‘Swatting’ started as a tactic used by online gamers against other players. It involves a false report of a violent crime designed to generate a significant law enforcement response. That response is because law enforcement believes an active shooter event or other violent crime is occurring.

Swatting Incidents and Victims

Of all possible responses, a patrol-level response is the least bad.

  • The earliest recorded case of swatting happened in 2002.
  •  In a 2017 swatting incident involving a dispute over a video game, a man was shot and killed by police after exiting his home. The caller had falsely reported a homicide and hostage situation. One perpetrator was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and a second was sentenced to 15 months in prison.
  • A Wisconsin man and his family have been swatted more than 40 times after he said in an offhand Twitter post in 2018 that he didn’t think that comedian Norm Macdonald was funny.
  • In 2020, a Tennessee man died of a heart attack during a police response to his home for a fraudulent report of a shooting.
  • In mid-December 2023, a spree of swatting incidents at more than 200 schools and Jewish synagogues occurred that the FBI believes was a coordinated effort by foreign actors.
  • Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), a member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee whose home was swatted in December of 2023, recently introduced legislation to prohibit “swatting” hoaxes and impose severe penalties, up to a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
  • In addition to individual victims, swatting calls have impacted schools, hospitals, houses of worship, and shopping malls across the nation.
  • Swatting incidents are a huge drain on law enforcement resources while compromising resource availability to respond to actual crimes. Hoax swatting reports of school or church shootings impact multiple area public safety agencies for a significant period of time.
  • The FBI recently arrested a California teenager who was allegedly running a swatting-for-hire scheme and was responsible for hundreds of swatting calls throughout the county.

Dispatch/Reception Tips: Simple Indicators of a Swatting Call

While none of us want this, those engaging in SWATTING sure do.

  • The call is the only incoming call reporting an active shooter or ongoing emergency, rather than the expected numerous calls to 911. 
  • The incoming telephone number is spoofed, blocked, or otherwise incorrect.
  • The call is received on a non-emergency (and non-recorded) dispatch line.
  • The caller’s tone and the background noise are inconsistent with the claimed emergency or threat.
  • The caller is unable to answer details such as their full name, phone number, or current location. Swatting callers may attempt to provide descriptions of buildings found through images on social media or via internet searches.
  • The caller mispronounces names such as city, street, or building names. Swatting calls are often conducted by foreign perpetrators with thick accents who are unfamiliar with the local areas they target.
  • The caller uses specific gun names or terminology to identify their weapon. Swatting callers may refer to weapons commonly depicted in video games, such as an AR-15 assault rifle.
  • Gunshots or explosions in the background are inconsistent with other noises or sound fake.
  • The caller may claim to be armed or suicidal and willing to shoot law enforcement.

FBI Director Talks Partnerships with Sheriffs

FBI Director Wray addressing this issue, Feb 2024.

FBI Director Christopher Wray spoke on a panel during the Major County Sheriffs of America 2024 Winter Conference in Washington, D.C., on February 9, 2024, and discussed violent crime, extremism, border security, election security, and swatting.

In May 2023, a common operational picture was set up to track swatting and understand its characteristics. Today, the group includes 700 members from 350 agencies. It has tracked more than 600 incidents while training over 24,000 law enforcement personnel.

Beyond this, he added, we have to work toward imposing consequences because “the bad guys think they can get away with it.”

“Swatting incidents are expensive; they’re dangerous; and they put innocent people at risk,” Director Wray concluded, “and it’s going to take all of us working together to stop them.”

Technology Solutions Combatting Technology Vulnerabilities: Mitigation

The magnitude of the claim can drive the response. The reaction to the response can exacerbate the problem – leading to this.

Anytime a swatting call happens, reports of gunshots, explosions, or other violence can be immediately verified as legitimate or false through technology. The use of these integrated security technologies provides a reliable and comprehensive ability to evaluate and communicate threats or hoax reports to both law enforcement and everyone at your location.

SCYLLA AI Solutions: Gun Detection, Intrusion Detection and Perimeter Protection, Object Detection and Tracking, and Anomaly Detection and Behavior Recognition. Their proprietary, patented video-optimized object detection algorithm ensures an extremely low false-positive rate, guaranteeing highly sensitive and accurate firearm detection. It can be seamlessly integrated with video monitoring and surveillance solutions. https://www.scylla.ai/

EAGL Gunshot Detection: EAGL Technology’s patented system reacts during an active shooter event (Indoor or Outdoor) by capturing energy levels with acoustic characteristics and performing on-board sensor waveform analysis. EAGL Technology’s patented gunshot detection system that analyzes energy vs. heat or sound makes it the most advanced active shooter system ever developed. https://eagltechnology.com/

Omnilert Gun Detect brings reliable, 24×7 monitoring to existing security cameras, creating a widely deployable early gun detection & response activation solution. Omnilert’s Emergency Communications and Automation Platform shares needed intelligence through the automatic activation of emergency response plans and safety systems. Detailed situational intelligence allows for a much more effective response. https://www.omnilert.com/

MidPoint Technology Group: Technologies designed to integrate seamlessly with existing safety protocols to detect and prevent potential threats and provide real-time, actionable intelligence. Perimeter Security, Access Control, Live Video Monitoring, Gun Threat Detection, Gun Shot Detection, Threat Detection Analytics, Ballistic Window Laminates, Ballistic Wood & Glass Products, and Security Software Applications. https://midpointtechnologygroup.com/

Final Thought

The false claims and the reactions have gotten pretty bad if the response gets this far.

In the realm of security, where technological vulnerabilities can pose significant risks, the integration of cutting-edge solutions is paramount. These advanced systems not only enable immediate verification of emergency situations but also facilitate swift and effective communication with law enforcement and on-site personnel. These innovative solutions enable us to mitigate risks and safeguard our communities against emerging security challenges.


About the Author:

Glenn Norling is a retired FBI Special Agent who now provides world-class emergency planning, crisis management, investigation, and active shooter training and consultation services with TBR Consulting (www.trainbeready.com). He also serves as the Executive Director for the Active Shooter Prevention Project (www.aspppro.com). Glenn holds a bachelor’s degree in physics and a master’s degree in organizational management.  He is a proud Eagle Scout and Gunsite graduate.