SCHUMER: IN WAKE OF UNPRECEDENTED WAVE OF ‘SWATTING’ ATTACKS THE PAST TWO WEEKS IN THE CAPITAL REGION, TERRIFYING COMMUNITIES AND CAUSING POLICE TO RESPOND AT OVER 220 SCHOOLS ACROSS NY, SCHUMER LAUNCHES THREE-PRONGED PLAN TO GET FEDS TO CRACK DOWN ON DANGEROUS HOAX CALLS TO KEEP COMMUNITIES SAFE
On March 30th , 36 False Reports Of Mass Shooting Incidents, Commonly Referred To As ‘Swatting’ Attacks, Caused Police To Respond To A Shocking 226 Schools Across New York – Including Troy High, La Salle Institute, and Schodack In Rensselaer County – Disturbing Students, Teachers And Communities – And Wasting Thousands Of Dollars In Public Resources
Following Incident, Schumer Will Reveal He Called FBI Personally, Now Wants Feds To Launch Full Investigation Into Wave Of Swatting Attacks That Terrified Upstate NY And Other States, And Is Demanding New Action
Schumer: Swatting Is No Joke, It Is Time For The Feds Crack Down On This Alarming Trend
Standing at Troy High School, after a terrifying wave of 36 ‘swatting’ incidents across New York falsely reporting a mass shooting spurred police to respond to 226 schools, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer said he is demanding the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) launch a full investigation into this latest unprecedented wave and launching his push for more resources to crack down on “swatting.” Schumer said these hoax calls directly hit Troy High, East Greenbush CSD, La Salle Institute and Schodack schools in Rensselaer County, terrifying students, teachers, and parents, and that the feds need to step up to hold criminals accountable and curb attacks like this.
First, Schumer revealed that he has personally called and written to the FBI to emphasize the need for a full investigation working with New York State Police to get answers and hold those responsible accountable. Second, the senator said that we need to supercharge our federal cyber investigative capabilities to stop threats like this, and said he is now launching a push for over $10 million for the FBI to specifically tackle the growing problem of swatting. Third, Schumer said with this style of attack growing, including potentially from foreign actors, it is imperative that the FBI start tracking “swatting” incidents as its own crime and issue a report so that the dangers and pervasiveness of these attacks can be properly assessed so they can be curbed going forward.
“These swatting attacks are dangerous, disturbing and downright terrifying for our Capital Region students, teachers and parents. We need all federal hands on deck to support local law enforcement and hold perpetrators of these disturbing hoax calls accountable, which is why I personally called the FBI to say this issue needs to be a top priority and I am pushing for more funding and data to counter unique threats like this,” said Senator Schumer. “Just days after a mass shooting at a school, it is sick and cruel that somebody would cause panic like this at our Capital Region schools, and hundreds more across Upstate New York. We need to make sure that every time a call comes into law enforcement that it is a real emergency, swatting is no joke, and the feds have to step up to help curb this disturbing trend before someone gets seriously hurt.”
Schumer explained that “swatting” has been a growing trend in recent years in which a phone call or false report is made to unsuspecting resident’s home, a school, or other public place in order to evoke a police or SWAT team response. On the morning of Thursday, March 30, 2023, New York saw an unprecedented series of swatting attacks leading to police having to respond to over 220 K-12 schools across the state after they received false reports of a mass shooting. In Rensselaer County, Troy High and East Greenbush schools were both forced into lockdown with students and staff sheltering in place until law enforcement confirmed the threats were not credible. For East Greenbush schools, students and staff were in lock-down for close to an hour, not only disrupting the school day but also causing panic and emotional turmoil throughout the school.
City of Troy Mayor Patrick Madden: “While I am thankful that our community is safe, the false reports of a school shooter in Troy caused real trauma for school children taking cover instead of learning, real fear for parents who are all too familiar with stories of school gun violence, and a real diversion of critical resources from real emergencies. While I cannot speculate why someone would do this, I stand with our families and Senator Chuck Schumer in calling for greater accountability for those weaponizing our emergency response system.”
NYSUT President Andy Pallotta: “Swatting attacks endanger our brave members of law enforcement and terrorize children, educators and parents. We thank Sen. Schumer for calling out these heinous attacks and for providing federal help to schools and the FBI, so that children and educators can be safe and these criminals can be brought to justice."
"As a teacher who loves their students, I can't understand why anyone would want to threaten the one place where they should always be guaranteed safety, their school,” said Beth Willson, president of the Troy Teachers Association. “Our students should not have to live in a constant state of fear, nor should our educators. Classrooms must be safe, welcoming environments for all."
Schumer said these false alerts are not only terrifying for the victims, but they can also cost law enforcement thousands of dollars, delay response to actual emergencies, and tragically have even resulted in injury or death of innocent bystanders. In 2014, on Long Island, one fake swatting bomb threat ended up costing police nearly $100,000 dollars. According to Troy officials, there were approximately 1700 students on campus at the time of the reports, and law enforcement state they had to conduct a sweep of Troy High and Middle schools, including checking every classroom in order to debunk the reported threats. 30 Troy police officers were deployed to both Troy High Troy Middle School, while the Rensselaer County Sheriff’s office was deployed to all other districts in the county; wasting the time and resources of all these departments as they worked expeditiously to respond and ensure the safety of students and staff.
The senator said these attacks are a serious threat to the safety of our students and schools and that is why he is calling on the FBI to launch a full investigation. Schumer explained New York State Police and local law enforcement are already working alongside the FBI to investigate the incident on March 30th. With public reporting, however, that this string of 'swatting' hoaxes may have come from outside the U.S. and similar incidents taking place in multiple other states in the same week, it is imperative that a broad investigation be completed with all due speed to determine the origins and any linkages between these attacks.
With these hoaxes becoming increasingly more common, Schumer said it is essential that the U.S. strengthen its abilities to combat these unique threats, hold perpetrators accountable, and tackle swatting attacks. Specifically, Schumer wants to supercharge the FBI’s Criminal Division with an additional $10 million in funding in this year’s budget allocated towards the emerging issue of swatting. Schumer said that given the often difficult nature of tracking these crimes, this funding would give the FBI the added resources needed to study and better respond to this emerging threat.
The Senator also announced several grant programs to help protect our schools created under last year’s federal Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), the first significant federal gun violence prevention legislation in 30 years. BSCA provided $1 billion over five years for two programs: the School-Based Mental Health Services Grant (SBMH) Program and the Mental Health Service Professional Demonstration Grant (MHSP) Program to help school districts hire mental health providers and build a pipeline for these providers through partnerships with universities and school districts. Other grant programs under BSCA include STOP School Violence Funding which provides $200 million towards programs such as reporting systems, the hiring of support personnel and social workers, and for prevention education strategies to prevent school violence. The Senator announced that this program is now accepting applications and he expects that it will soon be followed by an additional two programs, Stronger Connections Grants to Improve School Climate, which provides $1 billion in funding to states —of which New York received over $72 million — to improve school climates in high-need districts, as well as the National Criminal History Improvement Program to help states and state courts improve the accuracy, utility, and interstate accessibility of criminal history to support background checks.
Schumer said, “The bottom line is that Americans need to know who is committing these attacks and ensuring that criminals know that if they commit these heinous acts that they will be held accountable is one of the strongest deterrents. That starts with making sure the FBI has the resources it needs bring people to justice swiftly and that the data is being collected to curb this unique disturbing trend.”
Finally, Schumer said that with crimes like swatting increasingly becoming a public safety issue, the FBI should start collecting data and tracking swatting like crime. This could help identify not only commonalities between the crimes, but also if certain illicit software is used more frequently or to better determine if there are coordinated efforts and if they originate outside of the U.S. The senator said that this is a small but key step towards being able to better understand the nature and prevalence of these crimes, and that in tandem with boosting support to crack down on offenders, can help stop this disturbing trend of swatting being seen across the country.
A copy of Schumer’s letter to the FBI appears below:
Dear Director Wray,
I am writing to you today to express my deep concern about the recent increase in swatting attacks targeting schools in New York State and around the country. These attacks are a serious threat to the safety of our students and schools, and I urge you to immediately take all necessary steps to investigate and prevent them.
“Swatting” is an incident in which a fake phone call citing danger is made so that police SWAT teams respond to an unsuspecting resident’s home or other location like a school. Specifically, on Thursday, March 30, 2023 at least 36 K-12 school districts in New York State experienced swatting incidents over the course of a few hours, impacting over 220 New York schools. News reports indicate that these calls were similar in nature describing a fake active shooter at the schools.
When a school is targeted in a swatting attack, it often triggers a significant police response with heavily armed officers and tactical teams swarming the area, as it did in this instance, wasting thousands of dollars in police resources. These school disruptions can create chaos and panic and can put innocent people, including students, teachers, and staff, at risk of harm or injury. Schools are often evacuated and students are held in lockdown for hours. In some rare cases, these attacks have led to the death of innocent people because the diversion of law-enforcement resources to respond to a fake threat can result in response delays to real emergencies elsewhere in the community.
Moreover, swatting attacks against schools can have long-term psychological effects on those who are affected, particularly students and teachers who may feel traumatized by the experience. These recent incidents caused panic throughout the state. Almost a week after these attacks took place, we still have no clear idea who placed these calls or where they originated from. New York students, teachers, parents and communities deserve answers so they can feel safe once again in the classroom.
As the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, it is your responsibility to ensure that the citizens of this country are protected from such criminal activities. I am therefore calling for a full investigation into the recent swatting attacks in New York State and around the country. Last week, K-12 schools in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Iowa and other states were also targeted by similar swatting incidents. This fact suggests that these attacks are not isolated incidents, but rather part of a larger trend. With recent reporting that the March 30th incident in New York may have involved “foreign actors,” a comprehensive federal investigation must take place with all due speed.
As you know, there are a number of reasons why foreign actors may launch swatting attacks in K-12 schools. Some foreign actors may do it to cause chaos and disruption in the United States. Others may do it to target specific individuals or groups. Still others may be trying to test the response of law enforcement to these types of attacks. The bottom line is that Americans need to know who is committing these attacks and why. Stopping this disturbing increase in attacks on our schools and communities is critical.
Furthermore, in light of the increasing frequency of swatting attacks, I am also calling on the FBI to start tracking swatting incidents as their own criminal offense and to release a report on any presently available data detailing the locations and volume of such incidents over the last ten years. The pervasiveness of these attacks must be properly assessed in order for us to prevent further threats going forward.
To better understand the nature of the threats presented by these swatting attacks, I request responses to the following questions:
- Were the swatting attacks in New York committed by foreign or domestic actors?
- Were the swatting attacks in New York committed by a single entity? Is there evidence to suggest that this was a coordinated effort?
- Is there any connection between the swatting attacks in New York and the other recent swatting attacks in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Iowa and other states?
- Over the last decade, swatting attacks have become increasingly prevalent. What data is the FBI collecting on these incidents?
- Are we seeing an increase in these swatting attacks from foreign entities? Is there a particular foreign government or group behind these attacks?
- How can the FBI work with states to more quickly address these incidents and hold those responsible accountable?
For these reasons, I urge you to use all of the resources at your disposal to swiftly identify the individuals responsible for these attacks and bring them to justice. The safety and security of our communities depend on it.