Officials concerned over ‘swatting’ calls, legislation introduced

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The Los Angeles Police Department has expressed concern over “swatting” incidents that have taken place during recent months, saying it occupies resources and takes attention away from real crimes, the Los Angeles Times reported. Swatting is when crank callers make 911 calls reporting fake crimes in progress, frequently at celebrity homes, with the intention of getting a large police response, such as with a SWAT team.

Swatting calls last week brought police response to singer Rihanna’s Pacific Palisades home, as well as the homes of Justin Timberlake, Selena Gomez and Sean Combs.

During the past year, swatting targets have included Clint Eastwood, Tom Cruise, Miley Cyrus, Ashton Kutcher and Justin Bieber. Another nearby swatting incident took place at the Hidden Hills home of the Kardashian-Jenner family in January.

Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station officials said they couldn’t recall any recent swatting incidents in Malibu.

In response to the swatting incidents, Senator Ted W. Lieu of Torrance has introduced a bill to crack down on false 911 calls. Under Senate Bill 333, a person convicted of making a false emergency report would be responsible for all costs associated with law enforcement response to the incident. According to a statement from Lieu’s office, the cost of each incident ranges from a few thousand dollars to more than $10,000. The bill, which is sponsored by the LA County Sheriff’s Department, passed its fist policy hearing by the Senate Public Safety Committee on Tuesday. It will now go on to a fiscal review.

“The recent spate of phony reports to law enforcement officials that someone’s home is being robbed or is held hostage is dangerous and it’s only a matter of time before there’s a tragic accident,” Lieu said in a statement. “Swatting drains vital resources from law enforcement and puts officers and citizens into dangerous situations.”

In terms of recognizing swatting calls, the LAPD said it has dispatchers who are trained to identify crank callers making false reports of violence at the homes of celebrities, the LA Times reported. While the police department has made some arrests in connection with the incidents, other calls have been harder to trace.