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Sighting in Swatting: Agencies Place Prank-Calling Perpetrators in the Crosshairs

NCJ Number
Law Enforcement Technology Volume: 36 Issue: 5 Dated: May 2009 Pages: 26,28,32
Ronnie Garrett
Date Published
May 2009
6 pages
After identifying prank calls to police dispatchers as a potentially dangerous problem when it can involve sending a SWAT team to the home of an innocent target of the prankster, this article suggests ways in which police agencies can counter such 911 calls.
The article cites an actual case in which a prankster used Dex-line,--which provides home phone numbers, addresses, and even maps to people’s homes--in order to randomly target a family for a SWAT team response some 1,200 miles away. This practice, called “swatting,” exploits weaknesses in how the Nation’s 9-1-1 system handles Internet-based calls. Even if it were possible for call centers to identify callers’ IP addresses, the information currently lacks location data. The issue being considered is how to add a location component to the overall system. Still, technology exists to trace calls. If the caller used an Internet line, investigators could trace the call to learn its IP address. Detectives can then serve warrants to appropriate Internet providers for subscriber information. As technology attempts to resolve this issue in a simpler way, countermeasures for “swatting” rest with dispatchers and officers. When these calls occur, it is critical that dispatchers be attentive to the checks and balances inherent in their jobs. Detailed questions about the scene and the location of the address can trip up pranksters by exposing their limited knowledge about the targeted address and the fake emergency.