In my last (public) post, I talked a bit about SWATing, mostly as a game and mostly from how I think police should handle it. In case you don’t know about it, SWATing is the term used to describe when someone fakes a call to the police claiming a person has just killed someone and has at least one more hostage. Police response is usually swift and in force. It is a very dangerous thing to do, since it involves the police, with guns drawn, forcing their way into a home. Many things could go wrong, since the person who is living in that home has no idea what is happening. He may think someone is breaking in, he may shoot these people breaking in. Which would cause an armed retaliation. People could get killed.
In that previous post, which was mostly about how hackers and gamers use it for revenge on people who best them at hacking or gaming. I’ve since learned that it is more common as something much worse. Willful harassment and an honest attempt to get someone killed. It is attempted murder with the cops as the weapon of choice.
Don’t believe me? Ask blogger Patterico about it. He was SWATed in 2011. And it wasn’t simple revenge, it was part of a pattern of outright harassment filled with other harassing behavior. Feel free to check in on blogger Aaron Worthing too. He was also SWATed, quite possibly by the same harasser. But it isn’t just bloggers that get SWATed, P Diddy Combs, Rhianna, Chris Brown and so many celebrities that the LAPD will no longer publicize the incidents.
Side note: SWATers with a death wish even tried to pull it on Dirty Harry star Clint Eastwood. It failed spectacularly.
Patterico, who is about as close as a blogger can get to being an expert on SWATing reported (in the same link as above) that SWATing is often part of a larger harassment campaign. Here’s what he had to say:
I met personally with the nationwide experts on swatting in December 2011: the FBI office in Dallas, Texas. They told me that swatting is an extreme form of harassment — and that swatters typically combine swatting with other forms of harassment, including: complaining to the victim’s workplace, defaming the victim online, “Googlebombing” the victim, publishing the victim’s address online, filing phony reports of criminal activity by the victim, and so forth.
Side note: I prefer the term SWATing and SWATers. I’m weird that way. Most people do refer to it as swatting, like Patterico does.
Don’t think this could happen to you? Think again. SWATing is surprisingly easy to do and hard for Police to make arrests. Not that arrests don’t happen, just that they are rare. They have also happened in small towns and big cities alike. And despite the FBI’s claim to take SWATing seriously, the number of arrests… or even investigations… of SWATers is miniscule.
Again, I have to return to Patterico. In his case, the blogger actually hired a forensic voice identification expert who, in a report, claims to have identified the original caller. That information was presented to the FBI, but no arrest has been made.
Who is the real victim of SWATing? Clearly the person who had the SWAT call made against them. While no one has yet reportedly died as a result of a SWATing, the possibility is very real. According to the FBI information on SWATing I linked to earlier, SWATing has caused victims to have mild heart attacks. Medical issues aside, it is only a matter of time before a SWATing kills a victim because the victim responded to the event with perceived violence toward the police.
But the targets aren’t the only victims, I’d argue the police are victims as well. In that same FBI report, it is known that at least one officer was injured in a car crash while responding to the SWATing. I’ve personally talked to an officer who was emotionally traumatized by the fact that he was part of a SWATing into the home of a family of five. I’d argue that the police did everything a correctly and calmly as possible, but the looks on the young children who lived in the home still haunt this Officer. He recently told me:
I see their faces every night. This was a good family with a loving mother and father. The kids were good kids. And now, they are afraid of the police. They are afraid of me. I can’t fix that. And I’m afraid of what that fear may grow into.
Not only are police victimized through there own mental and physical health, the department that responds may end up spending thousands of dollars and countless man-hours on the situation.
And that brings us to the last of the victims. You and me. Even if we aren’t ever the target of a SWATing, when anyone in our hometown gets SWATed, we end up paying for it out of our pocketbooks. A recent SWATing in Long Island is estimated to have cost as much as $100,000.