DETROIT (WWJ) – Michigan legislators have approved a proposal for dealing with individuals referred to as “swatters.”
These individuals are known for calling police departments and making false police reports that warrant sending out a SWAT team, costing the department thousands of dollars.
Under proposed legislation passed in the state House, the crime would be considered a felony and can cost the caller up to four years of prison time.
Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said hackers often stage the calls to be traced to other numbers. Talking to reporters on Wednesday, he recalled an incident in Troy where a call came from outside of Michigan.
“An individual who apparently had some disagreements playing some kind of game online, and lost that game… decided the way to get back at his opponent in this game was to phone in a complaint that armed gunmen were taking action in this house,” he said.
When SWAT teams were sent out to the house, they discovered the caller wasn’t even in the state.
Bouchard said there were 12 incidents of swatting in Oakland County alone in 2011, and that the situation can be dangerous to the SWAT team.
“You don’t know what’s gonna happen with the home you’re entering,” he said. “It’s a dangerous scenario for everybody.”
Michigan Representative Kurt Heise (R-20) said the passing this legislation will make it apparent to callers, inside and outside of Michigan, that the state doesn’t mess around.
“We certainly want to make it very clear that this kind of practice will not be tolerated,” he said. “We also want to send a message outside of Michigan, because as the sheriff pointed out, some of these incidents can occur beyond state borders.”
In a companion proposal, Michigan Representative Pat Somerville (R-23) is asking that “swatters” be ordered to reimburse all costs associated with making the calls.