L.A. City Council strikes back against ‘swatting’ pranks
In a bid to cut down on fake 911 calls, the Los Angeles City Council has decided to offer rewards for tipsters providing information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those who engage in “swatting.”
Swatting is a malicious prank in which someone reports that a violent crime, usually involving a celebrity, is underway. The calls prompt a SWAT-team-style response to a location where no crime is occurring.
The false alarms tie up Los Angeles Police Department resources, and some officers have been injured responding to fake calls, officials said.
Councilman Paul Koretz said he was targeted himself in April, after he asked the city to take action against swatters. On April 10, he told the council, officers with guns drawn pounded on his front door demanding to be let in just as Koretz prepared to step into the shower.
“I held up my council badge and said, ‘Sorry, I’m not letting you in while I’m naked,’” Koretz said.
They insisted, so he got dressed and the police looked around and then left. But they returned a few minutes later, Koretz said, after receiving a second call that someone in his apartment was being held hostage in a closet.
“At that point, I called [Police Chief] Charlie Beck and said, ‘Could you please ask your officers to leave?’” Koretz said.
He called swatters an “aggressive group of people” who use sophisticated means to hide their identities and crave the attention the pranks attract. In early April, the LAPD responded to at least four swatting incidents at the homes of celebrities, including singers Rihanna and Justin Timberlake and actress Selena Gomez.
“Something will eventually go wrong if we don’t nip this practice in the bud,” Koretz said.
The council on Wednesday approved the ordinance 11 to 0. It will require a second reading this week, but no changes are anticipated.
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