NAPLES, Fla. — What began as a routine Friday afternoon at Naples High School quickly transformed into a potentially dangerous situation when law enforcement received a distressing call reporting shots fired on campus.
In the wake of this incident, FOX 4 investigates the alarming rise in false reports nationwide and explores the reasons behind this troubling trend.
According to David Thomas, a Criminal Justice Professor at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU), the increase in swatting incidents can be linked to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Prior to COVID, we were okay, and now since COVID happened, we don't have very good coping mechanisms," Thomas explains.
Since the onset of the pandemic, swatting incidents have surged by an astonishing 546%, as reported by the Educator's School Safety Network. Over 60% of all calls related to violence on school campuses during the last school year were determined to be false reports.
While these incidents turn out to be false alarms, the responses they trigger are undeniably real.
Derrick Byal, an English teacher, points out the psychological impact on students, saying, "Even if nothing happens, they've seen footage from multiple shootings where things have happened, and they start imagining."
Beyond the psychological toll, these incidents also strain county resources, resulting in a substantial financial burden. With law enforcement SWAT teams, EMS, and first responders all mobilized for each reported incident, the costs accumulate rapidly.
Professor Thomas estimates the financial impact, stating, "From years ago, right around $10,000, and I would daresay it's probably way more today."
Educational institutions are taking steps to address the issue.
Byal notes, "My school educates kids about that, and we have posters all over the place about the seriousness of false reporting."
As communities grapple with the consequences of these false reports, there is a growing demand for accountability. Counties are seeking reimbursement for the resources expended during these incidents once the perpetrators, known as "swatters," are apprehended.
If you have any information about the Naples High School incident, you're urged to contact your local law enforcement.