United States lawmakers are working to come down on the practice of ‘swatting’ by bringing about increased fines for offenders. A new bill that includes these measures was introduced earlier this week.
Swatting refers to the practice of calling the police to falsely report high-risk emergencies. Gamers and criminal hackers are the best known swatters. Typically, they will report an urgent hostage situation at a rival’s home address, and armed police will burst open the doors with guns in hand.
Instances of swatting are particularly popular on game-streaming services such as Twitch, where viewers get a quick laugh in watching so-called “lets-players” have their places of residence raided.
However, it isn’t all fun and games for security officials, who take the matter very seriously. According to the FBI, around 400 swatting instances occur on an annual basis. A single incident can cost up to $100,000.
Now, the Interstate Swatting Hoax Act of 2015 is looking to put an end to the practice. The act would make it a crime to order a phony emergency response from SWAT teams and the police. The act was introduced by United States House of Representatives members Katherine Clark of Massachusetts and Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania.
If the bill is passed, swatting pranksters would face fines and imprisonment of up to five years if no injuries occur. However, if a very serious bodily injury takes place, the jokesters could receive up to 20 years. And if a death occurs during a swatting incident, life imprisonment is a possibility.
Furthermore, such criminals would also be subject to civil penalties.
Clark said in a statement, “Perpetrators of these hoaxes purposefully use our emergency responders to harm their victims. These false reports are dangerous and costly, and have resulted in serious injury to victims and law enforcement.”
Meehan added that swatting wastes both time and tax dollars. Law enforcement officials already have enough to worry about beyond silly pranksters. "Swatting cases divert attention from serious situations that require the attention of highly trained personnel and puts innocent civilians at risk,” he said.