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Deliberately False Alerts In Orange County Are Spurring Costly & Unnecessary Deployment Of Armed Swat Teams, Bomb Squads & Other Police Units, Causing The Evacuation Of Buildings, Closure Of Streets, Businesses & Putting Students At Risk

Schumer Introduces Legislation To Increase Penalties For Swatting Perpetrators From A Max Of 5 Years In Prison To 8 Years, Make Criminals Pay Restitution To Police – Also Pushes To Closes Loophole To Make It Illegal For Perpetrators To Evade Law Enforcement By Disguising Caller Id Over Skype, Or Internet Calls

Schumer: Swatting Prank Is No Joke For Orange County Students Or Parents


Standing at Maple Hill Elementary School, U.S. Senator Charles E . Schumer today urged Congress to immediately pass his recently introduced legislation that will finally crack down on an alarming new nationwide crime trend called “swatting,” which has recently emerged as a problem in the Hudson Valley. Schumer said that there have been two recent “swatting” attacks in Orange County, including one that resulted in the evacuation of over 1,300 terrified students at Monhagen Middle School.

“What the perpetrators of these recent prank calls see as a practical joke is actually a terrifying experience for students and their parents,” said Schumer. “That's why I am pushing legislation that will increase the jail time for ‘swatting’ perpetrators, force them to pay restitution for the cost of investigating fake calls, and close the existing loophole on internet phone calls to make disguising your caller ID to law enforcement a crime..”

Schumer explained that “swatting” is an incident in which a phone call is made reporting a fake threat in an effort to have police SWAT teams respond to an unsuspecting resident’s home, a local business or even a school. Moreover, these kinds of false alerts not only terrify residents and children, but they also cost law enforcement thousands of dollars and put at risk both first responders and innocent bystanders.

Schumer said that there have been three recent Orange County “swatting” attacks in both the City of Middletown and the City of Newburgh, and communities will continue to be at great risk if nothing is done to stem this scourge of perpetrators. Schumer said that is why he introduced legislation that would seek to reduce the number of “swatting” attacks. Just two weeks ago, a false threat was called into the Middletown School District’s Monhagen Middle School. Roughly 1,300 students were evacuated for over two hours while police and bomb-sniffing K-9 squads searched the school’s campus. When they ultimately turned up with nothing, students were allowed to return to their school.

The following day, a second, similar threat was called into a neighboring school, Maple Hill Elementary, which is also a part of the Middletown School District. Students were put on lockdown for hours while NY State Police, the Orange County Sheriff's Office and the Town of Wallkill police investigated the phone threat. Schumer said, again, this incident wasted the time of students, teachers and police when it was determined the threat was a fake.

Middletown School District Superintendent Ken Eastwood reported that these two Middletown school threats were very similar, in that the person making the threat did so by calling in using an Internet program – this program utilized a server that rerouted the calls and spoofed another person’s phone number. According to the Times Herald Record reports that followed, one of the calls showed up on the school’s caller ID system as a Texas number; this proved to be a fake. In addition, the recorded voices on the threat messages were altered, making it even more difficult to decipher who could have called in the threat. Schumer said these two incidents are evidence that something must be done to curb these swatting attacks.

Schumer said the third swatting instance, in the Newburgh area, occurred when a man from Middletown threatened to blow up the City of Newburgh’s Social Security Administration building.  The unidentified man called in the threat that resulted the evacuation of the building as police searched the premises. Schumer said that this disrupted business activities in the building and diverted police resources to for a threat that turned out to be fake. Schumer explained that, because these false threats often precipitate police responses that require the deployment of armed SWAT and K-9 teams, bomb squads and other law enforcement units, “swatting” calls like these can lead to temporary street closures and building evacuations that result in local business loss.

Schumer was joined by Kenneth Eastwood, Superintendent of the Middletown City School District, and other local officials.

“The Middletown City School District strongly supports Senator Schumer’s legislation that would toughen the penalties for ‘Swatting’ crimes and require the perpetrators to repay police for the costs. Additionally, Senator Schumer’s bill would make identifying the perpetrators, who use online technology to encrypt their communications and threaten individuals and organizations like schools more possible as federal agencies could now assist in local jurisdiction investigations of such crimes,” said Kenneth Eastwood, Superintendent of Middletown City School District. “Senator Schumer is known for identifying sound solutions to criminal activity. When such criminal activity involves children and schools, the Senator has been very successful in obtaining federal intervention or legislation that mitigates or eliminates these problems and provides for safer communities and schools.”

In light of the recent uptick in “swatting” attacks in Orange County and the Hudson Valley, Schumer pushed his new legislation that will increase penalties for wrongdoers who call police forces to falsely accuse innocent residents of participating in illegal actions.

First, this legislation would have convicted “swatting” perpetrators serve a maximum of 8 years in prison, an increase from the 5-year maximum currently in place.

Second, the legislation would also ensure perpetrators pay restitution to the police and cover any damage inflicted on the house by the SWAT team. The first responders include the police force, K-9 unit, bomb squad, crisis negotiator, county sheriffs and any party that wasted time, energy and resources as a result of a “swatting” incident.

Finally, Schumer is supporting two other bills, the Anti-Spoofing Act and the Anti-Swatting Act, which would close loopholes to make it illegal for perpetrators to disguise their caller ID over Skype or Internet phones, as that is typically a means in which perpetrators escape the law. Collectively, Schumer said this would reduce “swatting” calls, save taxpayers money, and make local New York communities safer.

Schumer said many of the “swatting” calls are placed via Skype or other internet-based phone systems that more easily enables the caller to use available apps or websites to disguise their phone number or actually make it seem like the call is coming from a house they are targeting-a practice dubbed “caller ID Spoofing.” Currently it is illegal to spoof on calls placed via traditional phone lines, but there is no such prohibition on calls placed via internet phone services.  That's why Schumer is also announcing his support of the Anti-Swatting Act, an effort led by Congressman Elliot Engel, which will update the Truth In Caller ID Act of 2009. That legislation first criminalized malicious caller ID spoofing. But since the passage of that law, scammers and swatters have used legal loopholes and new technologies such as internet-based phone services that enable callers to make outgoing calls from computers to mobile and landline phones. This is a technology that was undeveloped in 2009 when the Truth In Caller ID Act was enacted, and therefore unaccounted for in the law. But it has now grown, and has been exploited by swatters to mask their identity from law enforcement. Schumer said that the Engel legislation, as well as legislation authored by fellow New Yorker Grace Meng, called the Anti-Spoofing Act, would explicitly outlaw these types of calls. Schumer said that police cannot take chances in deciding whether a call is real or fake, and thus must expend all necessary resources to investigate the report.