Police in Seattle have launched a scheme to help counteract ‘swatting’, the ha-ha-horrifying prank of hoaxing a violent police report against folks like streamers so the cops come kick their door in – with potentially deadly consequences. The Internet is a terrible hell. Now the Seattle Police Department will let local people who feel themselves at risk of swatting register that concern, so the possibility will be flagged when calls are made against them. It can’t solve the horrible tangle of problems with policing and society that make swatting even a thing, but at least it’s something.
Swatting isn’t exclusively a problem of gaming but, as the SPD note, “victims are typically associated with the tech industry, video game industry, and/or the online broadcasting community.” Wanna ruin a streamer’s day and maybe get them killed by trigger-happy cops? Find out where they live and phone the cops to send ’em over, perhaps by claiming you have done or will do something terribly violent. Off the cops go to your target’s address: armed, tense, and expecting to find someone dangerous. What japes.
Swatting’s a huge stinking mess caused by terribleness from both police and Internet dickheads, so let’s focus on what the Seattle Police Department have done now. Their new initiative lets folks in their jurisdiction register online as potential swatting targets. It won’t stop cops from coming, but it will at least make them aware of the possibility that it might be a swatting – and hopefully less willing to shoot. They lay out the process:
“A 911 call taker receives a report of a critical incident. While ensuring first responders are dispatched to that call for service as quickly as possible, the call taker will simultaneously check for whether or not swatting concerns have been registered at that address. If swatting concerns have been registered, this information will be shared with responding officers, who will still proceed to the call. If no location profile exists, officers will still continue to the call. Nothing about this solution is designed to minimize or slow emergency services. At the same time, if information is available, it is more useful for responding officers to have it than to not.”
Seattle folks who think they may be at risk of swatting can see instructions on how to sign up with the Smart 911 scheme over here.
In December 2017, Kansas police shot and killed Andrew Finch at his home in a swatting sparked by a Call Of Duty: WWII match with a $1.50 bet riding on it. Finch wasn’t even the intended target of the swatting; he simply lived at an address the actual target had told to the instigator. The man who made the swatting phone call, the instigator who asked him to do it, and the target who gave ‘his’ address were all charged with various criminal offences. The one who phoned the cops potentially faces up to life in prison. The officer was not charged.