On October 10, an LAPD swat team was called out to mansion in Calabasas to subdue a gunman who allegedly fired a gun several times, threatening the residents’ lives. The police swarmed the home to find nothing. The home’s owner, Justin Bieber, was out on tour. The incident was a hoax now commonly known as “swatting”.
A rash of “swatting” incidents have punk’d the LAPD this year — including an October 3 call to the home of Ashton Kutcher, and similar calls to the residences of Miley Cyrus and Simon Cowell. The “swatting” phenomenon has become a real fear for celebrities. “Swatting is a very real problem for those in the public eye,” celebrity lawyer Blair Berk told the LA Times. “It is only a matter of time before someone dies because of this stupidity.”
The obvious potential danger also comes with real-world costs. Not only are LAPD elite swat teams deployed on false alarms unable to respond to real emergencies, there is the financial hit to a cash-strapped city. Officer Cleon Joseph of LAPD Media Relations told Crime Library this about the cost: “It’s fair to say in the tens of thousands. Per incident.”
This week, police announced they had tracked down a suspect in the “swatting” cases. Although the LAPD would not identify the suspect other than saying that he is a juvenile, TMZ later reported that the mastermind who eluded detection for several months is just 12 years old. According to the website, the boy lives in Southern California with his mother and does not go to school — instead sitting in front of his computer virtually communicating with the hacker community.
LAPD Commander Andrew Smith told reporters the evidence against the boy is strong and that LAPD is “working with the city attorney’s office to see if the parents of this boy can be held financially responsible for the cost of police response.”
As they weigh the gravity of the situation with the age and circumstances of the juvenile, prosecutors have not filed charges as yet. TMZ also reports that the Dept. of Children’s Services had already been working with the boy at the time of the arrest and authorities seem more apt to get the boy in counseling rather than see him behind bars.