Congressional Rep Who Introduced Anti-Swatting Bill... Victim Of Attempted Swatting

from the what-is-that-accomplishing? dept

Back in November, Congresswoman Katherine Clark introduced an anti-swatting bill. As you probably already know, swatting is when someone calls in a fake report to police about an ongoing incident at someone's home -- usually something like an "active shooter" or hostage taking or something similar -- in the interest of having police departments overreact and send out a SWAT team to deal with the situation, such as by raiding the home. The bill looks to make it a felony to use the phone system to "transmit false information with the intent to cause an emergency law enforcement response." While I'm not aware of anyone (so far) getting killed by a swatting, it seems like it's only a matter of time.

Either way, given all this, it probably shouldn't come as a huge surprise that on Sunday night, Rep. Clark found herself swatted, leading the Melrose, Massachusetts police to show up at her home, though it sounds like they handled everything carefully and appropriately.
Melrose Police spokesman John Guilfoil said the department received a recorded telephone call with a computer-generated voice at 9:57 p.m. on the department’s business line. The call, Guilfoil said, referred to “shots fired and an active shooter” at Clark’s address.

He said Melrose police officers, but not a SWAT team, responded to the address, spoke with the homeowner, and determined the call was hoax and there was no danger.
Of course, in most cases, it's quite difficult for law enforcement to ever track down whoever called in the hoax report, and it's rare for the callers to ever be caught -- though it does sometimes happen. Of course, if swatters continue to target politicians looking to pass laws against them, expect the laws and the pressure to capture them and "set an example" to continue to ratchet up. I'm sure that whoever swatted Rep. Clark is assuming that it will be impossible to track down who did that, but the higher a target you aim at, the more likely that higher powered law enforcement gets involved -- meaning it gets increasingly likely that whoever did it will be tracked down.

In the meantime, it would also be nice if we started looking at the root causes of swatting, such as the militarization of police departments where that's not even remotely necessary.

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  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 2 Feb 2016 @ 4:12am

    There is the irony in the Representative not getting the full Swat response, which can lead to the belief that the problem is the swatters not the fact that a single phone call can have a squad of heavily armed men showing up for a hollywood style firefight, finding none, & then "expressing" their displeasure at the innocent targets.

    Swatting is exploiting a system. "Untraceable" calls that appear to be local. Making claims that seem questionable but because everyone fears liability if this one is the 1 in 1,000,000 calls where it is real. The police get to do the full court roll out of their new toys that they like to find ways to take out for a spin. Put this all together and all it takes is someone pushing a single domino.

    Swatting is stupid. No one can fully explain why there exist the loopholes that make it (and all sorts of telemarketing scumbaggery) possible, or why every department needs surplus military equipment they want to use at every possible moment. Passing laws to make it more of a crime still aren't fixing those problems, it will just make those doing it find more loopholes to exploit so they can keep playing the "game".

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 6:15am

      Re:

      There is the irony in the Representative not getting the full Swat response,

      That and the police going all out to find the swatter, because political pressure, just reinforces the different laws for those in power and everybody else.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 5:38am

    Maybe a call back might help?

    How about training 911 operators to actually get a call back number and use it to confirm the call before sending the police? Sure it may not work all the time to track the children and adults with childish minds who pull this stupidity, but it may provide a lead or two once in a while.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 5:48am

      Re: Maybe a call back might help?

      Have you really thought this idea through? What percentage of emergency calls involve a situation where a callback would increase the danger to the caller? Will we actually see a net benefit with a callback or would a callback actually increase the overall harm? Yes, cellphones can be set to vibrate. But when people are in imminent danger, how many would remember to set the cell to vibrate if it was on ring? If you're hiding in a dark closet or dialing with the phone hidden - as best you can - from an attacker, will you even be able to set the phone to vibrate? Plus even vibrate will cause a noticeable hum if the phone is on the wrong surface. What about a home invasion in a home that still has landline phone?

      Perhaps your idea has merits, but personally I would like to see a lot of study and evidence before deciding to switch.

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    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 2 Feb 2016 @ 7:05am

      Re: Maybe a call back might help?

      "training 911 operators to actually get a call back number"

      As another commenter said, this could be a very bad thing to do. However, I wanted to note that 911 operators do have the phone number of who calls them, and in certain circumstances they will call you back. For example, if you call 911 and hang up on them, they'll call you back.

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      • icon
        Mason Wheeler (profile), 2 Feb 2016 @ 7:35am

        Re: Re: Maybe a call back might help?

        And on the other hand, sometimes they handle things very dangerously wrong.

        My first experience with a 911 call was one such time. (There have been two; the other one involved reporting a house fire I saw, which it turned out they were already aware of.)

        Several years ago, I was working at the front desk at a local clinic, when one day some guy walked in. He was apparently drunk or high or something, less than completely coherent, and behaved very belligerently, to the point where we got worried enough that one of my coworkers called 911.

        The dispatcher answered with "911, can you please hold?" And proceeded to put her on hold without even ascertaining the details of the situation first. By the time the dispatcher got back around to us a few minutes later, we had managed to defuse the situation ourselves and get the guy to leave, but it could easily have gone a very different way!

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 8:02am

      Re: Maybe a call back might help?

      Also will confirm that they do see call back numbers. I run a Cisco phone system and I call 911 operators whenever there is a major change or power outage to confirm that they are seeing the correct information from the Cisco system.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 9:02am

      Re: Maybe a call back might help?

      "I'm hiding in a closet and the gunman just shot someone" "OK sir, but I cannot send help unless you let me dial your phone back, probably alerting the murderer to your location: good luck!"

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    • identicon
      Rekrul, 2 Feb 2016 @ 9:18am

      Re: Maybe a call back might help?

      How about training 911 operators to actually get a call back number and use it to confirm the call before sending the police?


      What if the caller gets shot just after calling 911 and is either dead or too wounded to answer a call?

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  • icon
    Sobe (profile), 2 Feb 2016 @ 5:52am

    Hmmmm....

    Is it sad that I can see the following happening:

    1) The "Man" calls it cyber terrorism. People caught get locked up as terrorists.

    2) Even more calls for surveillance on us through wire tapping...etc etc. You know...to "figure out" who's making these calls.

    3) It happens to a prominent black person, oh...it's racism....or it happens to a regular black person, SWAT comes in....Ferguson happens all over again.

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  • identicon
    Jeff R, 2 Feb 2016 @ 6:21am

    It happened in an Ohio Walmart

    A man in an Ohio Walmart was killed after he was Swatted by another customer in the store.

    http://reason.com/blog/2014/08/08/police-shoot-man-holding-fake-gunnear-fa

    The surveillance videos are clear that none of what the 911 caller claimed happened was actually true. The police came in and shot the accused dead within seconds of arriving on the scene, taking no time to evaluate the situation (this was also caught on video).

    No charges were brought against the 911 caller and the officers involved were not disciplined.

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    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 2 Feb 2016 @ 6:48am

      Re: It happened in an Ohio Walmart

      Well of course no-one was disciplined, everyone makes mistakes after all, and it's not like gunning down an innocent person is an action that causes serious harm to anyone that matters. If they didn't want to be executed on the spot, they shouldn't have been holding anything that remotely could have been seen to be dangerous with cops around. /poe

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  • icon
    Sobe (profile), 2 Feb 2016 @ 6:25am

    That was the Walmart right down the road from where I lived and worked. Worked at Wright Patterson AFB.

    The dude was stupid for wandering around with a gun, even if it was fake, waving it around.

    Not that the police and the others involved don't share in the blame....just saying...

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    • identicon
      Jeff R, 2 Feb 2016 @ 6:37am

      Re:

      The video surveillance of the incident doesn't bear that out. He'd picked up a toy gun in the store (possibly with the intent to purchase it) and as a result was killed when a 911 caller flat out lied about his actions.

      To me, that's a clear-cut case of Swatting. And a man committing no crime is dead as a result.

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      • icon
        Sobe (profile), 2 Feb 2016 @ 6:54am

        Re: Re:

        Sure, that may have been his intent, however, he was walking around the store, swinging it around. Not something you should be doing if you're smart.

        and if I remember correctly...it wasn't just a "toy" gun. It was a pellet or airsoft gun. I'll have to verify that

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 7:09am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Most people don't expect to have police show up and shoot you dead when you are in a store about to buy a store product.

          They expect the police to talk to them or warn them, not show up and fill you full of lead. that's what we expect criminals to do, not people that are supposed to be police.

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          • icon
            Sobe (profile), 2 Feb 2016 @ 7:15am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Of course. I'm not saying that at all. It definitely looks like the police didn't give him a chance...at all.

            I'm just saying that he was wandering around, swinging an air gun, that looked very much the part of a real gun. I own an air rifle, it can kill things, so when I say real gun, I mean a gun that uses gunpowder for acceleration.

            You do the above, you should expect to worry people. Would you walk up and down a store, swinging a rifle? One that looks real?

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            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 9:47am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Yes, there's this amendment that grants the "right to bear arms" or is that the "right to bare arms"?

              If I want to walk around with a rifle over my shoulder, I am entitled by the constitution to have that right.

              I don't recall there being a "right to shoot anyone I want" amendment though, but I guess the police get "special training", kind of like the "special bus" that they ride on their way to kill innocent civilians exercising their bear arms...

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              • icon
                Sobe (profile), 2 Feb 2016 @ 1:12pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Hmmm...maybe I had different firearms training than you. You know, where common sense says don't point a gun at anything you don't intend to shoot.

                I would also think common sense would say, you swing a rifle around in a nonchalant manner, you might be inviting someone to misinterpret your intentions.

                I'm all about open carry, even conceal carry. What I'm not about is just blaming LEO's in this case.

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              • icon
                JMT (profile), 2 Feb 2016 @ 4:14pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                "Yes, there's this amendment that grants the "right to bear arms"..."

                Which is completely irrelevant in a discussion about how people will react (or over-react) to a perceived threat from someone carrying a gun.

                "If I want to walk around with a rifle over my shoulder, I am entitled by the constitution to have that right."

                If you want to walk around with a rifle over your shoulder, you're not entitled by the constitution to choose how people will react to you.

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                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 8:45pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  If you want to walk around with a rifle over your shoulder, you're not entitled by the constitution to choose how people will react to you.


                  That's true in the same way it's true for the First Amendment. You don't have the right to choose how people react to your speech. However, you're absolutely entitled to not get shot by police while exercising that right. An official police reaction absolutely DOES implicate the Constitution.

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                  • identicon
                    Wendy Cockcroft, 3 Feb 2016 @ 5:59am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    Interesting discussion there. I think that exercising common sense (don't swing a gun or thing that looks like a gun around in case people get the wrong idea) is good and right but I also think it's worth having a public conversation about how the police and store staff ought to react to situations like the Ohio one.

                    Surely it would be reasonable to advise the shopper to drop the gun or put it in a basket or otherwise do something that appears to be less threatening to everyone else would be the thing to do. Maybe just keeping an eye on the shopper while quietly getting people out of harm's way might be the thing to do. I don't know. But we do need to talk about it and make a policy for how to deal with situations like this before another poor sap gets killed for being thoughtless in possession of a thing that looks like a gun.

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      • icon
        Sobe (profile), 2 Feb 2016 @ 7:10am

        Re: Re:

        Here the link for a few of the videos

        http://www.cnn.com/2014/12/16/justice/walmart-shooting-john-crawford/

        There's a video further down the page that shows you the exact gun he was holding. Doesn't look like a toy to me. The main video also shows him wandering around, swinging the gun. At one point, he has it on his shoulder.

        Like I said, it was stupid of him to do that, but also stupid of the police to just charge in there and shoot.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 7:38am

          Re: Re: Re:

          There's a video further down the page that shows you the exact gun he was holding. Doesn't look like a toy to me. The main video also shows him wandering around, swinging the gun. At one point, he has it on his shoulder.

          Like I said, it was stupid of him to do that, but also stupid of the police to just charge in there and shoot.

          Does the store sell those? Shouldn't they have some burden to ensure that such purchases are made safely? That is, without the danger of getting shot (or of shooting) in the process? From the cnn article you refer to...
          ...and that Walmart was negligent because the air rifle had been resting on a shelf, unpackaged, for at least two days, the family's lawyers said Tuesday.

          As well, NOBODY reacts instantly. Again, from the article...
          And the Crawford family's lawyers say police didn't give him enough time to put down the weapon.

          I find it entirely plausible that police called out "drop the weapon", the victim looked around to see who they were yelling at, and (because he didn't instantly drop the weapon), they shot him. "Looking around to see what is going on" can look a lot like "looking for a target" to someone who has a gun.

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    • identicon
      Rekrul, 2 Feb 2016 @ 9:27am

      Re:

      The dude was stupid for wandering around with a gun, even if it was fake, waving it around.

      I've watched the surveillance videos, he wasn't "waving it around", he was just holding it. He wasn't pointing it at anyone or threatening anyone with it. Plus, Ohio is an "open carry" state so he would have been completely within his rights to carry a fully loaded, REAL rifle around Walmart.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 6:27am

    I have a funny feeling it's only a matter of who you are when it comes to tracking down a caller. Tracking one down for an average citizen also entails LEO admitting they were successfully punked. They don't like to do that. With regard to rich & powerful people, however, bigger embarrassments are at stake.

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  • identicon
    David, 2 Feb 2016 @ 6:33am

    That's not a root cause.

    In the meantime, it would also be nice if we started looking at the root causes of swatting, such as the militarization of police departments where that's not even remotely necessary.

    The militarization of police departments and minds is not the root cause of swatting but "merely" its key enabler. The root cause is the asshole doing the swatting.

    It's like guns. Guns don't kill people, people kill people. For which a gun is handy which is why passing guns around like candy will lead to more killings without being its root cause.

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    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 2 Feb 2016 @ 6:45am

      Re: That's not a root cause.

      Seems it could be seen as a chicken and egg situation, though I'd also lean on the side laying the majority of the blame on the over the top tactics and gear.

      The person who makes the call gives the police the assumption that a serious threat is in play, yet if the police were less likely to go in guns blazing at the first sign of even potential trouble, I imagine the 'fad' would have faded away by now.

      Causing someone to have to answer the door and explain to an officer or two that no, in fact there is no-one shooting up the place would be annoying, but as far as pranks for sociopaths go, it's pretty tame. However, if they know that a single call is all it takes to have an armed group of cops kick in a door or two, threaten some people at gun-point, and potentially shoot a few holes in pets or what have you, that is much more likely to motivate them to make that call in the first place.

      If the police were willing and able to show restraint, rather than bouncing about like children itching to give their toys a 'real world' test at the first opportunity, attempted swatting would be annoying, but not much else. Because they have no restraint however, it's an easy way for a sociopath to cause a lot of damage with minimal work and risk on their end.

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      • icon
        Mason Wheeler (profile), 2 Feb 2016 @ 7:01am

        Re: Re: That's not a root cause.

        The problem is, in the case of an actual active-shooter or hostage situation, restraint is really the last thing you want them to show. If I was being held hostage, I know I would want the cops to shoot the guy holding me hostage at the first opportunity, ideally before he even knew they were there, because that minimizes the risk that I end up dead.

        The real root cause is that it's somehow possible to place illegal calls, (to 911, telemarketing, and all sorts of other abuses,) where the telephone company can't verify the originator.

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        • icon
          That Anonymous Coward (profile), 2 Feb 2016 @ 7:16am

          Re: Re: Re: That's not a root cause.

          Because someone is making money from having that loophole open. No one wants to spend money to fix the voip "problem", because fixing it has costs that would then cut off income, and we can't let their income change... what are a few people with guns to their heads over corporate profits?

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        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 2 Feb 2016 @ 7:28am

          Re: Re: Re: That's not a root cause.

          Sometimes yes, sometimes no I'd think.

          If you're dealing with someone that's just going around shooting people, then yes, the sooner they can be dealt with the better everyone is going to be. If you're dealing with a hostage situation, where the one with holding the hostages is armed and jumpy(most of them I'd think), then unless you are dead sure that you can disable them almost immediately upon entry, startling them with a forced entry is likely to cause problem and/or bodies.

          If someone is holding hostages, odds are they're feeling pretty desperate, and you don't want to back them into a corner even more at that point, you want to de-escalate the situation if at all possible, and a guns blazing entrance is not going to do that. If anything it's likely to make the situation even worse.

          There's also the matter of odds and numbers. How many potential lives are they saving with the 'guns blazing' approach, versus how many lives are they risking. I can't help but think that more lives are risked with their eagerness to put all that gear to use than are protected by that same eagerness.

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        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 2 Feb 2016 @ 7:57am

          Re: Re: Re: That's not a root cause.

          "I know I would want the cops to shoot the guy holding me hostage at the first opportunity"

          If the cops had perfect knowledge, then I would agree. But in the real world, I would want the cops to be sure they are targeting the right person before shooting, which means doing a bit of investigation first.

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          • identicon
            PRMan, 2 Feb 2016 @ 8:29am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: That's not a root cause.

            And if I were holding hostages, apparently I need to tape fake guns to their hands so the cops will shoot the hostages too when they barge in, because they can't "drop their weapon" in a split second.

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        • identicon
          Rekrul, 2 Feb 2016 @ 9:31am

          Re: Re: Re: That's not a root cause.

          The real root cause is that it's somehow possible to place illegal calls, (to 911, telemarketing, and all sorts of other abuses,) where the telephone company can't verify the originator.

          So what's the solution to that? Build a DNA database of everyone on the planet and then require every phone to take a DNA sample before it will allow you to place a call?

          Even that wouldn't work as people would just get someone else's DNA to fool the phone.

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          • icon
            Mason Wheeler (profile), 2 Feb 2016 @ 11:22am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: That's not a root cause.

            Not sure if trolling or serious, but just in case I was legitimately not clear in what I wrote, "the originator" that needs to be verified is the phone placing the call, not the person holding it. If Evulz McTrollington can place a call that the phone company thinks is coming from your phone at your house, then something's very wrong with the phone company's system, and that's the first thing that needs to be fixed.

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            • identicon
              Rekrul, 6 Feb 2016 @ 1:00pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: That's not a root cause.

              Not sure if trolling or serious, but just in case I was legitimately not clear in what I wrote, "the originator" that needs to be verified is the phone placing the call, not the person holding it.

              Walk into store, buy burner phone, place swatting call, dump phone.

              Steal someone's phone, place swatting call, dump phone.

              Walk into small business, distract clerk, use phone to place swatting call, disappear.

              Find still functioning pay phone, place swatting call, disappear.


              How would being able to correctly identify the phone placing the call help in any of these situations?

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        • identicon
          Rekrul, 2 Feb 2016 @ 9:34am

          Re: Re: Re: That's not a root cause.

          The problem is, in the case of an actual active-shooter or hostage situation, restraint is really the last thing you want them to show. If I was being held hostage, I know I would want the cops to shoot the guy holding me hostage at the first opportunity, ideally before he even knew they were there, because that minimizes the risk that I end up dead.

          What if before the cops arrive, you manage to overpower the guy holding you hostage and get his gun? Then the cops bust in an immediately shoot the guy holding the gun; You.

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          • identicon
            David, 2 Feb 2016 @ 11:55am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: That's not a root cause.

            What if before the cops arrive, you manage to overpower the guy holding you hostage and get his gun? Then the cops bust in an immediately shoot the guy holding the gun; You.

            Where's the problem? Either way the situation is under control. Win-win. And you have a scapegoat, too.

            If some terrorist is going to make the most from a kidnapping, he'll pass around toy guns and force everyone to hold one. He'll probably cause much more damage than if he were wearing an explosives belt.

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        • icon
          JMT (profile), 2 Feb 2016 @ 4:21pm

          Re: Re: Re: That's not a root cause.

          "The problem is, in the case of an actual active-shooter or hostage situation, restraint is really the last thing you want them to show."

          Fair enough, but first they should have to determine if there really is an actual active-shooter or hostage situation. Until that's decided by professional LEO's, not unreliable or malicious "witnesses", restraint should absolutely be shown.

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        • identicon
          Wendy Cockcroft, 3 Feb 2016 @ 6:02am

          Re: Re: Re: That's not a root cause.

          The last thing I would want if I were a hostage is a trigger-happy sharpshooter.

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  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 2 Feb 2016 @ 6:58am

    Of course, in most cases, it's quite difficult for law enforcement to ever track down whoever called in the hoax report, and it's rare for the callers to ever be caught -- though it does sometimes happen.

    OK, that's kind of bizarre, considering the number of articles I've seen on here covering telephone tracking technologies. If police (or the phone company) can trace your phone when you're not even making a call, to try to find someone who may or may not be a criminal, how hard can it possibly be in the case of an actual call to go to the phone company with a warrant and say "this call came in to this 911 center at this time, and the caller committed a felony. Tell us where the phone is that that call came from"?

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 7:06am

    "usually something like an "active shooter" or hostage taking or something similar -- in the interest of having police departments overreact and send out a SWAT team to deal with the situation"

    So your position is that when the police send a SWAT team to a location after being told there is an "active shooter" its overreacting? What should they tell the caller? "Yeah, we will send a car over sooner or later to check it out?"

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 8:52am

      Re:

      it is not overreacting to send the team... if the team doesn't overreact once there. The term that needs to be considered right now is 'restraint' which the SWAT teams seem to be bad at self-administering.

      When you roll up to an 'active-shooter' situation where the call-in is suspicious or things don't seem right for what is reported, you would hope they'd have the restraint to take a second and gain some situational awareness. Escalating things is not what the police are supposed to be doing, but it seems like they are really good at it recently.

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    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 2 Feb 2016 @ 10:31am

      Re:

      "What should they tell the caller? "Yeah, we will send a car over sooner or later to check it out?""

      What's wrong with "we'll send a car immediately to check it out?"

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    • icon
      JMT (profile), 2 Feb 2016 @ 4:26pm

      Re:

      Why does your alternative to a SWAT over-reaction have to be at the opposite end of the scale? Nobody but you is making that suggestion.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 7:45am

    Much as I feel swatting is criminal...

    ... I think it is *already* criminal under other statutes. On that basis, I think that those statutes should be used, rather than inventing a new "crime". Because everyone knows that prosecutors love to pile on all the charges they can to be "tough on crime".

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  • identicon
    Irving, 2 Feb 2016 @ 7:46am

    Here's an idea

    How about a law which requires phone companies to disable the ability to spoof phone numbers? That would take care of a lot of scammers at the same time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Rekrul, 2 Feb 2016 @ 9:36am

      Re: Here's an idea

      How about a law which requires phone companies to disable the ability to spoof phone numbers? That would take care of a lot of scammers at the same time.

      Two words: Burner Phone

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That Anonymous Coward (profile), 2 Feb 2016 @ 5:49pm

        Re: Re: Here's an idea

        But then there is tower data & other trackables available.

        My understanding is the voip called id spoofing can show data of the actual home phone line and tracking it back isn't probable.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Rekrul, 6 Feb 2016 @ 1:05pm

          Re: Re: Re: Here's an idea

          But then there is tower data & other trackables available.

          Presumably the person would be smart enough to remove the battery and SIM card so that it can't be tracked and then dispose of it somewhere that it won't be found, like chucking it off a bridge. If the phone was activated and used in a location with no cameras and then deactivated right after, there would be no way to trace it or figure out who bought it.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            tqk (profile), 6 Feb 2016 @ 2:47pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Here's an idea

            If the phone was activated and used in a location with no cameras and then deactivated right after, there would be no way to trace it or figure out who bought it.

            The individual who acquired it need not be the person who used it either. There's a very active market in stolen phones, from walking off with one momentarily left alone by its owner through shoplifting the things. You can drive four tractor-trailers side by side through that assumption.

            I once tried to teach my elderly mother how to secure her cellphone so it wouldn't be abused if lost or stolen. My whole family was horrified at the thought when they learned of it. Idiots.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 3 Feb 2016 @ 10:34am

      Re: Here's an idea

      How about a law which requires phone companies to disable the ability to spoof phone numbers?

      I don't know if it's still the case but I remember when if you called another phone then fail to hang up yours, you tie up their phone. The connection remained active. You'd think it would then be fairly trivial for the phone company to trace the call.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 2 Feb 2016 @ 7:59am

    Protest

    I'm thinking this specific call was a "concerned citizen" protesting the introduction of this bill infringing "free speech rights." I know the very concept of that is surreal to most people, but sociopaths are oblivious to anything but their own desires, even if that's a desire to swat someone.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 9:17am

    Stupid swatter

    What pea-brained idiot thinks that a "recorded telephone call with a computer-generated voice" is supposed to have any credibility in a situation like that?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 9:58am

      Re: Stupid swatter

      To the Business Office even, not an emergency 911 call, so obviously handled by some secretary or administrative assistant rather than a trained operator.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anomynuos Crowad, 2 Feb 2016 @ 9:52am

    While I'm not aware of anyone (so far) getting killed by a swatting, it seems like it's only a matter of time.

    Given the propensity of police (and the Rambotitos on SWAT in particular) to shoot first and cover their asses later, I'm shocked this hasn't happened yet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Robert Beckman (profile), 2 Feb 2016 @ 1:23pm

      Re: While I'm not aware of anyone (so far) getting killed by a swatting,

      There's no way to know that this hasn't already happened, since the headline writes itself.

      "Police save family from suicidal father"

      is exactly what would be reported in a "successful" SWATting operation, since that's what the objective view of the police would be.

      "He charged us as soon as we opened the door" said the officer, describing every person ever inside a house after the door was broken down.

      From the police perspective, this would look almost identical to an actual threat to the family, so that's how it would have been reported, and since the objective view of the police would grant immunity, we probably wouldn't even see a lawsuit.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 11:17am

    Multiple problems

    I firmly believe that police, and government in general, need to be held accountable to the law in the same way that subjects, er citizens, are. If the police assault or shoot someone, there should be an investigation and possibly charges, and a conviction if warranted by the facts. The police should *not* be held to a different standard.

    I agree that phone number spoofing needs to be addressed. Heather has been stalking me for too long about my credit card.

    The militarization of police has led to both a tendency to use or lose the toys, and the tendency of police to see themselves in a war footing. It's us (police) vs. them (not police) too often.

    OTOH, the police are in a difficult spot here. As others have noted, they *must* respond and they are human. Imagine that you're outside talking to a neighbor and you hear a scream from your SO. You go into a flat out run and burst through your front door to see someone you don't immediately recognize with blood on their hands standing over your SO. Your adrenaline is through the roof, you'll likely have tunnel vision, and you'll be in full fight/flight mode. How much time will you spend to determine if this is a new neighbor trying to assist or an assailant? How clearly will you be thinking in those critical first seconds? It takes a lot of training to tamp down those inherent biological reactions, and not everyone can do it. Don't mistake this for excusing police excesses though (see above).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    That One Other Not So Random Guy, 2 Feb 2016 @ 3:54pm

    Lemme guess... the address was in a rich white neighborhood.

    Maybe the Congresswoman should spend more time asking why it is so easy to get a SWAT team to bust down a door with nothing more than a phone call.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 8:40pm

      Re:

      Maybe the Congresswoman should spend more time asking why it is so easy to get a SWAT team to bust down a door with nothing more than a phone call.


      The Congresswoman ironically has no power at all over local police responses. (At least no official power.) She can propose a bill to make things that happen over phone lines illegal, because of the interstate nature of the phone lines. She can't propose a bill making it illegal for a SWAT team to bust down a door.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 5:46pm

    Unintended effects

    This is only going to backfire badly on everyone, including the innocent and the uninvolved. Annoy the right people and they'll be inspired to take action.
    Firstly, we make swatting an offense with large penalties. Just like copyright infringement or pointing a laser at a plane. And just like those, people are rarely caught, so they'll keep doing it.
    So lawmakers continue to up the ante. They're calling anonymously? Ban VPNs, ban anonymity, ban tools with legal purposes.

    While yes, there are deeper problems like militarising the police or sending a heavily armed SWAT team by default. But they'll be overlooked. Just like so-called "hactivism", stupid actions like these only ruin everything for everyone.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Feb 2016 @ 8:57pm

    And by the way, this bill has some teeth. It's up to a year in prison if the attempt doesn't result in anything - but if there's an emergency response (which is defined broadly) it's up to 5 years. It's up to 20 years if it results in serious bodily injury, and up to life in prison if it results in death. In addition to this, the person will be ordered to pay for the cost of the response, and can also be fined.

    You can view the bill here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Feb 2016 @ 9:21am

    Another law created to address a problem that the law already addresses. If someone SWATs you and someone dies, if they catch the person doing the SWATTING, they could be charged with manslaughter, because their actions could reasonably result in someone getting killed. Hell, if the cops responding got in an accident on the way to the address and were killed, they could charge the swatter with manslaughter.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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