NJ Assembly passes bill cracking down on 'swatting'

Bill increases the penalties for people who place hoax phone calls to police

Associated Press

TRENTON, N.J. — The Assembly on Thursday passed a bill increasing the penalties for people who place hoax phone calls to police.

It's called "swatting," and the bill's passage came after several incidents across the state in which people falsely call 911 to draw law enforcement or SWAT teams to a particular place.

One case involved an Assembly sponsor who was swatted after drawing attention to the issue.

Assemblyman Paul Moriarty first introduced the bill in November but it was after the measure received media attention in April that the police arrived at his house in what he says was an apparent swat attempt.

"To say swatting is troublesome is a severe understatement," said Moriarty (D-Camden/Gloucester). "We're talking about elaborate hoaxes that have drawn teams of specially trained officers," he said.

Moriarty introduced the bill after a swatting incident in Millville when a law enforcement team swarmed the house of a family believing a fight was going on inside the home.

Lawmakers say swatting is done for revenge or as a prank and has its origins in online gaming. Swatters use technology to make it appear as if the emergency call is originating from the phone of the intended target.

Under current law the penalty for making a hoax police call could be a fine of up to $15,000, a prison term of three to five years, or both. This bill calls for fines up to $150,000, a prison term of five to 10 years or both.

The measure also requires local and county police officials to file reports with information on the number and nature of false alarms to the state police

The measure now heads to the state Senate for consideration.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press

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