"Swatting" has been highlighted in the press when celebrities have been targeted, but that's only part of the story. Tech-savvy pranksters have called the police claiming to be at a home or building engaged in violence, sometimes claiming to have shot other people and threatening even more violence. But it's a scam, and police send SWAT teams out to respond in force to peaceful people living their lives and put everybody at risk.
Though the swatting of celebrities gets much more attention, they aren't the only targets. Popular gamers who have YouTube or Twitch channels have also been targeted. These Internet celebrities may be unknown to the general populace, but many of them have thousands—even millions—of fans, and gaming is obviously a popular recreation for technophiles, even the sinister hacker types.
Furthermore, calling in a SWAT raid on a gamer who streams play online may result in the raid being captured live on web cam, something the swatter probably finds even more amusing. That's exactly what happened Wednesday to Jordan "Kootra" Mathewson of Littleton, Colorado. His streamed session of Counter-Strike at his studio in an office building was interrupted when a SWAT raid came storming in. Alt weekly Westword posted the contents of a press release detailing what the swatter told the police:
Littleton Police received a 911 call at 11:27 am this morning reporting a shooting and hostages at 1221 W. Mineral Avenue. Littleton Police, Littleton Fire Rescue and law enforcement from multiple agencies responded. There were no victims discovered after the initial search of the building by entry teams. A second search of the building confirmed that there were no victims and no shots fired at the location. Police are questioning several employees of the office building who are cooperating with investigators.
Nearby schools and buildings were all evacuated.
Here's the video below. Take note of how they treat Mathewson (and what happens when they discover they're being streamed live on the Internet):
I suppose it's a "training issue" that police officers for some reason believe "acting like a threatening asshole to any other human being you encounter" is synonymous with "gaining control of a situation." These reactions are exactly the kinds of things swatters are hoping for. Because the police have developed this reputation for violent, over-the-top reactions to everything, they are actually reinforcing the value of using swatting as a way to torment others.
The defense would be, "What if it were real?" The police can't simply ignore these calls. In a sad irony, these are actually the kinds of calls that SWAT teams were invented to help deal with. But I suspect that's one of the reasons that inspire such an explosive, credulous response from police. Data shows that SWAT raids are hardly ever used for actual hostage situations any more. Every real hostage or violent situation where the police can play the heroes can be used as a counterargument to calls for police demilitarization.
As much as law enforcement agencies complain about the growth of hackers instigating unjustified SWAT raids, their own stormtrooper mentality of responding to every single interaction with the public certainly doesn't help matters.
Photo Credit: screen shot