, authorities have not publicly identified any suspects.</p> <p class="p1">In an effort to tackle combat swatting incidents nationwide, the FBI announced in June <a target="_blank" href="https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/fbi-formed-national-database-track-prevent-swatting-rcna91722" rel="noopener">a new national online database</a> to allow hundreds of police departments and law-enforcement agencies to share information about swatting incidents.</p> <p class="p1">States including Ohio and Virginia have also recently implemented stronger laws against swatting — Ohio made swatting a felony this year, and Virginia bumped up the maximum sentence for swatting to 12 months in jail, <a target="_blank" href="https://apnews.com/article/swatting-calls-marjorie-taylor-greene-rick-scott-d568818925c99c8cf17467f737b99e97" rel="noopener">according to The Associated Press</a>. One Georgia state senator, Clint Dixon, said in a <a target="_blank" href="https://senatepress.net/sen-clint-dixon-condemns-swatting-calls.html" rel="noopener">statement</a> he will introduce legislation in 2024 to mandate harsher penalties for false reporting and misuse of police forces.</p> <p class="p1">"This issue goes beyond politics — it's about public safety and preserving the integrity of our institutions," Dixon said. "We will not stand for these threats of violence and intimidation. Those involved in swatting must be held accountable under the full extent of the law."</p> <p class="p1">Greene also <a target="_blank" href="https://twitter.com/RepMTG/status/1739390262378377575" rel="noopener">said on X</a> she would introduce federal legislation to "track down swatters."</p> <div class="read-original">Read the original article on <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/a-spate-of-recent-swatting-incidents-has-targeted-republican-lawmakers-2023-12">Business Insider</a></div><!-- /wp:html -->

Swatting involves prank-calling 911 to get a heavily armed SWAT team to show up at the home of an unsuspecting victim.

A number of prominent Republicans have been targeted by recent swatting attempts.Swatting involves false reports to the police, who then show up at the victim’s home.Lawmakers are mulling legislation to strengthen penalties for swatting and better trace the callers.

A recent spate of “swatting” incidents across the country — largely targeting Republican politicians — has flummoxed police departments and endangered victims this holiday season, prompting lawmakers to call for stronger legislation against swatting and harsher penalties.

Swatting involves making a false report to a law enforcement agency, usually claiming that a violent crime or hostage situation is unfolding at the address of the swatter’s intended victim. Typically, a heavily armed SWAT team will show up at the unwitting victim’s home and burst through the door, guns drawn. Sometimes, the outcome is deadly.

This month, swatting victims have included Republicans including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost. Democrats have not gone unscathed, either — Boston Mayor Michelle Wu was swatted on Christmas Day. Multiple officials in Georgia, including the lieutenant governor and at least four state senators, also reported being swatted within the last week, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Greene even wrote on X (formerly Twitter) that both of her two daughters’ homes were targeted by swatting attempts on December 28. On Christmas Day, Greene wrote that she has been personally swatted approximately eight times.

The FBI has been aware of the ‘phenomenon’ of swatting since at least 2008

An estimated 1,000 swatting incidents occur across the United States each year, according to Kevin Kolbye, a former FBI assistant special agent who investigated swatting crimes. Kolbye, who died in October, told Business Insider in a 2017 interview that swatters are often difficult to trace because they mask their identities and use falsified phone numbers.

Kolbye said police are often unable to distinguish between a swatting call and a true emergency in the heat of the moment, because the crimes being reported are so severe that police are forced to react swiftly.

“As the information is going out, police and SWAT teams are rolling out to these things thinking they’ve got a real-life crisis situation,” Kolbye said.

The FBI first drew public attention to swatting in a 2008 press release, calling the practice a “new phenomenon” of increasing concern to local authorities.

“The community is placed in danger as responders rush to the scene, taking them away from real emergencies. And the officers are placed in danger as unsuspecting residents may try to defend themselves,” the FBI wrote.

Swatting has turned deadly in the past

The residents, too, face immense risk when the SWAT teams arrive. As Business Insider previously reported, Wichita man, Andrew Finch, was killed by police in 2017 after they arrived at his door due to a swatting call. In 2020, another swatting victim, Mark Herring, died of a heart attack after heavily armed cops converged on his Tennessee home. His daughter told NBC News she believes Herring was “scared to death.”

In both cases, perpetrators involved in the swattings were caught and sent to prison. Finch’s swatter, Tyler Barris, was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison, and one of Herring’s swatters, Shane Sonderman, received five years.

But oftentimes, swatters use temporary burner phone numbers and voice changers. So far, amid the recent spate of swattings against lawmakers, authorities have not publicly identified any suspects.

In an effort to tackle combat swatting incidents nationwide, the FBI announced in June a new national online database to allow hundreds of police departments and law-enforcement agencies to share information about swatting incidents.

States including Ohio and Virginia have also recently implemented stronger laws against swatting — Ohio made swatting a felony this year, and Virginia bumped up the maximum sentence for swatting to 12 months in jail, according to The Associated Press. One Georgia state senator, Clint Dixon, said in a statement he will introduce legislation in 2024 to mandate harsher penalties for false reporting and misuse of police forces.

“This issue goes beyond politics — it’s about public safety and preserving the integrity of our institutions,” Dixon said. “We will not stand for these threats of violence and intimidation. Those involved in swatting must be held accountable under the full extent of the law.”

Greene also said on X she would introduce federal legislation to “track down swatters.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

By