‘Swatting’ hoax can be costly to taxpayers

FORT MYERS, Fla. An infamous hoax known as swatting can be dangerous and costly to taxpayers.

Swatting is the action of making a prank call to emergency services in an attempt to bring about the dispatch of a large number of armed police officers to a particular address.

Video games often play a big role in swatting. The caller can fake an emergency and watch it all happen from their computer screen or monitor.

In August, a 19-year-old video gamer was placed in handcuffs after a prank call led a SWAT team to a phony hostage situation.

Lee County Sheriff’s Office deputies, SWAT team, investigators, K-9 unit, and hostage negotiators were dispatched to the apartment only to discover the call was a hoax.

MORE: Prank call cost Lee County taxpayers money, resources

In 2015, a Collier County family was terrorized by a prank caller after a teenager made someone upset while playing video games.

The called told the operator he had shot his girlfriend and tied up his two daughters. Collier County deputies swarmed the North Naples home only to discover it was a fake crime.

MORE: Naples family terrorized by swatting calls

Lee County Undersheriff Carmine Marceno  says the added element of people inside a home having no idea why they’re being swarmed makes an already dangerous situation even worst.

“Think about how alarming it is to them, to find their house surrounded by police … to hear the deputy sheriffs … K9 … hear the helicopter in the air,” Marceno said.

The calls can be expensive when taking resources into account. Rochester New York Police estimated the direct response at around $3,000.

Costs can rise up to $15,000 when you consider additional resources.

“They’re using the internet to call the police … so they can hide their phone number,” Marceno said.

Reporter:Chris Cifatte
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