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"It's only getting worse": SWFL swatting calls part of growing trend

At least 10 Florida colleges were targeted in swatting calls on Tuesday.
Posted at 4:46 PM, May 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-03 17:43:21-04

Tuesday, law enforcement swarmed the campuses of at least 10 colleges in Florida, including two in southwest Florida, for what turned out to be “swatting” calls, or pranks.

Nationwide experts say reports of swatting, where someone makes a false report of a serious crime such as an active shooter, have grown exponentially.

“I think the reason it's really taken off, quite frankly, is that it works. It creates chaos, it creates anxiety, it consumes resources, it takes kids out of school,” said Dr. Amy Klinger with the Educator’s School Safety Network.

Klinger’s organization has tracked reports of swatting for nearly a decade, but she says she’s never seen anything like this school year.

The latest data shows 417 swatting calls made to K-12 schools in 53 U.S. states and territories.

“About 70% of all the incidents [we've] had to deal with this school year have been swatting,” Klinger said.

Klinger’s research, which is aggregated through media reports, finds most of the swatting calls come from overseas.

“The trauma that you’re putting kids through and staff and parents,” Klinger said. “Believing for that eight or nine or 10 minutes that something really was happening.”

Cape Coral police outside Mariner High School

“It’s only getting worse.”

Six months ago, Tony Allen was driving by his son’s school, Mariner High School in Cape Coral, when he saw a line of police cars.

“When I saw all the police coming down... I was coming down at the same time and I thought something bad has happened,” said Allen who himself is a survivor of a school shooting in Ohio four decades ago. “Thankfully, nothing bad did happen. But I was nervous.”

Both Allen and Klinger expressed worries of swatting fatigue, where students and staffers don’t take threats seriously. Klinger’s organization trains schools on how to keep kids safe.

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