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As Swatting becomes more common, work is being done to crack down

In the last five years, the number of threats made to schools and public buildings has skyrocketed.
Posted at 4:09 PM, Jan 31, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-01 11:30:20-05

In the last five years, the number of threats made against schools, places of worship and politicians have skyrocketed.

Many of those threats were deemed to be hoaxes.

Swatting, the act of making a fake 911 call to generate a large police response, has become more and more common in recent years.

“These are people who will be somewhere far away, perhaps in another country, perhaps in another state, but are using these routing mechanisms,” said Betsy Smith, a retired Police Sergeant who now works with the National Police Association.

A 17-year-old from California is now facing charges for a Swatting incident at a Florida mosque, but authorities believe he could be tied to other similar incidents across the country.

The Seminole County Sheriff’s Office says Alan Winston Filion of Lancaster, CA created several accounts on websites offering swatting services.

On May 12th of last year, the Sheriff’s Office received a call from a man claiming to be outside a mosque on Myrtle Street in Sanford, planning to conduct a mass shooting.

“I’m right outside. I’m walking in now. I’m gonna kill everyone I see,” the caller said.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, around 30 law enforcement officers responded to the scene, to find no shooter and everyone safe.

“Swatting is a perilous and senseless crime, which puts innocent lives in dangerous situations and drains valuable resources. The substantial law enforcement response in this swatting case underscores our unwavering dedication to community safety and holding offenders accountable, regardless of where they are located,” said Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma.

Through collaboration with the FBI, investigators determined Filion’s home address was tied to several IP addresses connected to the swatting incidents.

“That’s how we catch some of these people doing it. Is monitoring internet sites, social media sites,” Smith said.

According to research from the Educators School Safety Network, a non-profit that tracks school threats, there has been a stunning 546% increase in the number of school threats in the last five years.

Of those threats, nearly 2/3rds were deemed to be fake reports.

It’s not just schools, in December, police swarmed the Naples home of Florida Senator Rick Scott after a prank caller claimed there had been a shooting.

Scott has since introduced legislation that would put someone in prison for 20 years for a fake swatting call.

“Last month, criminals attempted a ‘swatting’ on my home in Florida in a despicable act of cowardice, clearly intending to terrorize my family and inflict fear and violence. This is happening around the nation, not just to elected officials, but also to hundreds of Jewish institutions. It’s sickening, dangerous and we must stop it,” Scott said in a statement announcing the legislation.

“All federal legislation is going to do is make the penalties stiffer,” Smith said.

Instead, Smith, the retired police sergeant, believes more work needs to be done to crack down on the technology used to make swatting easier and more prevalent.

“I think that would be a terrific place to start for our legislatures.”