Last month, a 12-year-old boy admitted to “swatting” the Los Angeles homes of Justin Bieber and Ashton Kutcher – his prank calls sent heavily-armed swat teams to the stars’ homes on false alarm. The boy, whose name has not been released, will be sentenced later by a Juvenile Court. Unfortunately, the practice of swatting has spawned copycats.
After a flurry of swatting incidents in April, both houses of the California Legislature have introduced new bills to increase penalties for those dangerous pranksters. Assembly Bill 47 proposes making swatting a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail – and as much as three years in jail if someone is injured during the incident.
If Senate Bill 333 becomes law, swatters will be held financially liable for the tens of thousands of dollars law enforcement wastes responding to these prank calls – and spend a minimum of 120 days in jail.
In the immediate term, the LAPD is taking an unusual step in the fight against swatting: it will no longer publicize swatting incidents. “It’s our belief that the perpetrators of these false police reports are motivated entirely by the publicity these calls receive,” LAPD Commander Andrew Smith told a reporter, “We intend to reduce or eliminate that motivation.”
Hopefully, the move proves successful. Without media reports of fresh swatting incidents, we may never know.