A New Jersey lawmaker wants to increase the penalties for making a false emergency call in an attempt to get a police SWAT team to descend on an innocent family’s house.
Assemblyman Paul Moriarty says the “swatting” incidents are becoming more frequent in New Jersey.
Pranksters or people seeking revenge use technology to make it appear an emergency call is coming from the victim’s home.
“You don’t know if people in these houses where they’re swatted are armed, and, all of a sudden, people are breaking down the door. They may think they’re being attacked by who knows who, and maybe they start firing, and you could have people dead<” he said. “This is serious, serious stuff.”
Moriarty, D-Gloucester, is hoping the Assembly will vote by June on his bill to make “swatting” punishable by a five- to 10-year prison term and fines up to $150,000. Offenders would also have to pay the costs of the emergency team’s response.
“When someone does this kind of sick prank, you’re diverting SWAT teams and ambulances and all kinds of emergency responders to a scene where there’s nothing going on,” he said. “And that’s going to take them away from potential problems elsewhere.”
Moriarty, who said the large-scale police response to those phony calls also puts the lives of innocent residents at risk, said it’s time to send a message that “swatting” offenders will pay a heavy toll.