03.01.16

MIDDLETOWN SCHOOL DISTRICT HAS SUFFERED OVER A DOZEN FAKE “SWATTING” ATTACKS THIS YEAR ALONE; SCHUMER SAYS INCIDENTS HAVE LEFT STUDENTS & PARENTS COMPLETELY TERRIFIED & FRUSTRATED; SENATOR URGES FEDS TO EXPEDITE A CRITICAL WAIVER THAT COULD FINALLY HELP LAW ENFORCEMENT ACCESS CRITICAL CALLER ID INFORMATION, SO IT COULD CATCH PERPETRATORS ONCE AND FOR ALL

Middletown Has Seen 13 Fake “Swatting” Attacks This Year Alone, But Because of Broad Call-Blocking Rules, The School District Cannot Access Critical Caller ID Information of Anonymous Perpetrators Calling In Threats

Schumer Urges FCC to Expeditiously Grant District Waiver Needed To Track Down These Criminals 

Schumer: Middletown Schools Deserve Access To All Of The Tools Needed To Ensure These Calls Stop

 

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to swiftly review and approve a critical waiver that would allow the Middletown School District in Orange County to access the vital caller identification information it needs to bring the perpetrators of several “swatting” attacks to justice. Schumer explained that “swatting” is an incident in which a phone call is made reporting a fake threat in an effort to have police and, oftentimes, SWAT teams, respond to an unsuspecting person’s home, local business or school. There have been 13 of these incidences within the Middletown School District this year, and Schumer said these false alerts not only terrify residents and children, but also cost law enforcement valuable time and resources. As a result, the Middletown School District is seeking a waiver to allow the school to track down perpetrators by accessing critical caller ID information. Similar waivers have been granted previously. Schumer said the problem is serious and therefore he is urging the FCC to expeditiously approve this petition, so Middletown can work with local law enforcement to bring to justice those placing false terror threats using a restricted phone number.

“Without the ability to determine the validity of each threat and take proper precautions, these perpetrators – who are terrorizing the City of Middletown’s students, businesses and residents – will be allowed to continue hiding in the shadows. We cannot give them this kind of protection when they are instilling fear and panic throughout the Middletown community. That is why I am urging the FCC to approve this critical waiver, which will allow the School District to work with local law enforcement to access the critical caller ID information that would finally allow Middletown to identify and locate these perpetrators. Middletown schools deserve access to all of the tools needed to ensure these criminals are brought to justice – before any more precious hours of education are lost, business revenue reduced and law enforcement resources wasted,” said Schumer.

Schumer pointed to the fact that the Middletown School District has experienced 13 instances of swatting calls as evidence that the school, as well as the local law enforcement officials it has partnered with, need help in identifying the perpetrators calling these fake threats into its schools. Half of the swatting calls made have been made to Maple Hill Elementary School alone, and the Middletown School District as a whole has now had more swatting incidents than any other school district in the country. Schumer said these attacks have traumatized the community of Middletown and continue to terrorize the lives of students, parents and school personnel. Despite extensive investigatory efforts, neither the school district nor law enforcement have been able locate the perpetrator of these cruel and terrifying hoaxes, largely because they are believed to be hiding behind blocked numbers.

As a result, Schumer said Middletown should be able to access the vital caller identification information needed to track down these criminals, such as the calling party number (CPN). Schumer explained that there are important precedents for the FCC to grant the kind of special request Middletown is making. In fact, prior waivers have been granted under similar circumstances, including one provided to the Liberty School District in Missouri and to NASA. However, Schumer said the Liberty School District had to wait four years for this waiver – which he said is far too long. Therefore, he urged the FCC to grant Middletown this limited waiver petition as soon as possible, before any more community members are victimized and law enforcement resources put toward false threats. 

A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to the FCC appears below:

Dear Chairman Wheeler:

I am writing to request that you expedite consideration of a limited waiver petition submitted by the Enlarged City School District of Middletown with respect to Section 64.1601(b) of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) rules. The waiver would allow the Middletown School District to access vital caller identification information, such as the calling party number (CPN), from individuals placing false terror threats using a restricted phone number.

Over the past year, the Middletown School District has been plagued by “swatting” attacks, in which a caller has repeatedly made threats of violence against schools. In fact, since the beginning of this school year, the Middletown School District has experienced 13 instances of swatting calls, with half of the calls made to Maple Hill Elementary School alone. The Middletown School District has now had more swatting incidents than any other school district in the country. The damage from these calls is far-reaching, often disrupting classrooms, temporarily closing down surrounding streets and businesses, and requiring the deployment of armed SWAT teams, bomb squads and other police units. As you can imagine, these attacks have traumatized the community of Middletown and disrupt the lives of students, parents and school personnel.  Despite extensive investigatory efforts, neither the School District nor law enforcement have been able locate the perpetrator of these cruel and terrifying hoaxes, largely because he or she is hiding behind blocked numbers.

An approval of a Section 64.1601(b) waiver could significantly enhance Middletown’s efforts to investigate these alarming threats.  Access to the restricted CPNs, which would be stored in a centralized location, will allow critical school personnel and law enforcement officials to coordinate with one another in their attempts to quickly respond to swatting calls made to the Middletown School District. Without the ability to determine the validity of each threat and take proper precautions, perpetrators are allowed to hide in the shadows while they instill fear and panic into the students of the Middletown community. This is simply unacceptable. Middletown schools deserve access to all of the tools needed to ensure these criminals meet justice.

There is important precedent for the Commission to grant the kind of special request Middletown is making, including prior waivers granted under similar circumstances to the Liberty School District in Missouri and to NASA.

The Commission has had a long and distinguished history of ensuring that its rules maintain the careful balance between privacy and public safety, and I strongly believe this is a situation where public safety must prevail. As Middletown continues to combat this frightening plague, I urge the FCC to consider their limited waiver petition before any more precious hours of education are lost. 

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

 

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