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Politics and Government

Schumer calls for greater punishment for 'swatting'

Ellen Abbott
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) surrounded by local officials in front of the John Mulroy Civic Center in Syracuse Monday.

With so-called “swatting” attacks on the rise across the country and central New York, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) has introduced a new federal bill to crack down on the practice. Swatting involves deliberate false alarms called into authorities that often cause deployment of a police SWAT team.  

Swatting will become a federal crime Schumer has anything do with it.  

Schumer made his point in Syracuse Monday at the site of a recent bomb threat where more than 1,100 Onondaga County employees work -- the John Mulroy Civic Center in Syracuse. All employees and visitors were evacuated last week because of the bomb scare. Schumer says that’s not the only local case of swatting.

“Over in the town of Onondaga last year, someone reached the Onondaga 911 with the report their mother had been shot at her home on Howlett Hill Road. That was a prank. More recently in March, the Sheriff’s office responded to a reported stabbing on South Main Street. Only to arrive to find the call was a hoax by people playing video games online hoping to watch, as SWAT teams swarmed unsuspecting victims,” said Schumer.

Schumer says swatting can be dangerous for first responders rushing to a scene. And it can be costly. Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney can attest to that after the incident at the John Mulroy Civic Center.

“Just salaries alone for county employees being idle was $550,000. That is not counting the resources the senator’s talking about that were used by the sheriff’s office in responding to this incident. It’s a very expensive, disruptive, dangerous thing,” said Mahoney.

Schumer’s answer is legislation that would increase prison time for perpetrators to up to eight years and force them to pay restitution.  It would also close loopholes that make it easy for perpetrators to evade law enforcement by using internet calling methods. 

Onondaga County Sheriff Gene Conway supports the proposal.

“We’re not looking to put more people in jail. But we’re looking to make people aware, and deter people to continue this kind of behavior, whether it’s for kicks, whether it’s for anger.”