JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – North Fulton’s police departments were the victims of “swatting” Jan. 16. Swatting is a form of prank where the police get a call requiring a heavy SWAT response only to find out the call was fake.
Jan. 16, Alpharetta 911 received a call about 4:30 p.m. from an unknown person claiming that a man, woman and child had all been shot at a residence on Carlisle Lane, in Country Club of the South. Additionally, the caller demanded $30,000 for the release of a hostage.
Alpharetta transferred the call over to Johns Creek’s dispatch – ChatComm – who relayed it to their police.
The call allegedly was traced to a Carlisle Lane residence.
Dozens of police responded to the scene, ready for a shooter. They surrounded the home and set up surveillance sites and a command center. Many officers were armed with rifles and shotguns.
After police had set up their perimeter, two women came out of the home.
They told police no one was injured inside and that another woman was inside along with two children.
The homeowner told police there were no other people inside and was “understandably confused” about the police presence. Police searched the home and found no one else.
Swatting is a national problem that is ostensibly a prank.
The phenomenon is not unknown in North Fulton. Roswell police fell victim to the scam in April of 2013.
In that incident, an 11-year-old girl was allegedly chatting online when she said she was going to kill herself. The person she was allegedly chatting with informed police who rushed to her home to find her sound asleep in her bed. The initial call turned out to be fake.
The Jan. 16 event was Johns Creek’s first experience with swatting.
“We are aware of this type of event, but we’ve had no issues with it [until now],” said Doug Nurse, spokesman for Johns Creek Police.
He said potential charges against someone calling in a fake 911 event are false report of a crime and hindering 911 operations
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, one young man, only 14 at the time of his first swatting event, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for his crimes.
“The FBI looks at these crimes as a public safety issue,” said Kevin Kolbye, an assistant special agent in charge in the Dallas Division. “It’s only a matter of time before somebody gets seriously injured as a result of one of these incidents.”
There have been close calls. A police officer was injured in a car accident during an emergency response that turned out to be a swatting incident, Kolbye said, and some unsuspecting victims – caught off guard when SWAT teams suddenly arrived on their doorstep – have suffered mild heart attacks.
“The victims are scared and taken by surprise,” he said.
Law enforcement personnel, meanwhile, rush to the scene of a swatting incident on high alert. “They believe they have a violent subject to apprehend or an innocent victim to rescue,” Kolbye explained. “It’s a dangerous situation any way you look at it.”
Most who engage in swatting are serial offenders also involved in other cybercrimes, such as identity theft and credit card fraud, Kolbye said. They either want to brag about their swatting exploits or exact revenge on someone who angered them online.