AMU Law Enforcement Original Public Safety

Swatting: What Law Enforcement Should Know about This Crime

To understand the crime of swatting, imagine a routine day at home. Dinner is almost ready, and your children are doing their homework.

Suddenly, there is a loud banging at the door and the local police order everyone to come out of the house with their hands raised. Confused, you step out of the house with your family to find a large police presence.

The neighbors are out on their front lawns to get a better look at what is going on. There’s a S.W.A.T. team in full gear and weapons drawn, waiting to enter your house.

You’ve been swatted.

What Is Swatting?

Swatting is the term for when someone falsely reports to the police that there is an emergency so urgent (perhaps violent) that a S.W.A.T. team response is required. The police act on the information an informant provides. It’s called exigent circumstances – the legal right of the police to enter a residence based on the totality of circumstances (such as a tip officers receive).

In my time in police work, I have seen swatting occur several times. It is a cruel, illegal act that has led to a number of innocent people being killed by misinformed S.W.A.T. teams, according to Fortinet.

In order to draw such a large police response to someone’s home, tipsters usually make false allegations. Those allegations might have to do with someone being murdered, someone with a weapon making threats, a bomb threat or a hostage situation.

What Is the Point of Swatting?

While swatting has been around for quite some time, it has become a lot more sophisticated thanks to improvements in technology. Swatting perpetrators are now better able to mask their identities. However, the motivations for swatting remain the same:

  • Gaining national media attention
  • Gaining “clout” on social media and other online platforms
  • Revenge against rival gamers and other “enemies”
  • Financial gain

Sadly, there’s even a market for swatters-for-hire. Some swatters post advertisements in “online forums and black-market sites offering to conduct swatting for a fee,” according to the New Jersey Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Cell.

Law Enforcement Has a Responsibility to Monitor for Deceptive Calls

Law enforcement is put in a difficult position when calls are received that have the potential to be swatting calls. On one hand, law enforcement has a duty to respond quickly to the emergencies that people report. On the other hand, law enforcement also has a responsibility to determine the integrity of the call.

Swatting calls are often done through non-emergency police numbers, and text-to-voice services are also commonly used by swatters because they are less monitored. Law enforcement agencies should consider these facts when they receive emergency calls on a non-emergency number.

Another crucial strategy is for law enforcement to immediately run a call history on the residence to see if there are previous emergency calls that have been proven to be hoaxes. Police officers should also make contact with any landline phone numbers listed in the call history to see if someone at the residence can be reached to corroborate the initial call.

How Police Officers and Residents Can Mitigate the Dangers of Swatting Calls

There are various steps that law enforcement can take to mitigate the dangers associated with a swatting call. Police officers should:

  • Observe whether the calling number can be recognized as one of the default Skype numbers, such as (661) 748-0240, (661) 748-0241 or (661) 748-0242.
  • Determine whether the caller’s number was unavailable, blocked, or displayed as all zeros, ones, or nines.
  • Ask the caller about the exterior color of the residence and the vehicles associated with that residence.
  • Determine if there is background noise during the call. If so, is it consistent with the normal background noise when contact is made with someone through a landline associated with the residence’s call history?
  • Monitor the call to see if the caller seems prepared with a script or has pre-planned responses.

Since swatting calls are on the rise, dispatchers should be trained in how to determine if an emergency call is genuine. Residents should keep their personally identifiable information private and avoid putting it online whenever possible. Having privacy settings on social media accounts and maintaining complex passwords on electronic devices can be effective ways of protecting one’s private information.

Jarrod Sadulski

Dr. Jarrod Sadulski is an associate professor in the School of Security and Global Studies and has over two decades in the field of criminal justice. His expertise includes training on countering human trafficking, maritime security, effective stress management in policing and narcotics trafficking trends in Latin America. Jarrod frequently conducts in-country research and consultant work in Central and South America on human trafficking and current trends in narcotics trafficking. He also has a background in business development. For more information on Jarrod and links to his social media and website, check out

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