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Internet Virtually Guarantees Future Of Swatting

Count us among those who had to look up “swatting” online after receiving Monday’s Post-Journal.

Swatting pranks occur when first responders are called to a specific location in response to an immediate and urgent emergency in hopes that police will turn out in full force with a SWAT team and scare the bejesus out of the victims of the prank. The tactic is typically used as a means of harassment against a person or group and has been reported to have begun with online gamers.

On Saturday, the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office, the New York State Police and Westfield Police Department were alerted to a report of a person with a weapon at a residence on Pigeon Road in Westfield. When police arrived, they learned the person alleged to be involved in the incident was elsewhere in Westfield. Of course, there hadn’t actually been a shooting. The 20-year-old was shocked when police showed up and questioned him.

Swatting has been around for several years, but Saturday’s incident is one of the first local incidents. Give credit to our local police officers that this incident had a happy ending, because swatting incidents haven’t always ended so quietly.

A Wichita, Kansas, man was shot by police in December 2017 when a man in California called police to report he had shot his father and was holding his mother and sister hostage. The prankster had apparently sent police to a different address than his intended victim’s. The man who was shot was totally uninvolved. The swatter was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Every generation has their pranks and tomfoolery. The internet and ability to spoof cell phone numbers has upped the ante, turning the prank calls of the 1970s into fake hostage situations in 2019. It would be nice if the possibility of a long prison sentence or federal charges is enough to deter some of the doofuses who would engage in this behavior, but we know better. The anonimity the internet provides virtually guarantees that swatting will be around until someone invents an even bigger, more dangerous online prank.

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