Anyone with a grudge and someone’s address can make a ‘swatting’ call, but what was once a niche prank played by gamers has become a favored means of terrorizing famous, controversial and vulnerable people, NBC News reports. It has also become more organized in recent years, with online forums and chat rooms dedicated to targeted attacks on individuals, including YouTube personalities, tech executives, activists, authors and journalists.
Law enforcement agencies and city officials around the country have responded with anti-swatting procedures and tools to blunt this weaponization of the 911 system. In Seattle, the police department has launched a three-pronged approach that includes special training for officers and 911 operators and — a first for the U.S. — a registry for residents who think they may become swatting targets. The registry gives first responders a warning that an emergency call about a violent situation may be a hoax.
After a year of honing these procedures, Seattle police are sharing their know-how with law enforcement agencies throughout the country, while calling on lawmakers to make swatting a federal crime.
“This is not an accident. It’s intentional behavior intended to punish people for who they are, where they work, the color of their skin,” said Seattle PD’s public affairs director, Sean Whitcomb. “It’s happening every day in America. It’s awful for us and it’s awful for the community.”
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