Republican Lawmakers Strike Back: Fighting the Rising Menace of Swatting

Pennsylvania capital© jimfeng from Getty Images Signature / Canva

HARRISBURG, PA — In a recent announcement, a coalition of Republican House members from Pennsylvania declared their intent to introduce a series of legislative proposals aimed at combating the growing threat of “Swatting” – a serious criminal act where a hoax 911 call is made reporting a severe threat or hostage situation.

Swatting not only endangers innocent lives but also drains the resources of law enforcement agencies. Over the years, incidences have been on the rise, with one event earlier this month at a Walmart in York County, where a caller falsely alleged a shooting event, hostage situation, and bomb threats.

Such calls force law enforcement agencies to mobilize large forces, including SWAT teams, on the basis that they could be genuine – hence the crime’s name, ‘swatting.’ The perpetrator’s intentions are to deceive law enforcement bodies, forcing them to divert vital resources and officers away from their real duties.

Recognizing the serious implications of swatting, Republican Representatives Ryan Mackenzie, Craig Williams, Dawn Keefer, and Jim Rigby have resolved to introduce measures to ensure individuals who perpetrate this act are held accountable.

“The very nature of these swatting incidents creates the high risk that violence will occur and someone answering the emergency call may get hurt,” said Mackenzie. “My bill would ensure significant criminal penalties are in place to serve as a deterrent to anyone thinking about taking part in this malicious and dangerous conduct.”

Representative Mackenzie proposes a bill that would make swatting a felony, particularly if a responder suffers a bodily injury while attending to the call, emphasizing the risk and potential for violence in such instances.

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Representative Williams suggests a legal avenue for swatting victims to claim damages from the perpetrators. “Swatting inflicts serious damage on individuals and property. My legislation grants victims the right to sue individuals making false reports. It allows for the recovery of damages from these malicious acts, ensuring victims access restitution directly from those responsible.”

Meanwhile, Representative Keefer proposes legislation allowing courts to order swatting culprits to bear the costs associated with the response to their acts. These costs range from responders’ wages, prosecutorial expenses, to supplies and equipment used responding to the prank calls. With the ‘thin blue line’ already stretched, she believes it necessary to hold the deceptive callers financially accountable.

“The blue line is already stretched thin enough and we cannot afford to have police officers chasing phantom calls and exhausting valuable resources at the taxpayers’ expense,” Keefer said. “My bill would hold those who make these malicious hoax calls financially liable.”

Lastly, former police chief and current Representative Jim Rigby’s bill seeks to grant civil immunity to officers who respond to swatting calls, emphasizing that these prank calls waste resources and potentially put lives at risk.

“As a former police chief, I’ve been on calls of this nature and seen law enforcement in action,” Rigby added. “These ‘swatters’ are toying with officers’ passion to answer the call and wasting time and money in search of a cheap thrill that actually isn’t cheap, as well as potentially putting lives at risk.”

Such legislative proposals come in the wake of rising swatting incidents, which pose extreme challenges to our law enforcement agencies and the public’s safety. The potential implications of these false calls extend beyond the unnecessary mobilization of police resources. They also generate unnecessary panic in communities, potentially undermining the public’s trust in law enforcement’s ability to protect them.

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While these proposals look promising in managing the swatting menace, it’s also crucial to address the root causes of these incidents. Hence, the importance of a balanced approach encompassing education, strengthening law enforcement techniques to identify false calls, and implementing swift legal proceedings against the perpetrators cannot be underscored enough.

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