Police in NY town seek help from FBI in probe of 4 'swatting' calls

The most recent incidents began June 27 when more than 30 officers responded to a report by a male that three armed men were in his home and had shot his sister

By Lee Higgins
The Westchester Journal News

RYE, N.Y. — Police in Rye, N.Y., have reached out to the FBI as they investigate four hoax reports of emergencies since June 27. Officials believe a hacking group may be involved.

A 14-year-old Rye boy has been charged with making a false report of a home invasion and shooting last week. Police Commissioner William Connors said investigators are working to identify others involved. Making false reports is called "swatting," because it's intended to trigger significant emergency responses, including by SWAT teams.

"This was done by computer we believe and there are other individuals that were part of it that are outside the area," said Connors on Tuesday, a day after announcing the teen's arrest.

So far, Connors said, the FBI hasn't committed any resources to the investigation.

"Swatting," which has been around for years, has been in the news lately.

Last month, more than 80 U.S. House Republicans signed a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder requesting an investigation into "swatting" after a conservative blogger was targeted.

Also in June, the Coast Guard responded to a hoax emergency call of a yacht explosion off the New Jersey shore that ended up costing taxpayers $300,000, the Associated Press reported.

In 2006, the FBI busted up a "swatting" ring that involved more than 100 victims and, at one point, disrupted municipal activities in Yonkers, N.Y., a U.S. Attorney's Office news release said.

The most recent incidents began June 27 when more than 30 officers responded to a report by a male that three armed men were in his home and had shot his sister. The typed message was sent from a computer over an AT&T line for the hearing-impaired and relayed by an operator to Rye Brook, N.Y., police, who passed it on to Rye police.

When heavily armed officers arrived at the home, they found a woman, her teenage son and two friends. Police determined the call was a hoax.

"This is just an incredibly dangerous activity on several levels," Connors said.

It puts first responders and the public at risk of vehicle accidents as authorities race to the scene and potential confrontations when they get there.

The next day , emergency personnel were sent to the same home on a hoax report that someone had suffered a hand laceration.

On Friday, Rye Brook police received a hoax report of a shooting that they forwarded to Rye police.

The caller reported: "My mother was just shot by an intruder and he ran away. I need help fast," said Rye Brook police Lt. Eugene Matthews. Rye police determined the address didn't exist.

A fourth hoax emergency call over the weekend requested a response to a Rye address that didn't exist.

Connors declined to estimate how much the response to the first incident cost.

Connors doesn't think "swatting" is being used as a diversion so people can commit other crimes.

But he noted that in addition to putting officers and the public at risk, "swatting" can have other consequences.

"You run the danger that it's going to slow down the response to a real incident and put someone in danger."

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