SCHUMER: RECENT 'SWATTING' ATTACKS IN CAPITAL REGION RESULTED IN EVACUATIONS & RESIDENTS BEING TOLD TO STAY IN THEIR APARTMENT FOR HOURS; INCIDENTS ARE COSTING POLICE DEPTS. THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS, TERRIFYING INNOCENT VICTIMS & EVEN ENDANGERING LIVES – SCHUMER INTRODUCES NEW FEDERAL BILL TO CRACK DOWN ON ‘SWATTING’ & DETER ALARMING NEW CRIME TREND THREATENING RESIDENTS & LAW ENFORCEMENT
Deliberately False Alerts Across Capital Region Are Spurring Costly & Unnecessary Deployment Of Armed Swat Teams, Bomb Squads & Other Police Units, Causing The Evacuation Of Buildings, Closure Of Streets, Businesses & Putting Communities 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 Capital Region Residents
At the Colonie Police Department, standing alongside police officers dispatched to a recent attack, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced his recently introduced legislation that will crack down on an alarming new nationwide crime trend called “swatting,” which is becoming a significant problem in the Capital Region. 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. Schumer said these false alerts are not only terrifying residents, but they are also costing law enforcement thousands of dollars and putting at risk both first responders and innocent bystanders. Because these false threats often precipitate SWAT responses that require the deployment of armed SWAT teams, bomb squads and other police units, “swatting” calls can lead to temporary street closures that result in local business loss, terrifying experiences for residents and bystanders and can cost police departments thousands of taxpayer dollars.
Schumer said that there have been several recent “swatting” attacks in the Capital Region, including two in Colonie where some residents were evacuated while others were told to lock their doors and not leave their home. Schumer said communities are at great risk if nothing is done to stem this scourge of attacks. Schumer therefore discussed legislation he recently introduced that would increase penalties for perpetrators and make criminals pay restitution to police.
“These dangerous actions are not ‘pranks’ at all – these ‘swatting’ attacks are serious incidents in which our emergency responders use up their time, energy, and resources responding to false threats when they could have been elsewhere protecting the community from real ones. What the perpetrators of these calls see as a practical joke is actually a terrifying experience for innocent bystanders, a business-detractor for local commerce, and a costly crime that forces our local emergency responders to use up thousands of taxpayer dollars on fake alerts. 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 I am pushing for legislation that will close the existing loophole on internet phone calls to make disguising your caller ID to law enforcement a crime,” said Schumer. “We need to make sure that every time a 9-1-1 dispatcher answers a call that it is a real emergency, and we need to stop this disturbing trend before it is too late and someone gets seriously hurt.”
Schumer said that there have been at least two Colonie area “swatting” attacks in recent years 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. In April 2015, police received a call from a man claiming he was holding his mother hostage and had a bomb in addition to several firearms in a Jodiro Lane apartment. The Colonie Police evacuated several apartments and told many others to lock their doors and stay inside until the situation was resolved. According to the police, several hours later and after 40 personnel had arrived on scene, first responders determined the threat was a hoax. In 2013, the Colonie Police received a call alleging a man had shot his wife and had taken his children hostage. The few dozen police in the station were dispatched to two homes, where the caller said he was holding the children at either a house on Cresthaven Ave or Willoughby Drive. Both homes were swarmed with police and nearby roads were closed for roughly an hour before emergency responders realized the call was a fake.
Schumer was joined by local elected officials and members of Colonie Police Department.
“Swatting is a serious act and the consequences for those who cause it should be serious as well. It needlessly endangers citizens and first responders. It also wastes our limited local resources, any measure that helps prevent, investigate and prosecute these incidents is greatly appreciated,” said Colonie Police Chief Jon Teale.
In light of the recent uptick in “swatting” attacks in the Capital Region, Albany County and Colonie, as well as around the country, 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 Actand 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 theTruth 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.
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